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The Evolution Of The Relay Race


The finish line is in sight.

Your heartbeat is accelerating as you hop from the even graded sidewalk onto the street’s faded black pavement. Increasing stride, your only immediate goal is to get in front of the Super Mario character who is running at a slightly slower pace. Standing spectators are cheering as you make your move. The chafing from your compression shorts and neon green princess skirt hardly matter because your mind is completely focused.

Faster and faster.

Soon you and the Super Mario are neck and neck. You’re finally in front, but the sound of footsteps from your back left rises from out of nowhere. Within moments Wonder Woman takes the lead and soon the only thing you can see is the flapping of her blue cape as she crosses the finish line.

Is this a scene from a Marvel or Disney summer blockbuster, or possibly a unexplainable dream someone had after eating too much ice-cream?


If you ask the three thousand plus runners who show up to Omaha, Nebraska in late September each year it’s something even better. Welcome to the 2017 Market to Market Relay, the largest single day relay race in the United States.

The goal: assemble a team of six to eight people, run a seventy-six mile relay that consists of nineteen-checkpoints, and reach the finish-line in Lincoln, Nebraska.

The catch? Each member of the team is required to run two or three of the checkpoints, all participants are encouraged to dress up in funky costumes of their choice, and at the end of the race there is a celebratory party called the “Shindig” where everyone comes together for dancing, beers, and delicious food.

Weren’t relay races designated exclusively for track speedsters, middle school physical education classes, or ancient Aboriginal tribesmen? 

Guess again! The Market to Market Relay is part of a growing trend in the United States in the form of social, camaraderie-style, running events. The Hood to Coast (Oregon), Wasatch Back (Utah), and Reach the Beach (New Hampshire) have blossomed into other highly popular relays which attract thousands of competitors each year.

These races can be addicting because the terrain, difficulty level, and overall theme is different depending on which one you sign up for. Some require overnight running (Ragnar Relay) while others might have you dashing through Instagram-friendly national park landscapes (Red Rock Relay Zion). According to Fortune Magazine, more than 200,000 people in the US participated in some sort of relay race in 2012 and that figure has only been climbing. 

Why should you sign up for a relay race? For starters it can be a great way to show off your creative side, especially when costumes are involved. What’s more, it’s a healthy way to have fun with your friends or to bond with co-workers. Relay races provide an ideal amount of adrenaline, drama, fun, and competitiveness to be enjoyed in a team-based environment. Whether you’re training to win or simply looking for a memorable experience to share with others, registering for your next relay race won’t disappoint.