Relay big ambitions for Union students and Alumni


By Gabe Sturges

As twelfth man and anchor Ben Lawrence ‘11 crossed the finish line, an ethereal sense of relief swept across the fatigued faces of our team’s 11 remaining members. We had found sanctity, not only by firmly securing our second victory in as many years, but in the reassurance that our 197 mile journey had finally come to a close.

Our endeavor, officially known as Ragnar Relay, is a national series of relay running races with different locales, in which 12 teammates run three times each throughout the day and night, across 197 total, continuous miles. Each runner is assigned a specific series of runs, totaling between 11 and 24 miles. This particular race, run almost entirely on back roads and through scenic rural villages along its meandering course, started in Bethel, NY and finished in Dobbs Ferry, NY. Above all, the relay tests one’s physical and mental capacities, beckoning us to a distant finish as our stressed minds reel, and legs smolder from combat with the tarmac underfoot.

Our first personal experience with Ragnar extends back to the late fall in 2009. At the time, it was nothing more than an ambitious though seemingly grandiose plan. Our Ragnar team, the North American Distance Squad, affectionately known as the NADS, consists almost entirely of members of the Union men’s cross-country team.  Among our ranks include Sean Gorski ‘10, Max Jack ‘10, Tom Fagin ‘10, Zack Patnode ’10; Pat Petty ‘11, Ben Lawrence ‘11; Brian Solinsky ‘13, Ethan Loew ‘13, and myself; cross country coaches and alums Dave Harwood ‘08, and Pete Katlic ‘08, and Anders “Derrrty Derz” Wood.  Harwood, an excellent marathon runner, first mentioned the idea to us during the culminating weeks of our cross-country season. The idea intrigued us, as we were confident in racing the distance, though the logistics seemed very daunting for the May 2010 race. Thanks especially to Dave and Pete, the seemingly endless checklist of requirements were completed, and after researching past results, we came to the conclusion that we could legitimately win the race. As it turned out, our calculations proved correct. After 180 miles, the NADS crossed the finish first, over an hour ahead of the second place Team Google.  Based on our astounding success, we assumed that this year could be a continuation of the previous year.

The play-by-play:

  • 2 p.m., May 15th :  Tom Fagin eagerly toed the line along with four other teams, the likes of which caused some NADS to quiver in their neon-green running shorts.
  • First Exchange: With the exchange from runner six to seven, we had gapped the field by at least four minutes.
  • Dusk: The athletes of Van Two stoically continued the labors of our comrades. The physical discomfort was often overwhelmed by displays of nature’s unspeakable beauty as our cadre continued under the fiery tendrils of the auburn setting sun.
  • 6 a.m., May 16:   I took the baton from Katlic. We were informed of our more than 30-minute lead over the chasing group. Jack, van two’s third runner, was misdirected at a major intersection, running at least ten minutes out of his way. Despite the hiccup, we helped to reorient him as he stormed down the race route.
  • Last part: As Petty handed the baton to Lawrence, the team’s twelfth man, he took off on a 4.5-mile jaunt, scheduled to end at the racing’s overall finishing line. After 20 hours of ceaseless energy and excitement, an exasperated Lawrence crossed the line, as the other 11 did the same, flanking him to the left and right.


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