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Thursday, June 14, 2012

Relay Iowa 2012

Relay Iowa is an extreme relay run across the state of Iowa.  Starting in Souix City and continuing non-stop to Dubuque, at 337 miles, it is the longest relay in the world.  Relay Iowa is the vision of Bill Raine, a former team member who chose to channel his passion into an event to benefit the ministry God has given to Restoring Hope in South Africa.  He and his family have put countless hours into the event over the past few years.  Their work has paid off, as it has grown from 4 teams each of the first two years to 11 teams this year.
With our family being back in the States for a few months we had the opportunity to experience the finish line of this event.  One thing I can tell you is that after observing these teams as they accomplished such an amazing feat, it makes me want to do it myself.  And I've never run more than 2 consecutive miles in my life!
Bill and his team allowed us to greet the runners as they came in.  Instead of medals for each participant the organizers decided framed team photos would be so much more valuable for the memories.  So we were able to hand out the photos to each team member.  In addition, our four oldest girls at Restoring Hope Village had made bracelets to give to the runners.  So we were able to share with them the work of RHI as well as a token thank you for their efforts.
This year Bill was able to raise $8,000 for Restoring Hope Village through Relay Iowa.  This is a huge blessing to us, as it represents a significant portion of any building or operations project.  Our next building phase includes two new children's houses which would bring our total up to 24 children.  Thanks to all who participated in Relay Iowa for their contribution to the ministry.  Especially big thanks to Bill & Jill Raine, their two daughters and Nathian & Katrina Steir who all gave up lots of sleeping time over this past weekend to ensure the event was a raging success!

As the teams came in we saw lots of camaraderie, teamwork, pain and laughter.  Some of them had stories to share.  Here are a few:

1.  One runner pulled a hamstring a week before the run.  But runners are different people.  He wouldn't pull out of the relay.  So he ran his share of the 337 miles with his leg looking like this.  I apologize for the brevity of the shorts.  Like I said, runners are different.

2.  From injuries before the run to injuries during the run...just after the start in Souix City one runner stepped on a broken piece of glass.  The glass punctured his shoe and went into his foot.  He pulled off the shoe and continued running barefoot as he completed his first leg of the relay.  As he ran he tried to pull the glass out of the shoe but his hands were too sweaty and he couldn't.  So without stopping he used his teeth to pull the broken chunk out of the sole of his running shoe.  During his break a nurse on their team bandaged up his foot and he continued the relay.

3.  One team from Chicago had a member drop out just a few days before the run.  Not wanting to sacrifice the entire team they began looking for another member.  At a neighborhood doughnut shop (yes, these runners also eat doughnuts) they knew of a runner they could ask.  Daniel grew up in Ethiopia and moved to the States with his father several years ago.  He attended college on a distance running scholarship.  He agreed to run on their team and apparently he was amazing.  Most distance runners will run between 8-10 mph, depending on their fitness and competition level.  On the third day of the relay Daniel was still averaging 5 minute miles!  There is a reason that all the big marathons are won by Ethiopians or Kenyans.  They just know how to run!

4.  As we were passing out the team photos at the finish one runner came to us with a soggy $20 bill.  As they were running a drunk guy on a bike rode alongside for awhile to talk.  They told him what they were running for and he pulled out a $20 and gave it to the runner.  Wearing spandex (which typically comes without pockets) the runner had to be creative where he put the money as he ran.  Which explains its soggy condition.  We made sure to pass that along to Jill Raine as quickly as possible so as not to have to hold it too closely ourselves:-)

5.  This is probably the coolest story and one we wished we could have witnessed in person.  Relay Iowa is a run, not a race.  Just the accomplishment of crossing the entire state non-stop is enough for most people.  Teams report their average mile times before the race so it can be calculated roughly how long it might take them to complete the run.  Each team's start time is based on that calculation so that they all start at different times but hopefully arrive at the finish line within a couple hours of one another.  One of the teams was made up of ultra-marathoners.  Most teams have 12 or so runners.  This team had 6.  The team that was out in the lead throughout the whole run started 3 hours before this team.  Each runner carries a GPS monitoring device so that the organizers can tell how far apart the teams are and also ensure no one gets off course.  The last day the team of marathoners saw that they were catching up to the lead team and began to pick up the pace.  Apparently with just a few miles to go they other team saw them nipping at their heels and Relay Iowa quickly transition from a run to an all-out race to the finish.  Team members were pushing themselves as hard as they could to hold off each other's teams.  Normally each individual takes a 6 mile shift of running, but when the race broke out they began shortening the shifts.  Team members would hop out of the support vehicle to spell one another.  As we heard the story from Bill and Nathian, within those last few hundred yards the marathoners passed up the other team to cross the finish line first.  Runners are competitive folk, but if you think about it, you'd have to be to keep you plodding past miles and miles of corn and soybeans at all hours of the day or night.  Starting on Friday afternoon the last team crossed the finish line on Sunday at about 3:30 or so.

Here are a few pictures from the 3 days across Iowa.  If you'd like to see more you can find them on Relay Iowa's Facebook page.  Next year we need to push it up to 20 teams or more running for Restoring Hope.  Consider putting together a team yourself or contact Relay Iowa and they will place you with another team that needs runners.  If I was here I would be doing it long as there were at least 15 other people on my team...maybe I'd settle for a few Ethiopians or marathoners that could take 5 miles of my 6 mile shifts.

Everyone is excited for the start
So much energy on day one!

Thank goodness for AAA and jumper cables

Iowa Farms

Early morning running
Family support
More Iowa farms
Knee High by the Fourth of July
Waiting for the handoff

Stereotypical Iowa
Small town running
Rural = Beautiful
Running day and night
Not exactly a spectator sport, but you encourage the ones you love

Each team had their support groups

Iowa isn't all flat, corn and soybeans
Family reunion at the 336.9 mile mark
Most team cross the finish line together
Bill presents RHI with $8,000 raised by Relay Iowa

The Teams of Relay Iowa 2012

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