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Gaggle of Gaylords Gives 187-Mile Relay Race a Family Flair

24-hour Ragnar Relay makes its debut in Santa Barbara on Friday, and finishes in Dana Point a day later

Beginning at 8 a.m. Friday and continuing through 3 p.m., 105 12-member teams of runners will depart at intervals from Chase Palm Park in a race to Salt Creek Beach Park in Dana Point — 187 miles away. Among them will be a dozen Gaylords from two generations, who are assembling from across the nation to compete — as much against each other as the rest of the field.

The race is the Santa Barbara debut of the 24-hour Ragnar Relay Los Angeles, which will see runners taking three- to eight-mile legs while they leapfrog down the coast with support vans. Each participant will run three legs and, in between, ride in a six-person van along the course. The unique format makes the relay race accessible for beginners yet challenging for competitive runners.

”We are very excited for the Ragnar Relay Los Angeles,” said Tanner Bell, senior vice president of the Ragnar Relay Series. “We started planning a Ragnar Relay in California in 2005.

“As a destination, Santa Barbara was a no-brainer for us. It has an active population, a beautiful city, and the people of Santa Barbara are awesome. Our original plan in 2005 was to do Hearst Castle to Santa Barbara; unfortunately, that course didn’t work out. When we started planning this new route we just knew Santa Barbara had to be a part of the course.”

In 2004, the father-son team of Steve and Dan Hill, and Dan’s childhood friend, Bell, launched the Wasatch Back Relay from Logan to Park City, Utah. Just 20 teams participated then.

Now the Ragnar Relays is the nation’s largest series of long-distance relay races, with 10 relays across the country and more than 30,000 participants. Among the races are the Ragnar Relay Wasatch Back in Utah, the Ragnar Relay Great River in Minnesota and Wisconsin, Ragnar Relay Northwest Passage in Washington and the Ragnar Relay Del Sol in Arizona.

This year is the inaugural Ragnar Relay Los Angeles, with 105 teams registered and 1,260 runners ready to roll.

“The Ragnar Relay Los Angeles has seen phenomenal growth in its first year,” Bell said. “In fact, it is now the second largest inaugural relay race in history. With such an exceptional first year it is clear that this event is well on its way to becoming one of the premiere overnight relay races in the nation.”

The marathon distance is daunting to some, but the concept of a 24-hour relay is more appealing when a group of friends or an entire clan gathers. Instead of struggling through a marathon alone, the Ragnar Relay teams will work together to cheer each member as they run along the coast, and even more so during the magical midnight hours.

Team Gaylord by the Dozen has multiple connections to the Santa Barbara area: Sarah Gaylord Williams and Topher Gaylord graduated from UCSB and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, respectively. The two are the youngest of 10 siblings, seven of whom will be racing this weekend. In addition, their cousin, Missy Macfadyen, is the wife of Noozhawk publisher Bill Macfadyen.

The far-flung Gaylords will be arriving in Santa Barbara via Los Angeles. The all-in-the-family team includes Preston, 56, of Alta, Utah; Randy, 51, of Orcas Island, Wash., and his son, Colin, 22; Tim, 50, of Park City, Utah, and his children, Travis, 25, and Courtney, 22; Mark (a twin), 49, of Salt Lake City; Peter, 44, of Seattle; Sarah and her husband, Ron Williams, both 41, of Atlanta; and Topher, 39, the team captain, and his wife, Kim, 38, the logistics coordinator, of Santa Monica.

“When times are tough, what do you do? You GO BIG, You RALLY, you FOCUS, you PULL TOGETHER, and GIVE IT EVERYTHING YOU’VE GOT! When you come from a family of 10 children, you need a pretty big project to RALLY around. Well, the 2009 RAGNAR RELAY — California seemed to have all the right ingredients. 187 miles of running along the California coast from Santa Barbara to Dana Point. 12 ‘team runners’ relay day and night down the California coast as fast as possible. We have assembled the first and only ALL-family team, ’Gaylords by the Dozen,’ for this historic run down the California coast,” as written on Topher Gaylord’s blog.

“Terry (Preston) as the ‘most seasoned’ member of the team, will lead us out from Santa Barbara and Colin, as the ‘sprouting bud’ member of the team, will bring us home into the finish at Dana Point,” said Kim Gaylord, who has been coordinating much of the logistics for the relay.

Two vans of six runners each with a support crew of family members will travel along the course, regrouping after each team member in the van has run a leg. Team Gaylord plans to finish in Dana Point by noon Saturday.

“For us, it is not a race but an experience. I say this now but wait until we get on the course and get running,” Kim Gaylord laughed.

Click here to follow Team Gaylord’s progress live on Twitter feeds.

Other cleverly named Ragnar Relay teams include Snow White and the 11 Dwarfs, Napa Valley Wine Snobs, Ragnarcissists, Coast Busters and Running Fools.

Click here for more information on the Ragnar Relay Los Angeles.

Melissa Marsted is a Noozhawk contributor, author and freelance writer.

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