The Ragnar Relay :: It’s Not Just a Walk in the Woods…

Written by Karyn Powers

The Ragnar Relay is the Woodstock-meets-Burning Man-in-a-flash-mob of athletic events…


During this 2-day, 1-night relay race on September 22–23, 2017, teams of 8 runners (or 4 ultra-runners) will cover more than 200 miles of trail loops in Marathon County’s Nine-Mile Forest Recreation Area.

More than 3,000 competitors will pour into Marathon County beginning on Tuesday, September 19.

ragnar_relay_tents.jpgThey’ll erect their tent village in an orderly — if not quirky — fashion and prepare themselves for the Friday 5 p.m. start. Then…

They will RUN, and RUN, and RUN through the night and most of Saturday.

Each team member will run four progressively harder loops, and then repeat the process until the total distance has been covered.

But there’s so much more than just the slap of sneakers on dirt…

Many of these traveling teams run all over the United States, and their rest areas are part tent village, part circus camp.

Team_Spirit-nightIn addition to the run, they compete for such things as:

  • Most Colorful Campsite
  • Most Decorated Team
  • Most Clean Trail Section (after the race)
    {This is my personal favorite since it helps
    our county work teams out a whole bunch!}

Team_SpiritLast year, on the day before the race, I walked through the tent village and was struck by the utter lack of pre-race tension and the sense of child-like joy and earthy élan that emanated from the participants.

Although most had the bodies of dedicated athletes, there were plenty of Dad-bods and Mom-jeans in the crowd. After volunteering many years for marathons, I wasn’t prepared for the crowd-sized camaraderie of this race.

So, who is Ragnar?

Their website ( says this of their hero and his followers:

Ragnar_Relay_logoRagnar is a legendary hero of Norse Mythology. He was a larger-than-life explorer, adventurer, and wild man. We are the modern caretakers of Ragnar’s legacy and aspire to the same free-spirited, tenacious, and fearless life that he lived.

Ragnarians embrace the freedom to explore, to conquer, and to seek the extraordinary. We contend that a little sleep deprivation is a small price to pay to watch the sun rise with our friends. We propose that within all of us is the potential for true greatness. Within each of us is Ragnar.

Check out the video clip below to see what the Ragnar Relay is like…

NOTE: Daytime spectating is limited on the trails and discouraged overnight.

On Sunday, the volunteers with the cleanest section of trail or village will be awarded cash or prizes. Then, the tents will be struck and this joyful athletic circus will move on.

Visit the Ragnar Relay map page of their website for more information about this cool SOLD OUT event in Wausau — or to find out where the next Ragnar Relay race will be held!

Karyn Powers - Marathon County Recreation SuperintendentKaryn Powers

Recreation Superintendent  |  Wausau / Marathon County Parks, Recreation, & Forestry Department

Karyn Powers joined the Parks, Recreation, and Forestry Department in 1991. Prior to settling in Marathon County, she spent 5 years working for the Department of Defense in Morale, Welfare, and Recreation Services for the U.S. Navy in Iceland and the U.S. Army in South Korea. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Park and Recreation Administration and a master’s degree in Education. In addition to being the city/county Recreation Superintendent, she is a published poet and author. Karyn fell in love with Marathon County as a college senior when she interned here in 1979, then traveled halfway around the world to get back here as soon as was possible.  Email Karyn Powers