Race vs. Train? At first glance, this may sound like a dilemma which many of us endurance athletes ponder on an average weekend. We might think to ourselves, “Should I test myself in the next local race, or continue to train on to my next big event?”
What we’re talking about here, however, is a much heavier topic. A trend becoming increasingly popular is one of actual races, on foot or on bike, against a train.
I stumbled across a Facebook post about an event in Oklahoma called Race The Rail, where cyclists follow an out-and-back highway route which roughly parallels some train tracks. Their objective is to outrun a freight train, which starts from the turnaround point at about 10 mph, headed for the start/finish line. Estimated speed required to beat the train is 21 to 22 mph. The event has been held for 6 years; this year’s event is currently postponed, pending a new date. Watch for Race The Rail registration to reopen here.
Recently, in Mid Wales, the 33rd running of Race The Train, a charity footrace against a train over a 15-mile course, was held. The first 124 of some 830 finishers were able to beat the train this year, which covered the course in an hour and 48 minutes. Sign up here to outrun the Welsh choo-choo.
In Colorado, the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic pits riders against a train over a 50-mile course, which includes over 7,000 feet of climbing. Treacherous, snowy mountain passes have, in some years of its 45-year history, prevented any riders from finishing the course, much less beating the train. Got some firewood in those panniers? Check it out.
Less-organized challenges of man vs. train are also not uncommon.
In 2014, Briton James Heponstall raced a London subway train from one stop to the next, by exiting when the doors opened at the first stop, and boarding again before they closed at the second. See video of this stunt here.
In 2015, reality TV star and U.S. Army veteran Greg Plitt raced a train and lost. Though initial reporting of “a shirtless man running alongside some tracks” may have led onlookers to believe it was pro triathlete A.J. Baucco, Plitt was believed to be running near the tracks while filming a TV commercial for an energy drink. I sincerely hope that drink isn’t being marketed as “more powerful than a locomotive.” Read more about this train race gone wrong.
I leave you with this question to ponder – would you rather race a train, or just train to race? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below.