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Ragnar Relay unites neighbors as teammates

PARK CITY — Some neighborhoods plan picnics, barbecues or even softball games to get to know each other.

Dixie Robinson's neighborhood decided the way to build community spirit was for 12 of them to spend nearly 30 hours squashed into two vans running 188 miles across Utah's Wasatch Mountains.

The neighbors decided running the Ragnar Relay's Wasatch Back would be the perfect social get-together for an active group.

"We're all a bunch of runners, and we'd wanted to do it for a while," said Robinson, who was the captain of the Legacy Ranch Runners, a community in Herriman. "We had just never put a team together in time. This year we finally got it together."

The fact that the race, which starts in Logan on Friday and ends in Park City on Saturday, sold out months ago, meant some line-up changes, but in the end, Robinson said the 12 neighbors' experience exceeded their expectations.

"It was really fun," she said. "I would totally do it again."

BYU won the race with a time of 17:49:18. 26.2 Running Company was second with a time of 18:32:06. The complete race results can be found on the race's Web site at ragnarrelay.com.

For the first time in any of the Ragnar Relays, there was rain at the finish of a race. Temperatures were fairly warm Friday but much more mild than last year.

"Everything went pretty well," said Tanner Bell, co-founder of the race series. He said the company is always looking for ways to improve the races and more changes were possible for next year's race.

Robinson said the rain during her last leg — which is the race's toughest, Ragnar, a four-mile climb through Wasatch Mountain State Park that gains 1,678 feet in elevation — actually helped her.

"That was actually kind of nice," she said. "Although the muddy legs and muddy feet were interesting."

Ragnar Relay officials said adding more than 100 new teams to the mix went fairly smoothly thanks to some course changes. The most notable was moving the second-to-last major exchange from Rockport to South Field Park.

In fact, the changes made such a difference, many runners said they didn't notice the more crowded field of competitors.

"I liked it the changes," said Rand Wright, captain of Tougher than Maleic and Anhydride, a team representing Huntsman Corp. "I thought things were a lot smoother at the major exchanges ... I really couldn't tell (there were more teams). I wish there was a way they could open it up to even more teams. There are just a lot of people who'd really love to run it."

Robinson said the drive to run the Wasatch Back was born from the desire for something different.

"I think just the challenge of so many miles over a short period of time," she said. "The hills, the heat, the nighttime run — all of that is different than doing marathons, half-marathons or anything else."

Robinson was competing with her neighbors, while Wright was running with his co-workers, but both said one of their favorite aspects was the chance to run as a team.

"One of my favorite parts was the exchange points where we could cheer on each member of our team," Robinson said.

Running, eating, sleeping, sweating and laughing for two straight days can also do wonders for office politics.

"It's a great time to be together," Wright said. "You are teammates 24 hours a day for two days. It's a fun time to bond, a fun time to encourage everybody. It really creates camaraderie."

It is also nice to get to know some of the other groups who decided to get to know themselves and others in this very unusual way.

"We stay at North Summit High School," he said, referring to the school's fundraiser that allows teams to eat, shower and sleep in the school. "It's a really fun atmosphere, just mingling with the other teams."

E-mail: adonaldson@desnews.com