Why the Heck Do Mormons Run Ragnar?

Last month, I ran my first race, a Ragnar relay race in Las Vegas.  It was a great experience and not just because I got about 24 hours away from my kids.

Lots of my fellow runners (the ones who “road-killed me” while saying, “You’re doing GREAT!,” without a hint of irony as they left me in the dust) were Mormon.

I was surprised.  We were in “Sin City” after all, so I began to wonder why the heck do Mormons run Ragnar?

Is it because that as a culture that espouses the goodness of funeral potatoes, we take Section 89 as a green light to carb-load so that one can “run and not be weary?”

Don’t we all need a break?  In a church that has its members shoot for eternal perfection, we have plenty to keep ourselves busy.  So running about 200 miles in 24 hours with a team of 12 is a breeze when you think about everything you’ve got to do before you’re going to be like Jesus.

I met a woman who says she loves the Ragnar specifically for the break it offers her.  Did I mention she is pregnant with #8 and nearing her 30th birthday?  I suspect her legs of the race were easier than the 3 hour block she did the next day (Sunday) because, yes, Ragnar is one of the few races that won’t impinge on your Sabbath worship.

And because it’s so hard to be like Jesus (what would Jesus do when that crazy lady at the grocery store yells at me to keep my six year old in the shopping cart?), sometimes, it’s nice to do something that will track concrete, quantifiable progress.  There’s nothing like a hobby where you can say, “I ran 5 miles yesterday, and 6 miles today…I’m getting better at this!”  Or, “I can run 20 miles at a 10 minute pace!  I’m done training for this race!”

There’s also your team.  Goodness, it takes a lot of people to make a team: 12 runners, 2 drivers, and 3 volunteers.  Ragnar organizers say that the chances of people dropping out lessens if they all know each other.  So, if you’re Mormon, you probably have a big enough family to fill all those positions.  Even if you’re a convert, you could start asking all those SAHM’s in your ward who go to the gym for hours every day to get away from their kids awesome endorphins and listen to the scriptures on their iPod.

I’m sure there’s other reasons Mormons run Ragnar beyond the thrill of running under that big inflated orange Ragnar-symbol-thingy so you can wear your five pound Ragnar medal to church the next day (because all the other cool Mormons will be wearing their’s, too).


EmilyCC lives in Phoenix, Arizona with her spouse and three children. She currently serves as a stake Just Serve specialists, and she recently returned to school to become a nurse. She is a former editor of Exponent II and a founding blogger at The Exponent.

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15 Responses

  1. Jessawhy says:

    Hey, I’m a convert to Ragnar’s. I have a bunch of friends who ran them and love them.
    In fact, I’m going to do one in Tempe in February (thanks to you!) and I’m excited about it.

    I think you’ve hit the nail on the head. It’s pretty big in the Phoenix-metro area, but I wonder about the rest of the country or world.

    • EmilyCC says:

      I think you’re right. I suspect it’s regional thing and maybe that’s another reason why Mormons participate. It’s popular in the parts of the country that have bigger Mormon populations.

      Can’t wait for February!

    • Rachel says:

      Not just in Arizona. I have tons of LDS friends in Boston, and Southern California who run it every year. Then just yesterday I discovered a plethora of people I know (both men and women) ran the Salt Lake one this weekend.

      I think the having a big-enough-group of people who won’t quit and who care about their health and/or betterment of themselves probably are two of the keys. Very interesting indeed.

  2. Diane says:

    I do not run. There is no sports bra big enough to reign in the girls and it just feels like they reaching up and slapping me in the face when I try.

    I do walks though. But, I have to say, I’ve never herd of it until today

  3. Kate says:

    Loved this post. Half my stake runs Ragnar (DC) or so it seems. I think running is like many other hobbies–you can set a goal, work towards it, achieve it, and say, “look what I did. I can do hard things. And I can do things just for me.” and I’m one of those moms who is at the gym everyday 🙂 it saves my sanity in so many ways.

    • EmilyCC says:

      Thanks, Kate! I was worried that the bit about SAHM’s at the gym might sound snotty, but it completely describes me right now, too. 🙂

  4. spunky says:

    I’ve never heard of this, but it really sounds fun! Have to see if they offer it on Oz…

  5. Davis says:

    Having been involved with many of the real races in the west, it has become very clear that the entire Ragnar setup is the biggest scam in running.

    The only reason that the races exist is for the organizers to make money.
    You supply everything, including volunteers, food etc. And it still costs $100 per person to enter.

    The race organizers provide no support whatsoever besides rudimentary first aid. Everything available to the runners is from ‘volunteers’ that have no idea that they are just helping to put millions (and I mean millions and millions) of dollars into the organizers pockets each year.

    All Ragnar events should be totally boycotted and other legitimate races should be supported. The Ragnar organizers are just out to make a buck, and the unknowing sheep that enter their races are getting scammed big time.

    • EmilyCC says:

      Davis, would you mind giving some outside sources to back-up your claims? I’ve talked to, I think, a decent sample across the country and have participated myself. These ideas are the first I’ve heard and if they’re true, I’d like to be educated.

      I thought there was good medical support and I thought I saw several places that my money went, so I’d be interested in seeing outside support for what you’ve said.

    • Kara says:

      I completely agree with Davis. Biggest rip-off I’ve partaken in. After cost of vans, food, safety gear, first aid, and registration, we spent close to 600 a piece. Got nothing but a cheap cotton t-shirt. No energy bars, sponsor gifts, or even water on the long runs. I saw no one but volunteers, and the money was raised for no reason except to go to the founders who use already existing race routes. These guys are making a killing and they literally have cult following.

  6. alex w. says:

    I don’t know much about the Ragnar races, but it sure seemed like half of the family ward I was in in Southern Utah ran the St. George marathon every year. (I was content to pass out water.)

  7. Kmillecam says:

    Emily, I think this is so cool that you did this. If it weren’t for my infernal shin splints I would be more willing to jump into the training needed to run one with you. Plus I have that pesky kiddo problem 🙂 But I will be content with walking every day and running every other day or so barefoot in the field behind my house. I will cheer from there!

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