The Great American Relay – 2020

As Covid-19 swept thru the world in 2020, our day to day lives changed drastically.  Unless you live is Sweden, Covid has mostly likely touched your life in some way, shape, or form.  In the US, kids were not going to school.  Most parents were not working or attempting to work from home, while simultaneously managing their household, the kids’ virtual learning and trying to stay sane.  There were no play dates, movies, concerts or sporting events.  We just sat home and tried to avoid the virus.  Whether you think it was real or fake, honestly, it doesn’t matter.   Most just tried to do as advised and be a good example for our kids.  We “masked up” for the tasks that were absolutely necessary, like grocery shopping.  But otherwise, we stayed home, unless we were deemed an essential worker.  To all of you “essential workers”, we thank you for all that you have done during the pandemic to keep Americans working from home, fed/clothed & healthy.  

While some people were sitting at home and possibly feeling sorry for themselves or drowning themselves in copious amounts of alcohol, others were trying to make the best of the situation.  Running races and triathlons were canceled.  2020 might be remembered as the year of all things VIRTUAL.  Races, fundraisers, concerts all went virtual.  I’m not much of a “virtual” person.  I don’t want to do an Ironman virtually but certainly understand that we are all motivated in different ways and respect all activity, virtual or live.  That being said, I was very excited when I heard that the Great American Relay was not only going to be a LIVE, in person event but that it was also coming thru this part of the country, not too far from my front door. 

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The Great American Relay is a coast to coast relay thru the US.  It started on September 15th in Boston, MA.  Navigated the US, hitting many major cities including Boston, NYC, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Chicago, Indianapolis, St Louis, Oklahoma City, Albuquerque, Phoenix, and LA.  The relay finishes today, October 21st on the Santa Monica Pier in California. 

There are 379 relay legs in the 2020 version of the GAR.  Each leg was from 5-22 miles, with the average leg covering 10 miles.  Each stage needed a lead runner to coordinate handoffs with the leg before and after, plus could have up to 10 additional support runners.  For those who wanted to participate but not go to the actual plotted course, there were also unlimited virtual spots for each stage.  The main goal of the relay was 1)  to get from coast to coast,  2) unite runners in a time when many were feeling isolated and disconnected & 3) raise money for the American Association of Cancer Research.  Its unclear if this was just a “pandemic” type event to unite runners who had little else to do, or if we can expect an annual event in the years to come. 

The relay went thru 15 states.  Indiana was one.  I signed up for two stages in Indiana on September 25th.  As a support runner on Stage 113 from Butler to Waterloo, IN (8 miles).  And the lead runner on Stage 118 from Benton to Goshen IN (8.3 miles).  Prep for 2 legs felt like I was prepping for Ragnar, except I got to come home between runs, shower, eat & use the Rapid Reboot compression boots!  Gear & nutrition is ready.

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Stage 113 was scheduled to take off at noon from Butler.  I was with a great group of ladies and our predetermined route was down US 6, in the middle of a very warm day.  We arrived early and were ready for our handoff!  From left:  Deanna, Bethany, Keri, Teri & myself.

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We waited for our handoff, grabbed a photo with the speedy Logan from Stage 112 & we were off! IMG_2321

Route could not have been any easier.  We ran one road, US 6, from Butler to Waterloo.  Wide shoulder.  Although there was a lot of traffic, we had plenty of space.  It was hot but we took it slow and just covered the distance together.  There are no aid stations.  This is a point to point route.  Self supported.  One person, Vince Varallo, was the organizer and director of the event.  He drove a vehicle from point to point across the country.  Even filled in as a runner when a leg was not filled or a lead did not show.  Huge commitment on his part.  He also supplied water/gatorade and snacks as needed.  Drove runners back to their cars in emergency situations.  He was definitely a one man show when it came to taking care of the event and all the runners!

Stage 113 in route to Waterloo!

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We eventually made it to Waterloo.  And passed the baton on to Eric who was headed to Kendallville. 

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I went home for a short period but the relay was ahead of schedule.  I was off to Benton, IN sooner than planned for Stage 118.  I was staying connected with the runner after us but my communication with the runner from the stage before us was spotty at best.  We arrived in Benton ahead of schedule.  Parked and had a half mile walk to our start.  We were walking to the start when we heard that the runner before us was a “no show”.  I tried to get ahold of him, finally did after several attempts.  He had his days flipped but thankfully was close to the course and ready to run.  It was just a matter of waiting since he wasn’t in position when the relay got to him.  So we waited.  Plenty of time to talk with Vince.  Then Todd & I were off, just before dusk. 

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Our route was also easy, along US 33 from Benton to Goshen IN.  8.3 miles.  Not much shoulder on this section of 33, so we mostly ran single file.  And it was dark.  Protocol was to run against traffic, like normal when running on the road.  So we were against traffic, their headlights blinding us and our lights probably scaring them.  Not much we could do other than to stay the course.  Lots of traffic.  Some dead zones between small towns.  Crossing some major roads.  Sidewalk running thru Goshen and thru the central business district.  Overall a great run.  It was cooler which was nice.  But I was happy to have company.  I would have been uneasy running in the dark solo in an unfamiliar area.  Huge shout out to Todd for driving so far to run 8 miles with me!!  Thank YOU!!

8.3 miles clicked off pretty quickly in the dark.  Then we were handing off to Donald!

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The relay started at 6am each day and ended about 10pm.  Great idea to avoid a major timing issues.  Overall, a great experience.  I was happy to be doing something, live and in person!  Thanks to Todd for running the late leg with me.  Thanks to Vince for creating/organizing/directing this relay. 

Oh, and SWAG!  Everyone who registered got a t-shirt and medal mailed to them. 

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Great event.  I’ll be interested to see if it comes back next year.  And if so, will the route be the same or different?  Nice distraction for 2020.  Fun.  And the relay should be finishing today!  Great job to all the runners, in person and virtual!!

**Happy Running ** Amanda – TooTallFritz

1 thought on “The Great American Relay – 2020

  1. Wow…been a long time since I seen a blog post by one of my favorite runner friends and blogger! Cool you participated in that relay across America. I wasn’t paying attention to it and don’t recall any mention of it thru my Yankee Runner affiliation. So next year will watch for it. Keep it up Tool Tall and I miss ya and the opportunity to run with you and your garng.

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