Whenever you approach something new, nerves abound and EVERYTHING about Ragnar Relay Chicago was new to us in 2015. Looking back on it and what we did back then compared to how we approach these now, it’s fairly amazing. Also, because it was such a new experience, there’s a certain fondness that I look back on it with and can’t help but smile. Here’s why….
It was our fastest team but not because we had the speediest of runners. Don’t get me wrong, the Wisconsin Van could scoot. They were no doubt younger, lighter on their feet, and more accomplished runners than Van 2, the one I was in, but with the exception of a good rain at the beginning of the race for the first couple runners, EVERYTHING lined up. The weather was warm but there was a nice breeze throughout the weekend. The sun was out and people were just in a great mood. It was easy to fall in love with the course as there were just so many areas were you’d see rolling, lush, green fields and the finish line at the beach was an awesome experience with people packed around it celebrating each others’ success. Everything just lined up for a great day and we clipped through it quickly and it’s been hard to duplicate that experience since. In the end, we were hooked.
The fundraiser….we had no idea what we were doing other than reaching out to folks to see what we could do. We knew our charity of choice well enough but none of the people there very well. That would come later but in that first year, we were doing it just to support something we believed was a great and worthwhile cause, which it was and is still. We threw a goal out there and proceeded to double it and then some. It almost seemed easy at that point and again, we were hooked to do it again to do it even better.
The team roster was pretty special. I’m very grateful for the friends of my cousin Sarah for jumping aboard. If they hadn’t, I’m not sure I could have fielded a team. Of that group, I’ve only seen one since that first year but I will always appreciate them. They were rock stars.
For myself personally, the group in my van, it was just about as good as it gets. There was my cousins Brandon and Joel, whom I’d grown up with on our family farm with them just a couple rows of trees away. Joel’s girlfriend at the time, now wife, joined us too and I could see why he liked her. Despite being surrounded by our stupidness, she fit in great as she joked and carried on with us throughout the race.
Nerk, Brandon and Joel’s cousin on the other side of their family, who had come to play on the farm at times, I’d known since we were little too and played a lot of baseball with and against him throughout our childhood. Again, a friend that was like family. Add in Adam, my godmother’s oldest son, just 10 years younger than I am, and his youngest brother Ryan, one of my godsons, and my best friend Artie, and I had a crew that was maybe the closest knit that I’ve ever had. All of those stupid inside jokes you had as kids and throughout your college years that you carry around as a group? It was a weekend full of it and it was great to catch up.
Throw all of that together and you have an event that goes off without a hitch with great weather, a fundraiser that wildly exceeds expectations, and a group to do that with that which is that close, and it’s an experience that has been incredibly difficult to duplicate to the point where I oftentimes catch myself trying not to compare a fundraiser or team against this first group.
Our process has been improved multiple times since then and proven to be a formula for success a couple times over but the feeling of that team and that weekend may be something we’ll always be chasing but it’s why I keep trying to refine it and coming back.