When you hear the words “team racing,” you might think “relay,” right? Relay races indeed are a ton of fun — I experienced my first one when I signed on for the inaugural Michigan Ragnar Relay last fall — but there’s a different kind of team racing event here in the Mitten that’s piqued my interest.

It’s called the Mid-Michigan Ultra Team Trail Race, also known as MUTT, and it takes place each June in Harrison, Mich. Starting and finishing on trails at Mid-Michigan Community College, the MUTT allows teams of four runners to actually run together.

This year’s race is set for June 17. Here’s how it works {and be sure to take advantage of the special MRG race discount code, listed at the end of this post, if you sign up}:

  • The MUTT is not a relay race but rather a team trail race that requires four team members to start and stay together at the beginning of the race, and one by one turn around at the halfway point of each individual distance. The format allows for different distance runners to race together, and also assures each runner contributes to the success of the team.
  • Each team will consist on a 5, 10, 20, and 31 mile runner. At the start of the race, each team will start out running together and MUST stay together until they reach the 2.5 mile mark, then the 5 mile runner will turn around and return to the start/finish line completing the 5 mile run, while the remaining three runners continue on. At the 5 mile mark, the 10 mile runner will turn around and head back to the start/finish line, with the remaining two continuing on. At mile 10, the 20 mile runner will return and so on. Once all four runners return to the finish line completing their individual distances, all four times are tabulated for the total team time.
  • Pace strategy is key in managing the teams overall time. Thought needs to go into each portion of the race and how fast you race. Do you run hard in the first 2.5 miles as a team to give your 5 mile runner a chance at the podium? What does that pace do to your ultra runner?

I recently caught up with Bethany Koon, a Midland runner who has participated in the MUTT for the past few years, to learn more about this style of team racing. “I personally like the team aspect in that we rely on each other and really have to understand and know each other on a personal level. I enjoying talking to each of my runners throughout their leg of the race,” Bethany says.

(I also spoke with Kevin Fowler, race director of the Mid-Michigan Ultra Team Trail Race, on the podcast last fall—check out that episode here to hear us talk about how he decided to start this race and how it’s grown in the short time it’s been around.)

Here’s more from Bethany about her experience running as part of the team Chicks with Kicks:

The MUTT race is a very unique race experience that allows you to stay with your team members for half of their leg of the race. We depend on each other to keep our spirits up, maintain the team strategy and keep each other on track for our goal. You also get to see other teams runner throughout the entire race and give and get encouragement from all runners.

What’s the race vibe like?

The atmosphere at MUTT is amazing! Members of all teams cheer for, encourage and support other races. The volunteers are there to help every runner and keep us moving! Kevin puts on an amazing venue. Aid stations are well stocked and the after races refreshments are perfect!

Pace strategy is pretty important, isn’t it?

Yes…I would suggest to new teams or runners to make a strategy and stick to it as closely as you can. Enjoy the race! Take part in the pre and post race festivities. Make sure to let your 31 miler set the pace!

Tell us more about your team.

My team has three very good running partners. This year will be Meko Wendy’s first MUTT race when she runs the five mile leg. Shannon Astrike will be joining me for her second MUTT 10 mile leg. Jill Buist is joining me for her second 20 mile leg at MUTT. I am running my third 31 mile MUTT leg. This will be my fourth year running this race, as I was the 10 miler at the inaugural MUTT on a different team. We are sticking with Chicks with Kicks as our team name, which we found while searching Google for all female team names.

Ready to sign up? Be sure to use the code MRG10OFF to receive a discount of 10% (or $20) off your team entry. Learn more and register here »

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