If you were out and about in the Lehighton/Jim Thorpe area on Saturday and happened to see a lot of orange cones and solitary runners along the highway, you were seeing the participants of Ragnar Relay Pennsylvania.
Teams put nearly 200 miles on their sneakers in an overnight relay race that started in Lancaster and finished at Pocono Manor in the Pocono Mountains. This was the 15th race in the national series.
The runners saw some of the Pennsylvania's most beautiful landscapes. They raced along rural roads. scenic rolling hills, old towns and spent some time in the experiencing Lehighton and Jim Thorpe.
Among the racers was an "ultra" women's team from Chambersburg, with the name, "She's Got Legs and She Knows How to Use Them." These women proved that women can be strong, powerful and beautiful, without showers and eight hours of sleep.
"We're all friends," said Abbi Crowe. "We had no sleep and we're really tired. We spend a lot of time in the van."
Another team member, Charlene Kelbaugh, said, "We spend most of our time eating and sleeping. It's the way we chose our social time."
Brenda Miller, also a team member, said, "There's not too many friends who would go along with a crazy idea like doing this race as a six women ultra team with ages ranging from 23 to 50. Runners amaze me. Age really doesn't matter!"
Asked how do they remain so fresh looking, Crowe laughed. "We use a lot of baby wipes to get through."
Most teams have 12 runners taking turns on the course, other teams such as "She's Got Legs," are ultra runners and race their section twice.
Josh Foulds of Mechanicsburg was also one of the runners who ended his segment in Jim Thorpe.
"This is my first time," said Foulds. "It was a lot more than I expected."
Foulds said that he plans to keep running with the team as long as it gets together.
"We all went to Millersville College and we graduated together," he said. "That is how it our team got together."
Foulds is a math teacher and Cross Country coach at Boiling Springs High School.
Ragnar Relay races challenge teams of up to 12 runners on courses of between 180 and 200 miles. Each leg of the relay varies in difficulty, so elite and novice runners can run together.
The popularity of overnight relay races has grown rapidly as endurance enthusiasts have embraced the exciting team component that is non-existent in other running events. The Ragnar Relay Series is experiencing dramatic growth as team registrations numbers are skyrocketing and selling out races months in advance.
Founded in 2004, Ragnar races have grown from 200 participants to more than 40,000 in 2010, with nearly 70,000 projected for 2011.
Ragnar Events, LLC was co-founded in 2004 by Dan Hill and Tanner Bell. The idea to run an overnight 24 plus hour relay across the mountains of Utah was a lifelong dream of Dan Hill's father. The dream became reality when Dan Hill and his childhood friend Tanner Bell organized the first Wasatch Back Relay, spanning 188 miles from Logan to Park City, UT in 2004. Since 2004 the Ragnar Relay Series has grown from a single relay in Utah to the largest overnight relay series in the nation. The Ragnar Relay Series now has 15 races scheduled for 2011 and is growing every year.