To run all day is one thing. To keep pounding the trail through the night while racing against a ticking clock is a level of suffering few are willing to endure. But for Jeff Olpin, a 35-year-old “Ragnarian,” running a 30-hour team relay is just his family’s idea of a fun vacation.
“We were sitting around at a family reunion two years ago, which is basically when our family gets together and goes camping,” says Olpin, “and we thought, ‘Hey, should we form a team and do one of these Ragnar races?’ We kind of looked at each other and someone said, ‘Does that mean we have to train?’ And I said, ‘Absolutely!’ So we decided then and there, ‘Let’s do it.’”
The Olpins, who Jeff describes as a “rowdy group” of outdoor enthusiasts based in Salt Lake City, Utah, formed a team sponsored by Olpin’s mother, and ran their first Ragnar Relay Series race last year, completing the Wasatch Back. Still hungry for more, they decided to “double medal” last year, and took their act on the road to complete the Vegas Ragnar relay.
This year, Jeff and his wife will be joined by three cousins and three friends to form the eight-person team needed to compete in the Ragnar Trail Series race. And for this race, REI and Solomon will be sponsoring his team. Olpin explains that he entered a sweepstakes held by REI “just to see what would happen.”
“Surprisingly, we won!” he adds. “We’re completely outfitted to have an awesome time.”
Calling themselves “Team Defiantly Competitive”—a name derived from one team member writing that he was “defiantly competitive” while actually meaning definitely competitive—the Olpins and friends have one main strategy for this race: to have fun and socialize while running through the night. “’Defiantly competitive’ is our mantra,” says Olpin. “I project that we will spend more time hanging out and partying than we will sleeping.”
Though some might fear trail running at night, Jeff couldn’t be more excited to pull the night shift. “I love the night runs,” he says. “You throw on a headlamp, you get a flashlight, and it’s just awesome.”
To train for the race, the Olpins have been running a six-mile loop trail near their house in Little Cottonwood Canyon. “But not nearly enough!” he says laughing.
For Team Defiantly Competitive, running a Ragnar relay isn’t all about the race. “It’s part road-trip, part race, part vacation, and part camping,” says Olpin. And perhaps the most important part of all: a perfect excuse to spend quality time with friends and family. “Our goal is to have an absolute blast,” says Olpin. And then, as if remembering his team’s mantra, he quickly adds, “and hopefully finish under the time limit!”