E. Smith Productions

River to River Relay 2010

04.19.10 | 01:44 PM CDT

The logistics are tough, the course even harder, but when you bring eight good friends together for a day of running across the southern part of the state, you have one heck of a good time.

This is my second year of being manager for a River to River relay team called The Buffalo Warriors.  This marks my fifth year running the race with a goal of running the remainder of the individual legs.  I have just 3 years left so I’m pretty close.

The race starts in southern Illinois deep in the Shawnee National Forest.  The race follows small country roads East across the state to the eventual finish line of Golconda.  A team of eight runners carry a baton nearly the length of the state for a total of 80 miles.  Runners trade off running legs approximately 3 miles in length, handing off to another teammate after their leg.  You continue this until you cover the entire distance.

Getting a team together this year was more of a challenge than I thought it would be.  It just seemed the enthusiasm wasn’t as strong as in past years.  I eventually persuaded, OK prodded, a few local runners (including my two brothers) to come along for the trip downstate.  It’s springtime and a great time to be in the rolling hills of the bottom part of the state.

I picked up our team van at O’Hare on Friday morning and drove down with Josh to pick up the rest of the team in Champaign.  We drove the three hours to Marion, IL where we got our race numbers, fueled up on fried pickles and decided who would take what legs.  In the morning we drove to the start line which includes a long winding rocky road up to the start line.  We dropped off our first runner, Andrew, and we drove to the first transition area for the hand-off.  The weather was cool in the morning but eventually warmed up nicely.  The course is often quite tough, forcing you to pound uphill on many steep hills. 

After we were almost 4 hours into the race we realized that we hadn’t even covered a marathon distance yet.  We started to have concerns that we would be able to finish the race under the cutoff time.  Without too much thinking we knew that we would just have to run harder on the next legs to make up time and get to that finish line.

You meet so many friendly runners along the course.  Teams constantly battle for position and some friendly rivalry that you don’t discover until out on the course.  You analyze runners and size your chances up based on how they look when the van drives by.  We knew time was closing in on us, but we still had a fighting chance to make it.  I wasn’t used to having a team that wouldn’t make it.  I was not going to let this happen!

Our leg 6 runner, Shea had been in a bad cycle accident the week before River to River and was in a lot of pain.  He was able to gut out his first leg, but was unable to finish the other two.  Tracy stepped up, covering his next leg including her legs.  We were concerned that it would certainly fatigue her, but just hoped that we could keep up pace.  After my second leg, I returned to some bad news. Tracy told me that Andrew had done a little detour through a field and had gotten stuck in the mud.  Facing a tight race, and now faced with this news, I was nervous.  They took control, sending the next runner off with another team so he wouldn’t miss his transition.  A tow truck arrived and freed the van.  We were going to make it!  Marty (our fastest runner) took over Shea’s duty of running the toughest part of leg 6.  He sure looked happy when we drove by honking and yelling “Buffalo.”

Tracy got the baton with quite a bit of time to spare.  For the remaining 3.30 miles, we knew that we were going to do it easily.  We all sprinted in together as the announcer said in his deep, British sounding voice, “Welcome to Golconda, Buffalo Warriors!”  We celebrated, sharing war stories from the time out on the course.  We were happy and satisfied from long day.  We knew we banded together to meet our goal.  This race is unlike many other running races.  You have a team and everyone depends on each other.  You run hard, you rest, you run hard again.  It’s tough, but you keep going knowing that you might let your team down if you don’t give it all you can.  I was sure proud of my team how they performed and reacted to the situation.

It’s really amazing how much you can accomplish on an individual level when stress is high and you have that possibility of failure.  I was proud to be part of the experience and have some memories for a lifetime.

2010 Race Results

The Team



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