AUSTIN – Palestine's first Capital to Coast relay team, “Ruck this Fun,” will compete this weekend in the state's longest running relay, stretching from Austin to Corpus Christi.
A team of 12 runners will endure the challenge of completing 223 miles in 36 hours, grinding from Brush Park in downtown Austin to the USS Lexington on the beach of Corpus Christi.
The team was assembled by experienced relay runner Christy Smart, who has completed this relay several times over its 10-year run. She's the only member of Palestine's team to have endured this before.
“We have a team full of good encouraging people,” Smart said. “We're not going to get mad if someone stops and walks the whole thing. This is the first time they're doing anything this crazy. We're excited.”
Their first of three collective team legs will cover around 35%, or 78.67 miles, of the 223-mile total. Altogether, the relay consists of 36 individual legs.
The group is estimated to finish the race within 34.5 hours – if it can avoid snake and dog bites and other injuries.
“I like pushing people to do something they've never experienced before,” Smart said. “It's so much harder to run this race than to run 26.2 miles in a marathon.
Smart was introduced to the relay by a childhood friend, who also assembled a team for this year's run.
The opportunity to beat that team has added a bit of motivation for Smart and her squad.
“Having a team push us motivates me,” runner Britni Calzada said.
Palestine's training extended six months before the grueling run Friday morning.
Runner 1, Palestine High School graduate Angelica Estrada, will endure 8.95 miles and the toughest stretch of the first team leg. Estrada will gear up for the 6:30 a.m. start time at Republic Park.
A bracelet exchange with Slocum High graduate Joey Tritico will cap the end of her leg, as she makes her way down Historic Congress Avenue.
Tritico's 6.92-mile journey will be shorter than his 10.5-mile fifth-place finish at Paint Palestine this year. Still, his route ends with an elevation peak of nearly 750 feet.
CrossFit competitor Chase Evans will start the third leg of the relay. Evans will see the Elevation bump to nearly 780 feet during mile four of his 6.64-miles.
Runner four, Amy Tritico. will steadily drop to about 500 feet, as she finishes the first 5.4 miles of her 17.02-mile weekend.
Miguel Varnado will tackle the 6.14-mile fifth leg. Ashlyn Statham will follow. Her first leg will cover 5.61 miles of her 20.34-mile weekend – fourth longest in the race.
Statham will anchor van one, passing the bracelet to Britni, who will start the first leg for van two.
Meantime, van one, with runners one through six, will break and eat before the start of the second team leg.
Several elevation rises and drops await Calzada during her 5.62-mile run. Her biggest challenge: getting used to running in shifting weather conditions.
“I'm used to running in the heat,” Calzada said. “We ran Saturday morning when it was 39 degrees. That was harder for me than 100-degree weather.”
Shelby Lashikar will run the eighth leg, before passing off to Reggie Coker. The ninth leg, known as “Alice's Hill,” features hills wavering from 500 to 800 feet in elevation in more than seven miles. Smart dubbed it the worst leg.
The slate gets a bit easier for runners 10 and 11, Jason Chapman and Rebecca Rogers. They'll run legs of 6.24 miles and 5.63 miles, respectively.
Finally comes the “Ironman Leg.” Smart will anchor her team for the final portion of the first team leg. The 8.26-mile run will start a gradual climb from 525 feet to 700 feet.
“The thing that's going to be different is acclimating to there versus here,” Smart said. “The air is different once we get closer to Corpus Christi.”
The big challenge of this race, compared to a traditional marathon, is running your leg, then sitting and repeating that process over 36 hours. It's not something the team can simulate at home. Still, they're ready to rock.