12 runners. 2 vans. 29 straight hours. 205 miles. That’s what culminated last weekend when I joined the Montana Running Ranchers for the Ragnar Relay in California. The race started in San Francisco, continued over the Golden Gate Bridge and through the Napa Valley, ending in the small town of Calistoga. The team consisted of 12 members of the Montana ranching community, most working on family ranches. With 561 teams in the Ragnar Relay, our team finished 28th overall, 17th in the Mixed Open Division.
Montana Running Ranchers, a part of the Team Beef program of Montana Beef Council and partially funded through Checkoff Dollars, participates in a relay race each year in different parts of the country. Our goal is to fuel our passions for running and to share our perspectives on the impact of beef as part of a healthy diet and sustaining a healthy environment. We are able build bridges of conversation with race participants through the mutual interests of running, fitness and health.
This year’s venue was especially impactful as a majority of race participants come from urban areas of the West Coast and Southern California. In fact, we saw no other teams affiliated with a food, nutrition, or agriculture community. Consider that your challenge farmers and ranchers!
The team passed out Montana beef jerky samples and wrapped the vans in Team Beef and Beef Checkoff slogans. I was inspired and surprised at the warm reception for Team Beef. We were asked several times “Why Team Beef?” and people were excited to hear we were all from ranching families. Along the way, my van only encountered one person who turned down a beef jerky sample, saying they were “powered by plants”, but she was still polite and asked several questions about where we came from and what we do.
Team captain, Sarah Nash, is a running veteran who has organized team efforts over the past 5 years. I had the opportunity to catch up with her over the phone to reflect on the trip and team’s impact during the race. That podcast can be found on the Montana Stockgrowers Association’s SoundCloud page.
The 2014 Montana Running Ranchers team consisted of Aeric Reilly, Sarah Nash, Billie Jo Holzer, Stacey Hughes, Evelyn Halverson, Christy Gerdes, Amory Blake, Alex Blake, David Dover, Rachel Keaster, Mike Rydell, and myself (Ryan Goodman).
This was my first trip to the San Francisco and Napa Valley areas of California. We ran through several cities, rural roads, and eventually through the vineyards surrounding Napa. Much of the state is enduring exceptional drought conditions and it was startling to see just how dried-out everything is in the state. The grape growers appear to be doing a great job of conservative water use as everything in the vineyards was brown except for the vines with the use of drip irrigation systems. We certainly hope those portions of the country can receive some much needed rainfall soon.
Team Beef isn’t just a onetime gig or specific to Montana. The program is hosted by state Beef Councils across the country and helps to connect those of us who enjoy running, fitness and health with beef consumers who have similar interests, but may not always have the opportunity at first-hand experience with beef cattle. To learn more, visit MontanaBeefCouncil.org and ExploreBeef.org.
Want to support the Montana Running Ranchers in next year’s race? Send me an email at email@example.com.