When Tonsa Price-Edwards heard about a 187.2-mile relay race coming to Arizona, she jumped at the chance. The Scottsdale resident had finished the Boston Marathon in 2003, ran an eight-minute mile and had a display case full of medals from races she’d finished.
In short, she was in great shape to run in the race, which is why the breast cancer diagnosis in February — just weeks before the race — was such a shock.
“It was like somebody punched me in the stomach,” she said.
Now, Price-Edwards faces radiation and chemotherapy, and is under strict orders not to run.
So the team she assembled, called Runnin Ragged, will run for her, wearing shirts that say “Inspired by Tonsa.” They also will help her raise money to donate to the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation.
The course takes about 24 hours to complete. The Ragnar Relay Del Sol 187.2-mile race starts today in Wickenburg and will end Saturday in Scottsdale.
It’s the first time the race has been held in Arizona, and the organizers say it’s the largest turnout they’ve seen for a race in its first year.
The original Ragnar Race was held in Utah a few years ago and attracted 200 participants.
The Arizona race already has 860 runners and even more volunteers, said race director Dan Hill.
“It’s a totally new concept and so much fun that word spreads and it explodes in size,” he said.
For the race, the runners are split into 12-member teams. Each member runs three times, for three to eight miles.
Team vehicles meet the runners at exchange points to pick up one and drop off another.
The Ragnar — named after a tough ninth century Norse king — is known for attracting some colorful characters, some in costumes, and for its raucous atmosphere. Past team names have included Twisted Chickens, Summer Crampers, Team Caffeine and Nerdy Turtles.
But it isn’t all fun and games.
Team Mesa Roadrunners is made up of 12 men who are serious athletes, regularly competing in triathlons and marathons.
In fact, 11 of them recently qualified for the Boston Marathon, said runner Jeff Rush, a business development manager with Rental Service Corp.
“Our philosophy is to run it competitively, versus another team from our neighborhood comprised of some of our wives,” he said. “We’ve been figuring out when exactly we’re going to be passing them.”
The Roadrunners all live near Gilbert and McKellips roads and train together every week.
“It’s recreational but we’re endurance junkies,” Rush said.
They were attracted to the relay race because it was a way to compete as a team, something that’s hard to find when you’re in the 40-something range, he said.
“A lot of us are ex-team sports guys, so when we first heard of it we jumped right on it,” he said. Several stops along the course will feature music, food and showers for the runners.
The final party is on Saturday at Eldorado Park, 2311 N. Miller Road, Scottsdale, where teams will cross the line throughout the day until 8 p.m. Price-Edwards said she will definitely be at the finish line to greet her friends. “And I just might run the last half-mile and go through the shoot,” she said. “Oh, I’m so excited.” To contribute to Price-Edwards’ cancer research fund, visit www.active.com/donate/donatefortonsa.
• Wickenburg to Scottsdale
• First time in Arizona. Other Ragnar relays are held in Utah, along the Mississippi River and in Washington state.
• Named for Ragnar, a ninth century Norse king who was a pirate, raider and explorer
• Started by Steve Hill, Dan Hill and Tanner Bell in Utah
• Most coveted awards are “Tricked Out Van” and “Best Team Costume”
• 72 teams, 864 runners
• 187.2 miles
• 24 hours