If you’ve never traveled from Chattanooga to Nashville in a van filled with smelly friends (and some strangers mixed in) and their smelly shoes, you might consider putting a team together and partaking in the Ragnar Relay. A Ragnar Relay is an overnight adventure race where teams of either 12 or 6 people band together and run roughly 200-miles, relay-style from Point A to Point B. (In this case, it’s Chattanooga to Nashville, roughly 196-miles up and over Monteagle Mountain.) Only one member of a team runs at a time, and each member runs a total of three times, with each leg varying in difficulty and distance.
It’s the perfect race for novice runners, elite athletes, friends, families, and yes, crazy people.
Lisa Logan and four of her teammates are participating in the race for the 4th time. Over the years a few people have come and gone, but this core group of five has stuck together the whole time. In 2013, teammate Rich Graham added his brother Chet to the roster shortly after Chet’s niece, Caroline Previdi, was lost in the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary. The relay team went from being a group of runners sharing a fun adventure together to a group raising money to honor a young girl’s life.
Chet’s company helped him start the Caroline Previdi Foundation initially to restore activities such as sports, dance, art, and music in the community—things Caroline loved most. In 2013, the core team decided to run the Ragnar Relay as a fundraiser for the foundation. Over the last two years they’ve raised almost $20,000. Because the runners pay their own expenses, all of the proceeds go to the foundation. “We wanted to do something that helped honor a wonderful friend,” Lisa exclaimed. Running for Caroline was the first time Lisa ever ran for a cause. She said that it changed her perspective on every run.
The current team consists of Jeff Keith, Rich Graham, Joel Svoboda, Chad Young, Chet Graham, Dianna Leun, Jamey Flegal, and Lisa Logan. The legs of the race are divided between team members by difficulty. Monteagle and Suck Creek Mountains are the biggest challenges. Rich and Lisa have run both of those legs, so the other core members are challenged to run them this year. Each runner signs up for a series of predetermined legs. The shortest distance any runner will run in one stretch is 2.7 miles, the longest being 10.2 miles. Different runners will cover these distances and the choice is up to the participant or the team based on need.
In the past, Team Caroline has had 12 members, but there are eight who have formed a more close-knit, core team throughout the years. These eight have become so close, in fact, that they even enjoy riding in the same van to the event. Yes, it’s the smelliest part, they admit, but it’s also where the real bonding happens. “As it stands,” Lisa says, “everyone is picking up at least 6-12 extra miles so we can spend more time together.”
Lisa and her team look forward to the Ragnar Relay every year because it is a weekend they get to spend with good friends doing the things they all enjoy—running, talking, aggravating each other and “reliving” their glory days.
“We spend 30 hours in the van together, so there plenty of time to catch up,” she says.
The team doesn’t view the Ragnar Relay simply as a race: “We run plenty of races throughout the year and Ragnar is as much about being together and encouraging each other through the tough sections as it is about running.” The team is made up of many different kinds of people, including educators, an electrician, a machinist, a vice president of a carpet company, a nurse, and a lawyer. Even so, they have much in common. “Each of us brings strengths that make us unique and important and what we all have in common is the ability to laugh at ourselves,” says Lisa.
After Team Caroline has completed Ragnar, their spouses join them in Nashville and they enjoy dinner and music before putting the race behind them. They then return to their respective lives and patiently wait for next year when they will all happily cram into that smelly van together to once again run the Ragnar Relay as Team Caroline.