The Ragnar Relay Race takes place today and is expected to impact vehicle traffic in the Lower Keys throughout the day.
The sheriff's office wants to remind everyone who plans any highway travel today to be aware and to plan extra time for their trip. The most impact will be to southbound traffic, but northbound traffic will most likely slow as runners cross the road at designated locations and as drivers slow down to look at the runners.
The race is comprised of 500 teams with 12 runners for each team. Each team has two support vans where the team members ride when they aren't running. At any given time, each team has one runner on the roadway and two vans traveling between designated "exchange" points where runners are swapped.
In the Upper Keys and through much of Marathon, the impact is expected to be minimal because there are more locations where runners can easily remain off the roadway, and where runner exchanges can be done away from traffic areas.
The most impact will occur when runners reach the exchange point at Marathon Airport, which will be in the early morning hours. The first runner is projected to reach the airport at 2:40 a.m. The last runner will most likely leave the Marathon airport at 11:40 a.m. Peak time at the airport for runners to be exchanged at that location will be around 7 a.m.
Exchange points will be set up at the following locations:
• South of the 7 Mile Bridge (first runner: 4:24 a.m.; last runner: 1:25 p.m.; peak time: 9:46 a.m. )
• Big Pine Key, where runners will cross the road at the highway light (first runner: 5:58 a.m.; last runner: 2:47 p.m.; peak time: 11:11 a.m.)
• Mako Drive, Ramrod Key, where runners will cross the highway (first runner: 6:38 a.m.; last runner: 3:24 p.m.; peak time: 11:15 a.m.)
• Blimp Road, Cudjoe Key where runners will cross the highway (first runner: 7:42 a.m.; last runner: 4:39 p.m.; peak time: 1:28 p.m.)
• Sugarloaf School on Crane Boulevard, Sugarloaf Key, where runners will cross the highway (first runner: 7:42 a.m.; last runner: 4:39 p.m.; peak time: 1:22 p.m.)
• Bay Point (first runner: 8:25 a.m.; last runner: 5:24 p.m.; peak time: 2:25 p.m.)
• Saddle Bunch Keys (first runner: 8:41 a.m.; last runner: 5:41 p.m.; peak time: 2:34 p.m.)
• Big Coppitt Key, just north of the Fire Station. Runners will cross the roadway. (First runner: 9:03 a.m.; last runner: 6:10 p.m.; peak time: 2:59 p.m. )
At each exchange point, deputies will be on hand to make sure vans are pulled off the highway and not impeding traffic. They will also assist runners to cross the roadway when necessary, and the crossing will be accomplished taking in to consideration traffic flow. They will not be stopping traffic for every runner.
"We ask everyone to be patient this weekend and plan extra time for their travel," said Sheriff Rick Ramsay. "We have worked extensively with race organizers in an effort to improve the flow of traffic and to keep the impact of the race at a minimum, but with this many runners and this many support vehicles there is just no way to avoid delays."