BY JENNIFFER WARDELL
Clipper Staff Writer
BOUNTIFUL – The brainchild of three crazy Utahns has grown into a multi-national event.
Ragnar Relay, headquartered in Kaysville, will hold its 10th annual Wasatch Back Relay June 20-22. The race, which involves teams of 12 people and takes runners all the way from Logan to Park City, started out with a total of 264 runners, a staff of three, and a few dedicated volunteers. For this year’s race, there are 18,000 runners, 3,000 volunteers, and a staff of 100 to help organize everything.
“The first year we did it, we were two college kids who barely knew what we were doing,” said Farmington resident Tanner Bell, one of the race’s founders. “This year, it’s going to be the largest relay in the nation.”
The relay was started in 2004 by Steve Hill, his son Dan, and Dan’s roommate Bell. Over a 24-hour period, the course travels over three mountain passes. Each team member runs a different leg of the course, ranging from three to seven miles.
“We didn’t have anyone at the exchanges, and barely knew we were supposed to get permits,” said Bell. “Since there were only 22 people running at any one time, hardly anyone in the state noticed what we were doing.”
Davis High track coach Corbin Talley was on the men’s team that won that initial relay. As a reward, the group was given free admission to the relay for life, an offer they have used for nine of the last 10 years.
“It’s a group of current Weber State runners and alumni, and we kind of get competitive about it,” said Talley. “We’ve won first place twice, second place four times, and third place twice.”
Several of Talley’s cross country students also form teams for the event, and both a boys’ and girls’ team will participate in this year’s race. The girls’ team won the women’s division of the race one year, and finished in the top three another year.
“It’s a good team-building exercise for the start of the summer,” said Talley. “They use it to get to know each other better.”
This year, the teammates will have a lot more company. There are so many runners at this year’s Wasatch Back that organizers had to make it a three-day event, with some teams starting Friday and others starting Saturday.
“It’s a pretty wild endeavor,” said Bell.
The race has also moved beyond the state boundaries, with Ragnar organizing 15 road races and six trail races in locations all across the nation. This year Ragnar will also host its first international race, set in Canada.
“To organize a Ragnar event, you have to be a logistical ninja,” said Bell. “It’s definitely a challenge.”
The state recently recognized Ragnar’s efforts, declaring the fourth Saturday in June to officially be Ragnar Day. This year, it falls on June 22.
“It’s wild,” said Bell. “We’ve been saying for the last four or five years that it should be a state holiday, and this year they made it official.”
Even if you’re not running, Bell feels that everyone can take a few minutes to take part in the spirit of Ragnar.
“It’s all about getting out and conquering something,” he said. “That’s something worth celebrating.”