Whether you’re left-handed or right-handed, relay training demands at least one other set of hands—unless you want people to point at you and say, “There goes that crazy runner—passing a baton to himself!” Fact is, you can’t undertake a relay on your own—-unless you ascribe to these outrageous suggestions that are so weird, friends could challenge your mental state:
- Train your dog to pass the baton. If he loves sticks, he may not give it back to you!
- Invite your kids to be your partners. Bring cash bribes or they could refuse to stow their electronic devices.
- Ask your spouse. Avoid spats beforehand or the baton could land on your butt or head.
- Velcro batons to mannequins installed at intervals around the track. Expect pitying looks from fellow runners.
- Ask your doctor to diagnose you with multiple personality disorder so you can become your own team!
Training for a relay without a posse isn’t impossible. You need comrades, techniques, practice and commitment to do actual practice runs, but it’s possible to devote a good chunk of your time to improving your pace and technique so by the time you get together with your comrades, you’re ready to adapt to team exercises that work on coordination and the all-important hand-off. To prepare for that eventuality, use these tips to structure your solo training time:
- Don’t abide by your usual timing parameters. As a member of a relay team, you’ll be sprinting and stopping; running multiple times per day rather than having one long go of it. Your body must be conditioned to work with this change.
- Locate roads or trails similar to the ones on which you intend to compete. If you’re traveling abroad, consult topography maps so no surprises await. Share that map with teammates so they’re prepared, too.
- By running segments rather than continuous distances, your legs will accommodate more easily to the race pace and you may even want to adjust your hydration and fueling methods to compensate for glycogen depletion so your body doesn’t let you down when you need it most.
- Accustom your body to double workouts during your preparation. Elite marathoners are known to run both morning and afternoon sessions to prepare for race day.
- Master the art of running without warming up, a common situation in which relay runners regularly find themselves. Learn to substitute dynamic stretching techniques for your usual warmup.
- If you and the team intend to take part in an endurance relay event, hone your orienteering skills in case your teammates don’t. You could find yourself alone at night on an unfamiliar trail—a situation that can be compounded if your navigational skills leave something to be desired.
Master The 8 Commandments of Relay Race Etiquette
Once you and your mates come together for those all-important training runs in which coordination can mean the difference between a medal and disappointment, switch your thinking and actions to a “team mentality” using principles that are as relevant off the track as they are on it.
- Don’t be selfish. Even if you’re an only child and tend to be a little selfish, now is the time to think about others before yourself. That means sharing your possessions, supplies and motivation should your teammates require a boost or help.
- Laugh more, forgive yourself and each other. You’re going to trip and stumble when you train. You’ll drop more than one baton during team training, too. But if you don’t take yourself or your mates too seriously, your good mood and team spirit will survive even embarrassing incidents.
- Encourage your teammates. Lift their spirits and bolster their egos. A team is only as strong as its weakest link, so become an unpaid cheerleader when mates need a boost and you’ll get an equal measure back when you need it most.
- Snooze like a champ. You have a responsibility to team members to be in the best mental and physical shape possible. Don’t expect others to take up the slack because you’re not at the top of your game on race day.
- Share preparation responsibilities. Ask everyone to pull some weight. If one team member insists on being a martyr—doing everything from booking competitions to sorting food, drinks and gear—he or she is likely to get crabby and out of sorts. Divide responsibilities so everyone feels part of this team effort.
- No whining. When pressure mounts, it’s easy to say or do something that gets under the skin of a mate. If you feel resentful or angry, bring your concern or the issue up immediately so everyone gets their feelings and resentments out into the open.
- Respect teammate sensibilities. Just because everyone has been joined at the hip 24/7, be cautious about taking each other for granted. For example: Maintain your hygiene practices or a stick of antiperspirant could mysteriously land in your gym bag!
- Be as nice to each other as you are to competitors and the bond your team already enjoys will be even stronger than it was before you competed.
Have you ever experienced so much “togetherness” that you grow sick and tired of being around people you care about? What did you do to reverse your state of mind?