The Legs…not those you run on but the 36 segments of the BRR

Over the years we have run this race there has been much fodder over the legs of the Blue Ridge Relay.  Not the legs that each runner runs on but rather the 36 segments of this race.  The race coordinator ranks these legs as “Easy”, “Medium”, “Hard”, “Very Hard”, and “Mountain Goat Hard”.  There are legs that have become legend within this race.  Leg 31.  A leg that brings you up umpteen switchbacks as you ascend to Hawksnest.  It gets many laughs from those in the van.  Not so much from those outside of the van.  Leg 33 is one that is growing in lore.  Basically 2 miles straight up with each step getting steeper.  5 strides at the top and then repeat in reverse as you try to keep your legs in front of you on the downhill.  We watched 5-6 runners summit this leg last year – all were walking.

I will hold off on going over every leg as if you Google something sensible you will come up with many blogs with many opinions about the legs of this race.  Simply put here is how our legs breakdown by runner this year:

Team 4tunate (to have 2 more runners) – the new leg breakdown:
Runner #1 – Jason M:  (Total Miles 31.6) 2 Easy / 2 Medium / 1 Hard / 1 Mountain Goat Hard
Runner #2 – Jason S: (Total Miles 43.5) 1 Easy / 1 Medium / 1 Hard / 3 VHard
Runner #3 – John:  (Total Miles 29.3)
3 Easy / 1 Medium / 1 Hard / 1 Mountain Goat Hard
Runner #4 – Cindy: (Total Miles 35.7) 1 Easy / 1 Medium / 3 Hard / 1 VHard
Runner #5 – Alex:  (Total Miles 33.7) 0 Easy / 2 Medium / 4 Hard / 0 VHard
Runner #6 – Whitney:  (Total Miles 33.3) 2 Easy / 0 Medium / 2 Hard / 2 VHard

For some comic relief, here’s how a friend of a friend, Paul “Tino” Martino very appropriately catalogs the “Dirty Dozen” or the 12 hardest legs of the Blue Ridge Relay (slightly adapted for our 6 person team):


To get you motivated for some serious training I give you my Dirty Dozen.  These are the hardest 12 legs ending with the hardest.  The order may be debatable, but you get the point…they’re not easy.  Check out the video of one runners account of the “goat” leg(31).

12) Leg 13 (Runner 1 – Jason M).  Your 3rd run.  You start out with a 2.5 mile climb on a 7.1 mile run but since the grade max’s out at 4%, it’s not too bad.

11) Leg 6 (Runner 6 – Whitney).  Two nasty climbs and you get to run on a narrow gravel/dirt road with van after van kicking up dirt and dust for you to snack on.

10) Leg 28 (Runner 4 – Cindy).  Two hills with the first being 4.5 miles long.  Nothing too steep, but constant climbing for your third run and most likely just before the sun rises.

9) Leg 32 (Runner 2 – Jason S).  How hard can running down hill for 9.4 miles be…very hard.  The first 5 are extremely steep and in the woods, and then you are on an open road for over 4 miles and although the chart says your going down hill it does not look like it or feel like it.  From what I hear, it’s more like running through mud with a pack on your back.

8) Leg12 (Runner 6 – Whitney).  OK, you’ve been up since 3 am, drove up to Virginia, watched your team start, had a nice warm-up on leg 6, got all excited and now it’s about 5:30pm.  After a nice 1.5 mile warm up you get a 3.5 mile nasty climb with mostly a 5-8% grade.  The good news is that you get to coast down hill to the finish for 2 miles and this leg only 7.9 and not 9.1 like it has been the last two years.  The finish is cool at Tanger outlets, where the shopping is plentiful and the teams start to bunch up.

7) Leg 10 (Runner 4 – Cindy).  An 8.2 mile leg with a very steep climb in the middle and a steady climb to the finish.  A long stretch on gravel/dirt and you will have plenty of company from several big dogs in the area.  One of these dogs spends much of the day in the open trunk of his master’s car.

6) Leg 4 (Runner 4 -Cindy). A short, very steep climb early followed by a long, gradually increasing climb during the second half.  This is on a busy winding road.  There is also a short steep climb to the finish that isn’t represented on the elevation chart.

5) Leg 20 (Runner 2 – Jason).  This leg does not look all that bad on the elevation chart but it is brutal.  This is on a dark winding road with several climbs and descents with a significant climb near the end.  Hopefully the machete gang will not show this year.

4) Leg 35 (Runner 5 – Alex).  “The Climb to Bull Gap” You can also call this anything with “bull” in the title.  Crazy Leggers refer to this leg as the “lighthouse” leg, which has nothing to do with the climb, but does refer to the left turn you have to make when you get to the top of the climb.  You’ll hear all about it.  The difficulty of this leg is underrated as it is only rated “hard” and the others in this group are rated “very hard” or “mountain goat hard”.  It is only 4.2 miles but the first two is a steady 7-11% grade that feels like it goes on forever.

3) Leg 14 (Runner 2 – Jason).  “Grandfather Mountain”  This is a 10 mile climb in the dark.  Slightly steep at the beginning but not too bad the rest of the way.  You do get some relief near the top but the camber of this winding road is also hard on the ankles.

2) Leg 33 (Runner 3- John).  “The Trail of Tears”  I give you this description written a few years ago by another runner (a guy who went by Hatch):

Leg 33- Very, very, very hard
I like to call this leg the “Trail of Tears.” This will be your 6th and final leg of the race, so you likely won’t have any feeling below your waist at this point. The first 3 miles is pretty level, but I was still wiped out after going on no sleep and having only Gatorade and oatmeal cookies in my stomach. When you reach the section that starts upward, if you are like me you will collapse into the fetal position and begin to sob. You will attempt to run, but then realize that you can actually walk faster than you can run. Thankfully though, after a bit, you become delusional…this delusion is the part I enjoyed the most because I wasn’t running alone anymore, I had Yogi The Bear, Rocky Balboa, Fog Horn Leghorn and all of the girls from “Baywatch” running with me and cheering me on. They were feeding me grapes and singing songs. As reality hit again, I thought to myself “surely I must be at the top now,” but then I saw the final ascent to the summit and again sank into the fetal position. How could man possibly build and pave a road this steep? Finally I reached the summit and stripped down to bare nakedness for no apparent reason. My team told me I had another ½ mile downhill to the finish, but that turned into 2 miles (thanks guys.) At this point you welcome the steep downhill run/roll to the finish. I welcomed back my cartoon friends on the downhill run and we all finished the race. If you don’t appreciate a good curse word prior to this leg, believe me, you will after it. Oh, go ahead and schedule an appointment with a chiropractor for after the race if you have the privilege of running this leg.

1) Leg 31 (Runner 1 – Jason M).  “The Goat”  This video says it all:


One Response

  1. […] this. What do I need to know about the legs and how do they break down for our 6 runners you ask?  Read this. Tell me more about each leg please – check out our cue sheets. Are there rules to this race? […]

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