PARK CITY — John Wilson had never run a race until some friends and family invited him to run the Ragnar Relay Wasatch Back this weekend.
While running 198 miles from Logan to Park City with 11 other people might seem like a pretty ambitious choice, Wilson said the combination of competition and camaraderie made the race a memorable experience.
“I thought it was awesome,” said the 46-year-old who moved to Farmington from California just a few months ago. “This many people running at the same time, it’s pretty darn well-organized.”
Wilson shared pizza with his teammates at the post-race party at Park City High School, and the people he ran with echoed his sentiments.
“The course was beautiful,” said one woman, to which Mark Quillen, 38, added: “And hard. That’s what made it so special — there were really challenging legs with long distances, but they make it so people who aren’t runners … can participate.”
Weber State teams won both the men’s and women’s divisions this year, which was the 10th anniversary of the race. The Weber State men’s team won for the first time since 2007 with a time of 19:02:36. The group was made up of six current runners and six alumni.
“We had a young guy van and an old guy van,” said Corbin Talley, who helped organize the group that ran Saturday.
Meanwhile, Talley’s wife Stefanie is an alumna of Weber State and ran with the WSU Wonder Women. Her team won for the second time, finishing in 24 hours and 40 minutes.
“Weber State’s teams have always ... in the top three, but this is the first time we’ve both won the same year,” Talley said.
In fact, in the 10 years since the race started, it’s been either Weber State or BYU teams that have won every year except one. Talley said they put together what they felt was a team that could avenge last year’s loss, but found out Friday that the Cougars didn’t enter a team.
“We were way disappointed,” he said. So they decided to try and beat BYU’s winning time from last year’s race.
“We beat it by five minutes,” he said.
In the Wasatch Back, competitive runners like Talley compete alongside people like Wilson and Perry's Marissa Nelson. Whether they're trying to win or just happy to be participating, runners say the unique atmosphere is what keeps them coming back each year.
“We always take it pretty serious,” Talley said. “Every time we get out of the van, we’re ready to run. It’s kind of fun for the alumni who don’t get to race very much. … We get back together, challenge each other, and still have a lot of pride in what we did when we were there.”
Wilson said he agreed to run because his family promised him a good time.
“The part I liked was everybody cheers everyone else on,” Wilson said. “It was cool to do something hard together.” Nelson said she was running her second Ragnar this weekend with family and friends.
“We had a ball,” she said. “The running is almost a side part. You’re laughing and joking and being silly and then you’re like, ‘Oh, dang, I guess we’ve got to get out and run.”
Her teammate, Skye Barnard, 35, said he agreed to run because of the challenge.
“I think the team effort is a lot of fun,” he said. “And it’s beautiful country.”
This year’s race was the 10th anniversary of the relay that has spawned similar long-distance relay races across the country. Saturday was designated “Ragnar Day” by Utah Gov. Gary Herbert last week. More than 17,000 people on 1,500 teams participated in the three-day event that began Thursday at Utah State and ended Saturday night at Park City High.