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Facing the Ragnar Relay Challenge

A local couple finds common ground while training for one of the area’s biggest running challenges.

Written By:  Marc Acton

Photographers:  Supplied

Tara Babb wasn’t a runner when she agreed to participate in the 2015 Ragnar Relay, a nearly 200-mile road race that begins in Chattanooga and ends in downtown Nashville at the Country Music Hall of Fame. Aside from a 5K in which she finished last, Tara could hardly get through a complete mile. But after crossing the finish line of the annual overnight relay, which takes participants through some of Middle Tennessee’s prettiest scenery, she says she’s ready to do it all over again at this year’s race on May 13 and 14.

The Ragnar is a team-running event—groups of 12 runners split up the course, with each member taking on three legs that vary in difficulty and range from three to 10 miles. The team follows behind in a van, resting between runs.
After a friend convinced Tara to sign up, her first step was to recruit her husband, Justin, a pilot in the Tennessee Army National Guard who had run the race previously.

“She had no idea what she was getting us into,” Justin says with a chuckle. “I figured she’d come to her senses before or during the race, and we’d be out the entrance fee.”

With only six weeks to prepare, the Babbs jumped straight into training. On her first four-mile training run, Tara says, “I didn’t make it. But the next Saturday, another girl on the team was planning on running six. I went out and finished it with her. It was a very slow six, mind you, but I finished!”

Though the couple could rarely run together while training, they worked their way up to the big day. And during the race itself, both Tara and Justin were put to the test.

“Running at 2 a.m. with no sleep was definitely not the most enjoyable thing I've ever done—and it took Jesus and energy drinks to get me through it—but when it was over, it was the most amazing experience,” says Tara.

She ran 15 of the 200 total miles and ended up passing the baton to Justin twice. “On exchange one, I got a kiss,” says Tara. “On exchange two, he dry-heaved.” Still, she admits that nothing beats experiencing the Ragnar with her husband—and they’ll be back at it with thousands of other runners this month.

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