Back in March, in the wake of the SELF Magazine tutu scandal, I mentioned the impending Ragnar Cape Cod adventure my sorority sisters and I would be embarking upon with two full teams of Running Swans. Well, the time has come, and passed, with nothing less than a gazillion memories and an equal amount of photographs and video footage to prove we connected, conquered, and celebrated. I promised my teammates (coughcoughSUZIEcoughcough) my next blog post would be about them, so here’s a look into Running Swans, Ragnar style.
Back in 2009 sorority sisters Carol, Elsa, Suzie, and Melinda ran the Rock N Roll Half Marathon in Chicago. After completing the race, Carol, Elsa, and Suzie started talking about getting other sorority sisters (referred to as Swans from here on out) to join in. Carol started the Running Swans (Sisters Only) private Facebook group to get the ball rolling. As Swans started seeing how much fun was being had by the runners, more and more members starting linking up to run together for both training and major race events. Popularity grew, leading to the creation of the Running Swans Facebook Fan Page in January of 2013 to keep fellow sisters, friends, and families informed about our running, and recruiting more runners along the way. Running Swans has become a way for us to connect through the love of running and sisterhood, and continues to promote healthy living in a safe environment. With over 200 members in the private group, new runners and veterans alike are posting questions, motivation, and invitations to races on a daily basis.
It was during our first Ragnar I informed my sisters I’d most likely be moving to Boston. In true Running Swan fashion, we decided if I were going to move away, the team would just have to get back together for Ragnar Cape Cod. Barely a month later I packed up all my belongings and found myself living in New England. Meanwhile, the excitement of our first Ragnar spread as we had chronicled our journey on our fan page. In no time, enough interest was piqued to get two full Running Swans teams to travel to Boston for the Cape Cod event this year. Having two teams allowed runners to connect with sisters they may have not otherwise met; out of the 24 Ragnarian Swans, four different chapters were represented, from Alpha lines to recent graduates. Swans were paired up with partners so they never had to run alone. Limits were pushed, bonds were created, and the meaning of sisterhood was expanded as we worked together to run 192 miles through unfamiliar terrain.
Since 2009, Running Swans has officially conquered two Ragnar Relays, five Rock N Roll Half Marathons, and raised over $20,000 for the American Diabetes Association. The running doesn’t stop there. Swans have been spotted running everywhere from our hometown Chicago to Puerto Rico, Mexico, Washington D.C., Boston, New York City, Miami, and more. There’s no distance or location too intimidating for Swans; find us at a 5k, ultra-marathon, and every distance in between! Outside of being runners, we are domestic engineers (also known as super moms), teachers, lawyers, child advocates, nurses, MBAs, marketing associates, and more. It’s only natural our group of courageous women would be up to the extraordinary challenge of Ragnar.
With half the team having experienced at least one Ragnar (shout out to Carol for running Florida Keys in February), we at least knew what to expect in terms of lack of sleep and unexpected course obstacles (yes, Cristina, we all know you ran the extra 3.8 miles last year in Madison). More than anything, the Ragnar experience is a little bit of running with a lotta bit of everything else. It’s the everything else that is a real testament to the Ragnarian character. Living in a mini van, replacing showers with baby wipe baths, being too excited to sleep before your next leg, sleeping outdoors, navigating RagMag in the middle of the night, RUNNING in the middle of the night, the moment you realize your next leg is comprised solely of rolling hills, then running a 9.3 mile leg with the entire first mile in sand; not to mention porto-potties being your only option for a bathroom — these are the true Ragnar moments. And we conquered them all with teamwork, a steady flow of sisterly teasing, and countless hugs.
Above all else, Ragnar is a celebration of life, where the action of someone moving their body forward is cheer-worthy no matter how fast or slow they are going. You crawled up that hill? You’re my hero! 13 minute mile? Get it! This isn’t one of those, “But did you get first place?” races (if those even exist for everyday people). How many strangers did you befriend on the course? How many people complimented your tutu? Did you find the most scenic place on the course and have a full blown team photo shoot? Did you connect with a real live human being outside of the virtual world? Could you make it through a meal without your cell phone?
Ragnar is a renewal of humanity, an opportunity to get outside of yourself and celebrate the small moments with people who will become your closest friends if they weren’t already. In the days immediately following Ragnar, I saw my Swans reaching out to each other expressing gratitude, reliving memories, and reminding each other how awesome we are. About one part denial Ragnar is over, and three parts excitement from the renewal of bonds. For me personally, this Ragnar event comes full circle. With all the changes I’ve encountered since our first relay with moving to a new city and leaving everything behind, I know no matter what happens I have a whole flock of Running Swans ready to share in life’s adventures — now that’s something to celebrate!