If you asked me why I ran the Southern Odyssey Relay this year for a second time, I'd tell you it was because I knew that even though I didn't want to run, doing so would call something greater out of me. The physical and mental cost would be high, but the benefits would be worth it. The Southern Odyssey Relay is a 200-mile, 24-hour race in Georgia. Teams of twelve runners cover 200 miles in 36 legs. Each runner is assigned three legs that vary in length from three to eight miles.
Our team traveled in two vans, with six runners in each. As I ran, the other five guys in my van rode ahead, beside, or behind me. They shouted encouragement, told me how much farther I had until my leg was finished, handed me water from the window of the van, and told me when I had a chance to pass members of other teams.
All of these things helped me run my legs of the race better than I would have alone. The other guys on my team would tell you the same was true for them. Because we were running as a team, none of us wanted to let the group down. Each of us yearned to run better than we were capable of running. Most of us recorded personal bests or crossed thresholds of endurance or speed at some point during our legs.
The race brought us together and provided a venue for connection, but it was the group itself that made the running worth it. As the race began, I only knew two of the five other guys in my van. By the end of the race, we'd really gotten to know one another because we'd shared a journey that challenged us mentally, physically, and emotionally. Because we were in a group, we pushed ourselves harder and went farther than we would have alone.