Editor’s note: One of our friends and readers at SOFREP, Heath Hansen, has frequently contributed to our site with his experiences. Here is another story of his, and you’ll no doubt enjoy this one as much as his other fine work. 

November 1st, 2017. I get a call from my buddy — my buddy rarely calls me: when we communicate, it’s through text messages. “What’s up, bro?” I asked. “Hey, my Ragnar teammate just got called for duty, he can’t make the race. We need a runner.” I didn’t know what a Ragnar Race was, but the name sounded interesting and I accepted the invitation. “Oh yeah, one more thing, every person on the team was in the Marine Corps. You and I are the only Army vets.” “Great,” I sarcastically replied.

I decided to read up on the Ragnar Race. The info revealed I had nine days to train for a race that required roughly 14 miles of running. The race would take place over the course of two days at the Los Coyotes Indian Reservation, a 25,000-acre preserve in the middle of the Southern California mountains. The terrain would be treacherous — up and down mountains, patches of thick vegetation, and rocky paths. On top of this, I wasn’t a runner — in fact, I hated running with a passion. Luckily I did CrossFit workouts regularly and had a pretty clean diet. At least I wasn’t starting from rock bottom.

The next day I decided to go for a four-mile run near my house in south San Diego. It sucked, but I finished without stopping and maintained a pace of about 8 minutes per mile. The next two days I was extremely sore but managed to do a few more short runs leading up to the 10th of November.

On race day, we arrived at the venue and I realized the scale of a Ragnar Race. There were over a thousand people present. We arrived at the campsite and made our way over to the team tent. Between the eight of us, there was a broad age (and fitness) range. I knew I would perform above average but still wanted to crush the competition. Every single one of them had Marine Corps tattoos. Being a former paratrooper, I knew I had to prove myself. They didn’t care whether I had time to train or not, this was still about inter-service rivalry and finding out who was the best. I extended my arm and shook hands with each. “Hey, you know what ARMY stands for,” one of them asked? “Aren’t Really Marines Yet,” the dumbass laughed. 

“Do you know what USMC stands for,” I asked him. He looked at me quizzically. Pointing at him, I said, “U Suck My Cock,” and smiled. I wasn’t going to be the weakest link among a bunch of crayon-eating Jar-Heads; the race had begun.

We would all be running a total of three legs during the competition, and, collectively, covering about 114 miles of trail. In between legs, we would have about eight hours of downtime to hang out in the team area, rest, eat and hydrate.

Heath Hansen at the Ragnar Race.

My first leg was starting — eight miles. The hill I was climbing seemed to never want to end. I knew ascending for this long at a running pace would burn up my lungs quickly, so I took my time. It kept going, and going, and going. After what seemed like an eternity, I made it to the top and got back on a faster, longer stride. During my descent, I gazed off onto the horizon — the mountains looked incredible. The scenery made this one of the most gorgeous runs I had ever been on.