Running is more a solo sport than team, but it doesn’t have to be. If you’ve got a great group of runner pals, gather them and sign up for a relay race. The best thing about this type of race is that it gives runners, novice to experienced, to interact with and support one another while trying new or comfortable distances.
Not sure which one to sign up for? Read on to learn more about some of the best destination relay races, for runners of all levels.
Location: California (San Francisco to Napa)
Distance: 183.9 miles
Team Members Needed: 6 to 12 (road), 4 to 8 (trail)
Scheduled Date: Nov. 3-4, 2017
Though this race took a hiatus in 2017 due to the devastating wildfires that gripped the area, the waiting list is already up for 2018 registration. The race stretches between San Francisco (beginning with a run across the Golden Gate Bridge) and Calistoga, California, and takes two days and one night to complete in 36 different segments that vary by distance and difficulty, though no distance is shorter than 11.5 miles.
This isn’t the only Ragnar Relay there is. Ragnar offers both road (point to point races covering approximately 200 miles) and trail races (covering a specific distance on single track trail loops from a single starting point). To compete, you’ll need between 8-11 friends (depending on whether you’re doing trail or road, respectively, two vehicles (to cart around your teammates who aren’t currently running) and lots of stamina. During a typical Ragnar race, each team member will run three times over distances ranging from three to eight miles. The races, like the one mentioned above, take two days and one night. There are 19 to choose from in the US, two in Europe and one in Canada.
Location: Gulf Shores, Florida
Distance: 50 miles
Team Members Needed: 2 (ultra), 3-6 (regular)
Scheduled Date: Nov. 4, 2017
Everyone loves A1A (Beachfront Avenue!!). This race is a 50-mile relay through scenic trails and bridges that run along the ocean on A1A. Regular teams house between three and six runners while an ultra team is only two people. This is one of the shortest races on this list, but is great to wet your feet in a great location.
Location: North Carolina
Distance: 206 miles
Team Members Needed: 12
Scheduled Date: Apr. 20-21, 2018
A 206-mile team running adventure through the mountains of Western North Carolina that has been said to “challenge you and your friends with tough legs and reward you with stories to last a lifetime.” This race has 36 transition areas and legs of varying lengths and difficulty (the shortest of which is 18 miles, the longest 20 miles). The race begins at the Pink Beds State Park and finishes in Nantahala Outdoor Center in Bryson City. To participate, must love hills!
Distance: 70+ miles
Team Members Needed: 2-3 (ultra), 4-6 (regular)
Scheduled Date: Apr. 21, 2018
This relay is a one-day, 70-mile race through the scenic heart of Virginia. This race follows the last 12 legs of the Colonial 200 and begins in Hanover, follows the Capital Trail and finishes in historic Williamsburg. If you’re interested in this race, the 2017 race legs are posted and little changes are expected for the 2018 race.
Location: Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
Distance: 200 miles
Team Members Needed: 12 (two vans of six)
Scheduled Date: Apr. 27-28, 2018
If you’re into American history, this race is for you. Usually taking place in April, you and 12 teammates will cover 200 miles in two days and one night. Those 200 miles begin in Gettysburg, run cross the Mason Dixon line, over, near and through several historic battlefields and ends in the SW Waterfront in Washington, D.C. This race is a stand alone, not part of a national chain and one of the transition stops boasts the World Famous Boy Scouts of America Pancake Breakfast.
Location: California (Napa to Ocean)
Distance: 191 miles
Team Members Needed: 12
Scheduled Date: May 5-6, 2018
Dubbed “California’s Longest Party,” this race traces from Napa Valley to Sonoma, Marin, Sausalito across the Golden Gate Bridge at midnight, through San Francisco, Palo Alto and Silicon Valley until you reach the ocean (through 36 cities and many, many tourist attractions).. Each team needs 12 people who each run three of the 36 legs that range in distance from 3 to 9 miles and difficulty from easy to VERY hard. It is said that “runners of all abilities are challenged, contribute and have a great time!” This race isn’t just a novelty, it represents a pretty historic 480-mile race in 1927 called the “longest endurance contest ever” with a prize of $2,775 in gold. Mad Bull from a tribe called Karook finished in 7 days, 12 hours and 34 minutes according to the website.
Distance: 199 miles
Team Members Needed: 8 to 12
Scheduled Date: Aug. 24-25, 2018
This relay, oft called the Mother of All Relays, typically takes place in August and boasts more than 1,000 teams made up of more than 12,000 runners. Founded in 1982, this nearly 200-mile race begins at Timberline Day Lodge in south Mount Hood and ends on the coast at Seaside, but not before traveling through Portland. If you’re interested in running this with friends, pay attention to when registration opens because it has so consistently sold out that team slots must be filled using a lottery system.
Distance: 200 miles
Team Members Needed: 12
Scheduled Date: Oct. 12-13, 2018
According to the website, the Bourbon Chase “celebrates the best of Kentucky” and “is a 200-mile journey across the Bluegrass State” meaning through historic bourbon distilleries (six to be exact including Jim Beam and Maker’s Mark), across majestic horse country and through numerous “enchanting” small towns. October is an incredible time to run in the southeast as the trees are boasting incredible fall foliage. And you just about can’t beat the Wild Turkey beverages waiting to aide your celebration at the finish line.
Distance: 270 miles
Team Members Needed: Up to 10, each expected to run at least 24 miles over the 3-day race
Scheduled Date: TBD
This race takes place over a three-day summer weekend and features the country’s longest and most challenging relay race through the top of Michigan’s either upper or lower peninsula and state and national forests. You’ll cover both remote trails and dirt roads, over some sandy ruts and maybe just a few hills. The website says, “All roads are runnable, but not always driveable.” For the first time ever in 2017, a runner went missing on an overnight trail leg and the third day of the race actually had to be cancelled so everyone could concentrate efforts to find the runner. She was found running on a road after having spent the night in a tree! After the runner was reunited with her family, the other runners completed the final day of racing. Not for the faint of heart.
These races range from pretty difficult to fun for all. Gather up your pals (as many as you need to make a team), find two vehicles and pick a location. It’s time to relay.
What’s your favorite relay and why? Share in the comments below!