Ultrarunning: How to Crew for Your Runner

July 10, 2012

This article is part of Endurance Planet’s ultrarunning article series. If you have questions, comments or feedback about “How to Crew for Your Runner”, please leave it below in the comments section…

There is a group of people who are just as much a part of an ultramarathon and play a crucial supportive role. They may not be on center stage but without them the runner may not even successfully finish. They are simply known as crew.

It’s not a glamorous job. A crew member’s reason for being is to cater to a runner’s logistical, physical, and emotional needs. That could involve laying out nourishment and gear, cleaning and treating foot injuries, as well as provide race information and encouragement. You’ll also be flitting about from station to station and will be doing a lot of waiting.

Nevertheless there is a proper way to accomplish this critical role and the following are a few tips on how to help your runner surmount the ultra distance.

Before the race

You’re basically going to be a packhorse, a tour guide, and a cheering squad. Of course the best time to delineate all these duties and level expectations with your runner is at the pre-race preparations. You both have to agree on a solid itinerary that details where to meet at various stages of the ultramarathon and what supplies need to be ready at each point.

If possible join your runner at some of the long run sessions during training. This will maximize your bond and give you better insight into your runner. On race day, you’ll be able to anticipate his or her needs more effectively.

Providing logistical and physical support

This can include several tasks from the typical preparation of food, drinks and clothes at the aid stations to pacing your runner on the trail. You might also be called upon to help navigate, checking the course markings and providing extra light if it’s the night time part of a 100-miler.

No amount of planning can really predict everything that can happen during an ultramarathon so it’s better to be organized and over-prepared. At the aid stations, that could mean laying everything out for the runner to see and choose and then packing up again and bringing it all to the next scheduled pit stop. On the trail, that could mean carrying an extra pair of sunglasses or set of batteries and flashlight.

Providing emotional support

This is the subjective and thus possibly more difficult task to accomplish. Your runner could be feeling anything from exhaustion and confusion to just about ready to throw in the towel. It’s going to take the right words and approach to keep him or her going.

Some runners like to be strongly reminded such as when they’re overextending their rest at an aid station. Others may react more positively to simpler methods such as promising to meet them at the next pit stop or finish line. For a runner nearing the limit, that could be just the thing to push him or her the last few miles. Being able to positively motivate your runner largely depends on how well you know and trust each other.

Don’t forget to provide for yourself

Last but not the least, pack your own food, drinks and gear. You need to be there for your runner all through the various stages of the ultramarathon. You can’t effectively provide support if you’re hungry, thirsty and exhausted too.


Do you have questions about how to crew for your runner, or what you’ve read so far? Do you have any ultrarunning pointers of your own to add? Please leave your feedback, comments and questions below, and we promise we’ll respond.

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