Last week I ran the Wasatch Back Ragnar Relay with some friends and family. It was fun and I gained some good insights after completing it. The Ragnar is a 12 person relay that covers 197 miles. Our team only had one elite runner on it and the rest were just "normal" people so it took us 31 hours to complete the course and we ended up in 227th place out of 1,092 teams. The winning team was from B.Y.U. and they crushed the course in 19 hours!
Both running a relay and running marathons have many things in common, but there are several distinct differences. Here are the pros and cons to each event.
Even though less individual distance is required for the relay, I was surprised how mentally draining it can be since it is drawn out over a day and a half as opposed to several hours. Your body will get more physically exhausted running a marathon, but relays can also be mentally debilitating as the race runs on and you are sleep deprived, experiencing GI problems, stressed, and tired.
Ragnar- This team event is more fun since it's more of a social event. It's a real party for most participants. It's easier than a marathon, yet still very uncomfortable and draining since it's spread out for so long. If you haven't trained much and your buddies are trying to get you to run with them, you can probably still pull it off.
Marathon- The longer distances require better conditioning and preparation, but at least you can get it over with quicker. Marathons requires more training and mental toughness and are more taxing on your body. You can probably BS your way through a relay race, but there is no fooling a marathon if you haven't trained sufficiently.