Tips for Running Your Best-ever GAP Relay Presented by UPMC Health Plan

Philip O’Hara and his team, Past Champs Just Jogging Along know what it takes to conquer the 150 miles of the GAP Relay Presented by UPMC Health Plan.  Here’s Philip’s advice to teams running their first-ever GAP Relay. 

Philip O’Hara and his team, Past Champs Just Jogging Along know what it takes to conquer the 150-miles of the GAP Relay Presented by UPMC Health Plan. The team has done it four times and are ready to do it all over again this October. Over the years, his team have learned some invaluable tips that can make your race more successful. Here’s Philip’s advice to teams running their first-ever GAP Relay.   

When in doubt, know it’s worth it.

Especially for first-time teams, the best advice is to know that at some point in the middle of the night you are probably going to question why you decided to do this event (maybe more so for a four-person team, and especially, if the weather is not cooperating). But keep pushing through because it will all be worth it. I know this advice sounds cliche for many kinds of running events, but it’s especially true of this one.  


Find a dedicated driver.

We lucked into having Chris volunteer to drive for us our first year, and it’s been the best thing for us each and every one of the four years we have run. Especially as a four-person team, it’s so great to know that you don’t have to worry about spending one leg as a runner and one leg taking a turn as the driver. Chris is so great. We don’t have to worry at all about anything related to getting to where we need to go. We only have to run. And Chris even goes above and beyond by stocking the van full of food and drinks!   

A well-stocked vehicle is a must.

Make sure you have a vehicle with enough space for runners and gear, and don’t be afraid to bring extra stuff (clothing, food, gear, pop-up changing tent - yes, we had that one year, whatever you might want/need). Put plenty of air fresheners in the vehicle! There might not be such a thing as “too many” of them.  

Set a running order for your team.

We’ve tried many different ways to optimize the assignment of the legs (one of us may be a spreadsheet geek), but we have found the best way is to just run in a set order.


Do some training in the dark.

If you’ve never done it, do some training runs in the dark with a headlamp, preferably on a trail or somewhere with little lighting. You will be thanking yourself for that training when you step on the trail for your first leg in the middle of the night.  

Run the last part together as a team.

Each time we run this event is a great bonding experience for the five of us.There are a bunch of little things that we remember, and we reference all the time in our group chat or when we are together. Each year we run the last couple hundred yards together and cross the finish line as a team (including Chris, our driver). Those moments are pretty special, and the overwhelming emotion and camaraderie you feel make for great memories.


Don’t doubt yourself. You can do it!

If you’ve never done anything like this event before, you might be worried about it being achievable. You can definitely do it! This really is a team event, so get yourself a great team, sign up, and you’re going to have a great experience and accomplish something really cool!