If you thought relay races were just for middle school field days, then you haven’t met this kind of relay. The 200-mile, 2-day, 12-person relay race format that has taken off recently has made running into a true team sport.
But despite the intense mileage, they’re not just for elite athletes, says Tanner Bell, co-founder and president of the Ragnar Relay Series, which hosts 15 relays across the U.S each year. Relays are one of the most accessible forms of distance running out there, he says. And not just because you run three times and get breaks in between, but because you have a team depending on you.
“You’re accomplishing something together that most people could not do on their own,” says Bell. That camaraderie may be at the heart of what makes these races so popular. “Running a 200-mile relay is such an incredible accomplishment, and being able to do that with a team forms bonds you’ll never forget.”
Think you’re ready to give it a shot? These 17 relay races will challenge you and take your entire team on a serious fitness and bonding adventure. Grab 11 of your craziest friends and sign up today! (Note: Events are listed by date.)
The Best Relay Races in America
Two hundred miles is by no means a cake walk — but in teams of 12 runners over two days? Anything's possible. Click through for the season's best relay races across the country.
Location: Huntington Beach, CA to San Diego, CA Date: April 4-5, 2014 There’s a reason this relay is one of the Ragnar series’ most popular. You’ll start in Huntington Beach then head south along the Pacific coastline. Your team will meet up at three beach exchange points and end in sunny San Diego for a big party at the finish line. Registration fee: Sold out (Photo: Ragnar Relay)
Location: Gettysburg, PA to Washington, D.C. Date: April 25-26, 2014 Get in touch with our nation’s roots on this quaint course, starting in the shadow of Civil War Gettysburg, crossing the Mason Dixon line and a handful of historic battlefields, and ending with your teammates at the SW Waterfront in D.C. There’s even a stop for a pancake breakfast at the Bavarian Inn in Shepherdstown, WV. Registration fee: $1,440 per team (Photo: American Odyssey)
Location: Brevard, NC to Bryson City, NC Date: April 25-26, 2014 This relay is more rural than most, and it might just top the list for difficult courses. You’ll travel through the Pisgah and Nantahala wilderness areas, traverse over 25 miles of rugged trails, cross creeks, and take in the views along North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Parkway. Registration fee: $1,320 per team by April 5; $2,400 after April 6 (Photo: Frank Kehren)
Location: Hull, MA to Provincetown, MA Date: May 9-10, 2014 This Ragnar takes you past pristine beaches and through the historic towns of Cape Cod, letting you soak up the coastal New England atmosphere. Lighthouses will lead you toward the finish line in Provincetown, where you can party on the beach with your team. Registration fee: $1,560 per team; sold out (Photo: Ragnar Relay)
Location: Madison, WI to Chicago, IL Date: June 6-7, 2014 Ragnar Chicago takes runners from the waterfront in Madison, WI across the open roads of the Midwest. The relay comes full circle as runners cross the finish at the waterfront pathway on the shore of Lake Michigan, right in downtown Chicago. Registration fee: $1,380 per team; almost sold out (Photo: Ragnar Relay)
Location: Portland, OR to Eugene, OR Date: June 20-21, 2014 You and your team will start in Portland and run through the rolling hills of the Williamette River Valley on rural roads lined with orchards and vineyards. You’ll finish in Eugene, aka “Track Town USA,” near Pre’s Trail, named for running legend Steve Prefontaine. Registration fee: $1,380 per team (late registration) (Photo: Epic Relays)
Location: Canon City, CO to Crested Butte, CO Date: July 18-19, 2014 You and your friends will run through the Rockies past five 14ers (that’s mountaineering talk for a mountain that exceeds 14,000 feet above sea level), over three alpine passes and through four national forests. You’ll end up in the ski town of Crested Butte, the wildflower capital of Colorado. Registration fee: $1,284 per team; price increases on April 2 (Photo: Epic Relays)
