Will Smith, a Manager in DHG’s Asheville office, recently joined several team members from across our footprint for the annual Blue Ridge Relay - 208 miles of non-stop running action through the Blue Ridge and Black Mountains of Virginia and North Carolina. Teams of up to 12 runners rotated through 36 transition areas as they covered the extensive distance, with each person running 3 legs of varying lengths. Here’s what Will had to say about the experience and the teamwork involved.
How long have you been participating in the Blue Ridge Relay? 4 years. My first relay was in 2013.
How many teams were part of this year’s race? More than 196 teams participated in this year’s race. DHG had 2 teams, with DHG Team 1 coming in 111th place and DHG Team 2 coming in 127th place. I was on Team 1 and we crossed the finish line in 31 hours.
In total, how far did you run? I ran 17.9 miles, broken up into 3 different legs.
What are some of the challenges in running this race, particularly with it being non-stop? The tough terrain and elevation heavy course. And, with it being a non-stop race, you’re bound to be running in the dark for at least a portion of your leg. Everyone has headlamps and lighted vests to make it easier to see the course, but people still get lost at night when it’s dark and they’re tired. Sleep is also a challenge, you sleep when you can.
How do you get to each of the transition areas? We had two vans, for our two DHG teams. You may or may not have a dedicated driver who is not participating in the race. If that’s the case you need to take shifts driving the van, while still being responsible for 3 legs of the relay. Van 1 has the first 6 runners, and the other van is the “inactive van” that drives to the next big exchange zone, that’s where runners 1-6 stop and runners 7-12 start. After you run you have a 6-leg break, and there is always someone communicating through phone/text with the other van so you can estimate when you need to make sure the next runner is awake and ready to go. My first year, a van of people fell asleep and they were waiting at the wrong transition point. Cell reception is somewhat poor along the course, so nobody could get ahold them to wake them up!
With so many similar looking team vans, they must all run together. How do the DHG vans stand out? This year Sarah Paris and Jen Stevenson (both from the Charlotte market) started calling our DHG team “Tiaras and Taxes,” and they decorated our vans accordingly. There are hundreds of vans that all look the same, and the only way to differentiate is to decorate them. There’s even an award for the best decorated van. Sarah and Jen also wore tiaras to go along with our team name, they had great energy!
How does teamwork come into play with this race? You’re in a cramped van with 5-6 people at a time for 31 hours. Amazingly enough, everyone got along and we were laughing the whole time. That says a lot about our team and the people at DHG. You’re running long distances, you’re tired and sweaty, but everyone pitches in and helps out. It is such a great bonding experience. I would jump back in that van and do it all over again.
How were you able to train for the relay while managing client work and performance goals? While I’ve run marathons in the past and am used to training for long runs, I injured my hamstring last year and had to rely on training through swimming for this year’s relay. I would swim at night in the pool at my apartment complex because the weather was nice and it wasn’t crowded. In years past, I would plan my long distance training for the weekends and short runs during the week before or after work. The training time gives you time to think and plan what you need to do in terms of achieving career and personal goals. I’d like to give a shout out to Bill Smith (who spearheaded the relay for DHG and who brought me in as a co-organizer) and Randy Brodd (who helps with the planning and works with a local apparel company each year to get us cool DHG schwag for the race).