Relays are a special kind of running race. Sure, it helps if you can run fast, but honestly, the best relay teammates are not necessarily the ones with the fastest splits. Conquering a overnight relay requires a wide skillset, including the ability to endure sleep deprivation and van funk with a positive attitude. If you are new to the relay game, or if you’re just wanting to brush up your teammate skills, here’s our guide to being the most awesome relay teammate ever.
1. Be flexible.
Relays are tough, physically and emotionally, and you need to be able to adapt as you go. If you are a person who likes to control a situation, try and let go as much of that need as possible during race weekend. Your team captain may need to change the plan on the fly, or your runner may get lost and you might not have time to prepare for your leg the way you’d like. Do your best to roll with the punches, and your teammates will appreciate you for it.
2. Show your enthusiasm.
Cheer loudly for your teammates, rattle the cowbell, plan funny photo opportunities. The more fun you are having, the more fun your teammates are probably having. Don’t be afraid to be silly or childish – that’s kind of what this relay thing is all about.
3. Be prepared.
Nothing is more frustrating than a teammate who needs some of your bandaids…and sunscreen…and gatorade…and headphones…well, you get the picture. Use a packing list and make sure you bring everything you need for the weekend. Better yet, be generous with your stuff when your teammates don’t have something they need, and then you’ll be the hero.
There is a caution with this suggestion though. Don’t be the guy who shows up with the bag the size of the entire car carrier. Compress your stuff and pack smart!
4. Know your abilities.
As long as you are honest with how fast (or slow) you can move with your teammates, you’ll be okay. But don’t come in promising 6 minutes miles, run 1 at that pace, blow out your hamstrings, and then have to spend the rest of the race injured. Be realistic about what you can do and conserve a bit so that you can run all three legs.
5. Remember that everyone is tired at 3 am.
Yes, we all get tired at 3 in the morning. Hopping out of the van to support the active runner or walker with water and cheers is probably the last thing that any of us want to do. But sleeping in the back of the van while you let your teammates do all of the work is not the best way to win friends and influence people. Suck it up and help out your runner; you can sleep when it’s over.
6. Help cover relay expenses.
Relays are expensive, and often the team captain gets stuck with the bill. I’ve known folks who have had to pay hundreds of dollars extra because teammates never paid up. If you want to be a good teammate, make sure you throw in your share.
7. View the relay as an adventure.
If you can keep the perspective that the entire experience is an adventure, you can stay positive no matter what happens. Van stuck on a tree stump? It’s an adventure! (Yes, this happened to our team last year.) Team mates melting down at each other over a miscommunication? It’s an adventure! (Yes, I’ve had that happen too.) No teammate at the exchange for you to hand off to for 20 minutes? It’s an adventure! (You betcha it happened to me.) I always remind myself that whatever is happening is going to be a great story some day.
So there you have it, folks. Our seven best tips for being a great relay teammate. Whether you’ve been with your team since the very first year, or you are hopping on a team at the very last minute, keep these ideas in mind as you head out on the course. Your team will thank you for it!