Location: Blaine, WA to Langley, WA Date: July 18-19, 2014 Like explorers and adventurers of the past who sought to navigate the Northwest Passage, your team will travel from Blaine, WA to the Langley, WA. You’ll pass quaint villages and cross Deception Pass, one of Washington’s most popular historic destinations, before crossing the finish line. Registration fee: $1,380 per team; sold out(Photo: Ragnar Relay)
Location: Logan, UT to Jackson Hole, WY Date: August 8-9, 2014 You won’t die of dysentery on this trip along the Oregon Trail. You will run through four national forests (Cache Wasatch, Caribou, Targhee and Teton), through Star Valley and beside Snake River before finishing at the foot of the Tetons. We’ll hitch our wagon to that! Registration fee: $1,320 per 12-person team; price increases May 16 (Photo: Epic Relays)
Location: Mt. Hood, OR to Seaside, OR Date: August 22-23, 2014 With more than 17,400 annual participants, Hood to Coast is the largest of the relay bunch. Dressed in you craziest costume, you’ll race from the base of Mt. Hood to the beach in Seaside, OR. You may have to try a few times to get in on this relay though. Registration is done through a lottery and only 1,050 teams make the cut. Registration fee: $1,584 per team; sold out (Photo: Hood to Coast Relay)
Location: Brian Head, UT to Springdale, UT Date: September 12-13, 2014 This relay gets off to a quick start: The first leg is a one-mile sprint! Runners then board a chair lift that brings them to the start of a 3.5-mile trail run. The starting line is at an altitude of over 11,000 feet, and the finish is at 3,000 feet, for a whopping 8,000 descent over the course of 187 miles. Registration fee: $1,199 per team (Photo: RedRock Relay)
Location: Fort Collins, CO to Steam Boat Springs, CO Date: August 1-2, 2014 Beginning in the foothills of Fort Collins, this remote course takes runners on back roads through wide-open Colorado terrain. You’ll pass through Roosevelt, Medicine Bow and Routt National Forests, and run over two mountain passes before earning a catered feast at Steamboat Springs Ski Resort. Registration fee: $1,405 per team(Photo: Wild West Relay)
Location: Copper Mountain, CO to Aspen, CO Date: August 8-9, 2014 With its highest elevation at 10,000 feet, you’ll see for miles as you run across the Rocky Mountains during this relay. Runners traverse the mountains of Breckenridge, Vail and Aspen before finishing on the slopes of Snowmass Ski Resort. Registration fee: $1,260 per team (Photo: Ragnar Relay)
Location: Idaho Springs, CO to Buena Vista, CO Date: September 12-13, 2014 You’ll experience Colorado’s mountain trails on this scenic and remote relay that takes runners across mountain passes and around lakes. And for the leaf peepers out there, the fall timing guarantees a colorful experience. Registration fee: $1,260 per 10-person team; price increases April 1(Photo: Flaming Foliage Relay)
Location: Cannon, NH to Hampton Beach, NH Date: September 12-13, 2014 Reach the Beach is one of the oldest and longest running relay races in the U.S. You’ll start at Cannon Mountain, making your way through the White Mountains of New Hampshire, passing fields, lakes, mountains and picturesque covered bridges before finishing at Hampton Beach State Park. Registration fee: $1,440 per team (Photo: Reach the Beach Relay)
Location: San Francisco, CA to Calistoga, CA Date: September 19-20, 2014 The Ragnar series’ “run now, wine later” race takes runners from San Francisco across the Golden Gate Bridge, then through Sonoma and the Napa valley, surrounded by wine country’s most picturesque vineyards. At the end, you can toast to your teams’ success with a glass (or three) of post-relay Napa wine. Registration fee: $1,320 per team (Photo: Ragnar Relay)
Location: Miami, FL to Key West, FL Date: February 6-7, 2015 Key West is known for its parties, so the post-relay festivities for this relay are bound to be a good time. Teams start in Miami, traverse the Seven Mile Bridge, and hop from Key to Key before crossing the Key West finish line. Registration fee: TBA. Sign up for the Ragnar newsletterfor registration announcements (Photo: Ragnar Relay)
Which of these relay races are you adding to your bucket list? Any favorites we missed? Share them in the comments!