This weekend I ran the Icebreaker Indoor Marathon Relay race at the Pettit Center. The Pettit Center is an indoor ice skating/speedskating facility with a running track around the perimeter of the ice. The running track is a 3 lane track with an odd length of 443 feet. It is quite large for an indoor track and it is touted as the largest indoor running track in the US.
The relay race is held separately from the full marathon. There is a maximum of 100 teams. Teams can be sized from 2-4 runners though I believe the majority of the teams fielded 4 runners. The relay race is popular and fills up quickly. There are a wide range of teams, from college track teams to first time relay teams. The winning team this year broke the track record with a 2:09:33 time (a 4:57 pace!) while the slowest team clocked in at 5:16:40, a 12:05 pace. Some teams wore costumes.
The approximate 26.2 mile distance (it was slightly short) can be broken up between the team members in any way. The only requirement is that the current runner wears the timing chip. The team receives a singe timing chip that is attached to a velcro ankle bracelet. It seemed that most of the faster teams have runners switch after 2 laps (a little over a half mile). So the race is basically an interval workout… on steroids. 🙂 I read a race recap that recommended having a third person switch the chip and we used this method.
The air in the Pettit Center is dry and it is a cool for the ice skating. I thought that I would be colder while I was waiting to run but I was actually fine. It did take awhile to adjust to the dry air. I have run in the Pettit Center before and did not have an issue with breathing but you do notice a difference when you are running very hard. We were hacking after our initial lap. I adjusted to it after a few laps and drank a lot of water.
Each team sets up camp around the perimeter of the track at the curves. Most teams brought blankets or yoga mats to “mark” their territory. Some people brought folding lawn chairs. We had a chair but we didn’t use it. The start line is at a different location than the finish line. The mat at the finish line had a screen next to it that displayed your team name and the total number of laps completed on the top of the screen as you crossed the mat. A large screen on the wall scrolled teams and the number of laps in the order of the least number of laps. With close to 100 teams, it was luck if you happened to run by while your team name was displayed.
I actually used a knitting row counter to keep track of the number of times that our lead runner ran. We split the race into 2 laps each, so we would each run 12 times. We were situated at the turn close to the finish line, so to allow our anchor to run a full 2 laps at the end one of our runners ran 1 lap on one of her turns.
The race actually went pretty fast. 2 laps was a good number, you had to run hard but you didn’t have to wait too long to run again. The announcer notified you when your team had 10 laps to go and also with 1 lap remaining. I did not have much difficulty passing, most runners ran in the middle lane and the very fast people ran in the inner lane. There were some walkers in the outer lane. You had to watch for traffic when exiting and re-entering the track, but with less than 100 runners on the track it was not difficult.
We had a fairly old team, with our ages at 57, 54, 51, and 46. I joked that we would easily win a Master’s division if they had one. We finished in 3:25:48, a 7:52 pace. That was good for 49th out of 95 teams, 16/32 for mixed teams (we had 3 women and 1 man). There were medals for the top 3 teams in the womens, mens, and mixed categories. Everyone received a long sleeve tech shirt.
Skating was allowed during the race and occasionally the Zamboni made it’s way out onto the ice so there was a fair mount of noise. They also played very loud music during the race, which you may or may not appreciate. 🙂 A DJ played the music and you could make requests before the race. The music was louder than it normally is inside the Pettit.
I found that this race was pretty hard on my legs, perhaps due to the lack of active recovery after the hard running. I hadn’t been that sore after a race in a long time! The team aspect was really fun and it was cool to be able to cheer team members. I would recommend this event if you enjoy running with a team and want to try something a bit different.