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Running / November 2016
Natalie Chladek, Global Newsroom

241 Miles, 12 Marines and 1 Epic Relay

A group of 12 active-duty Marines from bases across the U.S. and as far away as Japan ran the Reebok Ragnar Relay in Napa, Calif. last weekend and proved that if you want to run far, you run together.

“Reebok is all about unity, improving together and becoming the best that they can be through physical fitness, and that’s what the Marines are about too,” says LCpl Molly Hampton, who works in public affairs for the Pentagon’s digital engagement team.  “It’s all about teamwork, it’s all about facing challenges together, but in this race I think we’ve exemplified that extremely well.”

During a particular divisive time in America, physical fitness and the achievements we reach together hold particular importance and remind us that we’re truly better together.  

The 36-leg, overnight relay race from San Francisco to Napa was challenging for even the fittest runners, but the Marines took on several additional challenges to make it even tougher.

The team added extra legs and nearly 60 additional miles to total 241 miles in honor of the Marine Corps’ 241st birthday on Nov. 10.   They also forwent the traditional race packing list, instead electing to carry only minimal supplies with them.  They slept outside on the ground with their military-issued sleeping bags and volunteered to participate with only a couple weeks of notice, preventing any significant training.

The Reebok Ragnar Relay Race transforms running, often a solitary pursuit, into the ultimate team experience.  Successful completion of the race, from running the miles to navigating the exchange locations, is only possible with the shared commitment of every member of the team. 

“It’s so important to get to know each other and break down those barriers and accomplish a goal together, and I think we did that,” says Hampton. 

The shared experience of running upwards of 17 miles each, driving through the night and forgoing showers on just a couple hours of sleep instills a sense of purpose in the competitors. 

“When you know you owe something to your team and you’re running together you’re a lot more driven, and that fuels you when you’re feeling down more than anything else,” says Hampton. 

Sgt Marvin Umana, a manpower analyst, took on the first leg, streaking out of the starting gate holding an American flag aloft as he ran by cheering spectators lining Ocean Beach.  The race featured a leg that crossed the Golden Gate Bridge and terrain that included paved paths, trails, stairs and the beach. 

The Marines logged an impressive time, completing the 241 miles in just over 25 hours.  Despite being one of the fastest teams to complete the race, the Marines stayed for hours at the post-race festivities to cheer on the other teams as they crossed the finish line.   

Keeping with Ragnar tradition, other teams decorated the Marines’ vans with nearly 400 magnets with handwritten messages wishing them luck and thanking them for their service. 

Those following the Marines’ journey on social media were able to virtually participate in the race day action as well, as followers voted in a Twitter poll that led to a surprise delivery of sweet treats to one of the vans midway through the race. 

When they crossed the finish line, one last surprise awaited them.  Veterans of Detachment 870 Napa Valley, Marine Corps League cheered on their finish and congratulated the runners while wearing their Marines blazers and hats. 

The last leg proved to be the toughest challenge for the Marines.  After more than 25 hours of continual running, the full 12-person team ran the final 5.2-mile leg together, showing race spectators that despite the race’s challenges they truly were better together.

“Although it was the hardest part, it was the most fun, and I think that says something about what challenge can be,” says Hampton. “It might be the biggest challenge, but sometimes the biggest challenges is what teaches you the most.”

Are you a Reebok Ragnar Relay racer? Tell us how Ragnarians are #bettertogether by tweeting us @Reebok !

Running / November 2016
Natalie Chladek, Global Newsroom