River to River weekend

If I could run only one race a year, it would be the River to River Relay.

Teams of eight people run 80 miles across the southern tip of the state.

Picture a day spent in an increasingly smelly van, filled with food, water and sweaty runners, driving a few miles at a time on narrow country roads, along with hundreds of other runners in their team vans. You park, walk to an exchange zone to cheer the runner coming in and the one taking off on his or her run. Then you get back in the van and do it again. All day long.

It’s a blast.

Part of the fun is gauging how you’re doing in comparison to the other teams around you. You can tell by the bib numbers which ones shared your start time, and which started earlier or later. (The 240 teams are divided among six start times, from 6:15 to 8:45 a.m.)

My team has a friendly rivalry with another Champaign team that includes some of our regular running partners. They’ve started earlier than us the last couple of years, and it’s always a challenge to see if we can catch them and beat them across the finish line in Golconda.

It’s not just the other teams we enjoy seeing during the day. It’s the volunteers and spectators in the rural areas we run through. The people sitting in lawn chairs in their yards, cheering us on, and the church ladies on Cobden who always provide water, coffee and fruit.

One moment that made me laugh — I’m running through Eddyville (population about 150) on my last run of the day. There are three kids with a dog standing on the sidewalk watching me. As I run past, the smallest kid, a little girl, shouts at me in her squeaky little voice: “Run your butt off!”

Every year I appreciate more and more the chance to spend the weekend with good friends, doing something I love to do. Thanks to my fellow Sandboxers.

One thing that especially touched me this year was seeing the Bannon family’s team (River to River veterans), and the message on the back of their van, in the photo below.

Photos, below:

My team members, Cara Finnegan and Babette Hiles, exchanging the baton.

LOTS of porta-potties needed for this race.

A hill in an early part of the race.

The message on the Bannon team's van.

Our team at the Ohio River in Golconda, after finishing.

Photos:
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