Ragnar Trail Relay could feature more than a thousand runners
Caleb Casey | Managing Editor
The Grayling area, throughout the upcoming summer months, will host some large races. The AuSable River Canoe Marathon – a 120-mile canoe race from Grayling to Oscoda to be held in July – will likely have somewhere between 75 and 95 two-person teams for a total of 150 to 190 competitors. The Black Bear Gran Fondo, a bicycle event that offers a 100-mile course and two shorter loops that people can ride fast or slow, has averaged around 160 participants during its last three years. The Grayling Recreation Authority 10K/5K in July has had an average of 188 runners for the last four years.
The 2019 Ragnar Trail Relay – slated for June 15 and 16 at Hanson Hills Recreation Area – might feature more competitors than all three of those events combined. The number of participants could surpass the hundreds and reach into the thousands.
Justin Andre, Director of Operations for Grayling Recreation Authority (the governing body for Hanson Hills), described Ragnar as a “national series.”
During Ragnar trail events, regular teams are made up of eight people, and “ultra” teams have four people. The overall course has three separate loops.
“To complete the race all teammates have to complete all three loops,” Andre said. “Each member of your team does approximately 15 miles of running over a two-day period.”
“Ragnar is about doing things together that we could never do alone,” according to www.runragnar.com.
Instead of batons, runners get chipped bracelets to wear on the course. When it’s time to switch to the next team member, the runner with the bracelet hands it off.
Andre said more than 100 teams – close to 800 people – are registered for the 2019 Ragnar Trail Relay, and he’s expecting more.
“Ragnar is projecting around 160 teams for this inaugural race,” Andre said.
Andre said people from the running community approached him about hosting an event after a Ragnar road race in Traverse City.
They thought “Hanson Hills would be a great place for a trail relay,” he said.
(Ragnar offers both road relay races and trail relay races with similar formats.)
Andre contacted Ragnar officials, and at first, it didn’t look like it was going to happen.
“I told them about the facilities. Initial response was that they were not looking for new events,” Andre said.
Ragnar officials contacted him again “to discuss amenities” in the area. Subsequent talks put in place the possibility of running a Ragnar event at Hanson Hills in 2020. Ragnar sent a representative to look at the facility.
“They sent a trail guy out here and he toured the trails with me. After that they put in an offer for spring 2019,” Andre said. “They really like what Grayling and Hanson Hills have to offer.”
During the event on June 15 and 16, participants will create a “Ragnar Village” between the lodge and the ski hills at Hanson Hills.
“Ragnar will set up vendor booths. Each team will set up their own camps. They’ve been coordinating with local food trucks and restaurants. Grayling Rotary Club will be manning a beer tent,” Andre said.
Andre said Ragnar is also “working with area organizations for volunteers” to help with the event. Anyone who would like to volunteer can contact Ceara Pelletier of Ragnar at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“As far as (Grayling Recreation Authority), I’m excited to have these guys come in,” Andre said. “It’s going to be a lot of new people to the area, show what we have to offer. Potentially it’s a couple thousand new users to the area. So far, Ragnar’s been a great partner in this.”
“We’re always trying to grow events and start new events for the area. We’re just hoping the community will jump on board and get behind this,” Andre said.