“We relay-race for fun and fitness”

These women find competing and training together builds strong bodies and lasting friendships

Source: Best Health Magazine, May 2009

I’m bouncing up and down at the relay station, warmed up and ready to run my five-kilometre leg of the GoodLife Fitness Toronto Marathon. It’s a crisp October morning and I’m waiting for my friend Wendy to appear among the hundreds of marathoners coming down the hill. I’m excited when I see her approaching. She’s running strong. As we do a quick high-five, she smiles, hands me the yellow wristband we use as a baton and yells, ‘Have fun!’ And then I’m off and running. When I’m done my portion, I hand the wristband to our next runner. ‘Go, Beth, go!’ I shout, and she’s away.

Later, our team of eight meets for the best part of the relay marathon: a well-earned lunch and perhaps a little shopping. We jokingly refer to race days as our ‘run, eat, shop triathlon.’ Running relays with friends is a terrific way to stay in shape, focus on a goal and have fun doing something we all love. It’s a blast because you get to experience the nervous excitement of a full marathon, but each team member only runs between five and 10 kilometres.

I started relay running 12 years ago when my friend Gill asked me to join her team of five women to run in the KeyBank Vermont City Marathon & Relay, held in late May in Burlington, Vt. We’ve made this annual road trip ever since, and are now gearing up for the 2009 event.

To prepare for our two annual events, we train outdoors at a conservation area in the heart of Toronto. These Wednesday and Sunday morning workouts are the highlights of my week. We run a few warm-up loops along the paths, then do hills or speed work to complete the cardio portion. We finish with strength and flexibility exercises, including squats, lunges, weights and mat exercises on the boardwalk overlooking the ponds and tall grasses.

People marvel that we can work out and talk at the same time. But for us, talking is the best part of training. Our conversations cover everything from work to sex, politics and raising teens. We are all in our 40s and early 50s, and have 22 kids among us.

While we are all active, running relays also helps provide us with amazing balance in our lives, shoulders to cry on, stress relief, a common goal and, most of all, laughter. I highly recommend it!

Pictured: Celia Milne’top left corner’and her fellow "BrickWorks Babes" after running the relay option in hte Toronto marathon.

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