All afternoon it had been raining, thundering and lightning. It was now dark outside with the threat of more storms, but it didn’t matter to this group of runners. Because come Friday, they need to be ready for anything.
Most of the two teams from Jeremy’s Bootcamp met at Jr Linden’s house for a quick run and a final meeting before heading to Bretton Woods for this year’s Reach the Beach, which begins Friday morning.
If you’re not familiar with the running event, it’s pretty unique from most others. You can put together a team of six or 12 people that will run the 200 or so miles from Bretton Woods to Hampton Beach over the course of about a day and a half.
It’s a relay race, so for Jeremy’s Bootcamp 1 and Jeremy’s Bootcamp 2, each of which have 12 members, all 24 participants will have to run three of the 36 legs.
The distances and difficulties vary. For instance, the very first run of the event is one of the shortest at 2½ miles, but it takes you on a run up the Bretton Woods ski mountain and back down.
“Some have flat areas, some go down hill and uphill,” Linden said. “You could be all by yourself.”
The longest run is 10.9 miles, and the most any one person will have to run is just over 19 miles, with just over 12 miles being the shortest. But it isn’t necessarily the distances that pose the biggest obstacle – it’s the whole three runs in less than a day and a half.
Because after each person on the team runs their first leg, the sequence starts over. And then one more time for good measure.
Again though, it’s not just the running that you have to look at as the only challenge of Reach the Beach.
Each team is split up into two vans of six with a driver. After you run, you hop in the van, and that’s where you have to eat and sleep for the duration – unless you decide to camp or have a teammate who happens to own a gym near the tail end of the route where you can shower and nap.
So just imagine being in a van for almost 36 hours with likely very little sleep, some interesting smells and having to run three varying distances while trying to let your body recover.
“It pulls people out of their comfort zone,” said Jeremy Woodward, owner of Jeremy’s Bootcamp and the one who organized the teams with Linden.
It’s a recipe for muscle pulls, dehydration and exhaustion, but apparently that is part of the allure. The idea of saying that you accomplished something that has many other factors tied to it than just going out for a run is draw.
“You’re tired, you haven’t slept much because you’re in a van, so it’s going to challenge a lot of people,” Woodward said.
Team 2 starts the journey at 7:30 a.m. on Friday, while Team 1 won’t be far behind with a start time of 7:45 a.m. Depending on how fast some of the early runners are, the teams might be running the same legs at the same time.
Because of course, there are bragging rights on the line for whichever team has the better time – as well as a friendly wager of dinner at Dos Amigos for the winning squad bought by the non-winning team. Talk about a reason to run a little faster.
But actually, the strategy is to run a little slower than you’re used to. If you go out guns blazing on your first leg, you won’t be as strong for your second and likely cooked for leg three.
“The team may take 33 hours to finish, but you get all your runs in about 22 to 24 hours,” Linden said. “You can barely walk at the end.”
It was late last year when Woodward put out the call for people interested in Reach the Beach, hoping for a single team of 12. When he get 20 responses in less than a day, he and Linden decided to make two.
The groups have been getting together for a few training runs, but since its such a large number of people, most of the training has been done on their own or with a partner from the teams.
Husband and wife, Jim and Tara Green, did a training session where they ran one afternoon, and the next morning and next afternoon to get used to the rigors of the three runs in a short amount of time. Although they decided against incorporating a smelly van and lack of sleep. There’s just some things that need to happen organically.
“Overall it felt pretty good, but by that third leg, I was feeling that stiffness,” Jim said.
Both have run half marathons and marathons, so Reach the Beach was on the list of to-dos.
“When Jeremy asked if anyone was interested, we had to say yes,” Tara said.
Sisters Alex and Veronica Hytner are both teachers and trained together during their summer off.
And what are they looking forward to about their first Reach the Beach adventure?
“Smelly people in vans, it will be fun,” Veronica said.
Veronica got a total of 19.4 miles, while Alex received the shortest distance of 12.4.
“I’m not complaining. I’m keeping it on the DL,” Alex said.
Last week’s run was at night using headlamps because just about everyone is going to have a shift of running in the middle of the night or close to it. But that again is part of the challenge.
“Right along we’ve been trying to convey to people to go do a run at night to get used to running in the dark on your own,” Woodward said.
For more on Reach the Beach, visit run.ragnarrelay.com/lp/relay/reach thebeach/new.