Tribe up and experience Ragnar Niagara road relay race
A bucket list race with a huge social upside
In her first Ragnar race experience, Acton, Ontario runner Amy Grimason was on her final leg. It was the longest she’d ever run and at around the 9-km mark, she was fading and fading fast. It was about 7 a.m. and she’d barely slept. In the dim light of dawn on the rolling hills of the Niagara region bursting with green, a van filled with competitors from another team pulled alongside her when two girls jumped out of the van plunked a handful of Swedish fish (candy) into one weary hand and high-fived the other one. “You can do it!” they shouted. She did it, alright. And she’s loved Ragnar relay races ever since.
From its humble beginnings as a 24-hr relay race across the Utah mountains, Ragnar races have become synonymous with friendly supported overnight team relays on road and trail in some of the most scenic regions of North America.
Reebok Ragnar Niagara road race, which runs May 29 and 30, sees teams make their way through one of the most stunning regions of the province ending at one of the wonders of the world, Niagara Falls.
Grimason, 44, ran that first Ragnar in 2018 and hasn’t looked back. This year, she’s likely to captain two teams of 12 at Niagara running through her old stomping grounds.
“I grew up in the Niagara Region and have always loved the beauty of the fruit belt and vineyards. As much as I love the old route, the new one for 2020 has me so excited,” she says. “I am always amazed by the beauty of the Dundas Valley. It’s challenging but the views are worth it. And then who does not love wine country? Running to the end of the race is exhausting but out of all my Ragnars’ there is no better finish line than Niagara Falls.”
The format of Ragnar is simple. The challenge is not. Teams of 12 runners embark on a 200-mile relay race supported by two vans. Each runner tackles a few legs, with rest in between. The race begins in the day, goes overnight, and then finishes the next day. It’s serious bonding time, incredible fun, and one of the most unique running opportunities of the season.
Mississauga runner Trieu Nguyen, 45, like many other runners, has a thing for Ragnar races. He cut his competitive teeth doing Spartan races and mud runs, 5Ks and a marathon, but when he hit the Ragnar team relay it was something different. And he was hooked.
“My very first Ragnar I did Chicago and that trickled into Ragnar Appalachians Trail and a lot of other Ragnars after that,” Nguyen says. “I love the races so much I became an ambassador in 2016 to spread the message about Ragnar so all runners can experience the joys of running these relays.”
The Ragnar Niagara has a new and exciting course on tap for 2020 that begins at the Toronto Zoo surrounded by stunning Rouge National Park and continues down to the paved trails along pretty Lake Ontario and the city of Toronto with the bright lights of the big city keeping runners entertained at night. The race winds through Ontario’s own wine country with its gorgeous rolling hills along the Niagara Escarpment to the final destination of Niagara Falls. Teams will cross the finish line together under the drum of 150,000 gallons of booming water from Niagara Falls.
It’s truly a bucket list experience.
“I am really excited about the new route this year,” Nguyen says. “For the first time ever, the race is going to start at the Metro Zoo and spend a lot of time in the escarpment and wine country. It's very hard to beat the views that you get at the finish line.”
Scenery aside, what Nguyen appreciates most about Ragnar races is being part of a team.
“It provides an opportunity for runners to run as a team,” he explains. “When we run other races, we are always running by ourselves and chasing our personal bests, but this event allows you to run with your best friends as well as with other runners. Having that support makes running even more enjoyable.”
For Nguyen, it isn’t as much about the competition as it is about the fun of doing an overnight run with friends.
Grimason has a similar love of Ragnar races. Back in 2017, she watched her friends' social media feeds blow up with pics of this cool race and she knew it was something she had to do.
“ I jumped at the chance to join my friends' team in May of 2018,” Grimason says. “She always encouraged me to try new things. I really knew nothing about Ragnar when I said yes, but knew it looked like a fun challenge. I was absolutely hooked.”
Since her first Niagara experience in 2018, she has done 13 Ragnar events across North America. She says she is always telling people who ask about Ragnar that it is the social aspect of these races that keeps him coming back for more.
“We bond, laugh, hug and we find out just how strong we truly are,” she says. “For me, it always comes down to the friendships you make on the way. Not just in your own van, but the like-minded supportive people all around you! They honestly become family because of the shared experience.”
Time to get out there.
For more information on Reebok Ragnar Niagara or to register and get involved check them out online right here.
Use Get Out There's promo code 2020NIAGARAGOT50 and save $50 on team entry.