Sisterhood and Adventure at Ragnar

After completing Yankee Springs 50k on June 5, 2021, one of my Trail Sisters posted a plea for help.  One I could not ignore. Their Ragnar Team had suffered a loss of two beloved members due to injury, two weeks before the race on June 25-26, 2021.  I had always heard about Ragnar and how hard it was. Could I really sign up for this tough relay race on such short notice? Our Trail Sisters Metro Detroit Group had signed up months ago with a full squad of eight ladies.  I was too focused on the 50k to join the original group and passed on the chance to join.

As Trail Sister with barely two years of experience, I wondered if I was experienced, seasoned or in shape for the rugged northern hills of Michigan. This year’s Ragnar was at Hanson Hills a former ski resort in Grayling, Michigan.  I heard that it was tough, we would get little rest and sleep in sleeping bags. 

I jumped at the chance to help my fellow sisters in need.  I only knew one person on the team, the rest of these ladies came from across Michigan, and one flew in from New York.  I had no camping gear and was told I could just bring a sleeping bag and my gear.  I wondered what could I contribute to the team?

One of my teammates offered to pick me up as she only lived 20 minutes from me, and we would make the 3.5-hour drive north to Grayling.  We pulled into Hanson Hills and it was well-organized chaos as hundreds of runners arrived to pitch tents and make their home away from homes for the next 36 hours.

For most of the evening of June 24 and 25, this tiny community of tents swelled from 50 tents to hundreds of tents as the Ragnar City grew.  Our captain and fellow team members had the tents built and rain fly’s covering us to ensure dryness. Yes, it was going to be a soggy weekend and it rained for 70% of the race at least.

Our team consisted of eight ladies who came together with a common cause of supporting, cheering, eating, cooking, living, running, and sleeping in the same two tents for a little over two days.  We shared our stories, personalities, a bawdy sense of humor and physical ailments from running.  Eight strangers who came together to give each other a little bit of themselves and become a team.  This was something I had seen in sports movies like Hoosiers, Prefontaine and McFarland, USA.

Looking back, it’s hard to put into words what these ladies, athletes, moms, employees, wives, and runners had become for each other. For that weekend, we had a team prepared for the rain and the trails.

The camaraderie, diversity, and empowerment were magical.  We were all meant to be there together that weekend fighting whatever personal demons or battles we each had going on.  Trail Sisters always is this intangible, serendipitous force of good in the world that quenches the thirst in my soul.  We came together with cowbells to cheer each other on up the sandhill from hell a quarter-mile from the finish.  We loved the beer tent, pizza food truck, and running gear tent.

Ragnar Trail Relay is an eight person relay where each runner alternates between 2.7, 5.8 and a 7.7 mile loops.  Each person must complete all three loops for the team to receive their finisher medals.   My team started Friday at 7:30 am and by Saturday morning we had to double up our runners to finish the race by 4:00 pm.  None of us cared about the podium or placing.  All our energy was devoted to being the best we could be for each other.  We brought all our energy and left it on the sandy, hilly, winding trails.  We were simply the best version of ourselves those 36 hours at Hanson Hills.

I can’t think of a better way to spend a gray, rainy weekend in Michigan but with my Trail Sisters who taught me that I was enough.  My love for the trails and what the trails gave back to me was enough.  The outside world faded away and we were left to challenge ourselves and each other in ways that I could not comprehend.  I learned that my Trail Sisters appreciated me and everything I gave.  The inclusiveness, kindness, compassion, and strength that my team gave me energized me as an athlete to reach the most competitive part of my soul. 

My Trail Sisters experiences have all been like this one, the strength I gain from my Sisters is cosmic and electric.  There is palpable energy and synergy at the same time.  We give each other the best of ourselves, the trails, and our lives the best of ourselves.  Because I gain so much love, acceptance, and sisterhood from the Trail Sisters I have replenished myself to be able to give more to my family, work, and life. 

This is what being a Trail Sister means to me…. what does it mean for you?

Darlene Ciampa

Darlene Ciampa

Darlene Ciampa, lives in Pinkney, Michigan and is 52 years old. Discovered Selena Beers, Angie Krushinski and the Trail Sisters Metro Detroit two years ago. On a lifelong search for ways to give back to the trails and my trail sisters as much as they give to me.

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Trail Sisters is committed to creating opportunity and participation for women in trail running. Our content is always free to read. Consider a monthly contribution on Patreon to support Trail Sisters so we can continue to inspire, educate and empower others!

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