If you are not a runner yourself but have ever crewed for a runner you probably have no trouble remembering your first time. It is pretty unforgettable. You probably felt like a fish out of water. At the very least, you probably wish you had been told that “cheering someone to the finish and re-filling a water bottle” would likely turn into “rubbing a sore buttcheek, stuffing nasty-ass, bloody socks into your pocket, and cleaning up what looks the remnants of a grizzly bear attack every few hours” – all while potentially being treated “gruffly”. You probably wish you had a manual. I gotcha’ back, Jack!
Here are my 5 tips to crewing for an ultra 50 miles or longer. Enjoy!
- Make a plan. Have yourself a little “parlay” with your runner and find out what they want, like, and need. From food to gear choices, know in advance how they race. Ask about weaknesses and strengths and help them maximize and mitigate both accordingly. Don’t go in blind and try to figure it out as you go! You could end up being more of a hindrance than a helper.
- Have as much fun before the race with your runner as possible. When it comes time to get ready to run, shit gets real. Most ultrarunners I know take it fairly seriously and are pretty intense – as early as the night before. Ask what you can do to help, but for the most part, allow them to do their own thing. Make yourself available to help out with whatever asked – but let them run the show.
- Move fast, think fast, act Do not make your runner wait on YOU. Know exactly where their gear is, where their favorite drinks are, and what food choices are readily available at a seconds notice. Anticipate what they might need and get it ready even if they may not end up needing it. Make suggestions until something sounds good. You might have tons of potentially helpful stuff available that your runner more than likely has forgotten about. Remind her. Always grab more than you need. Ask them on the way out what they might need NEXT time.
- Be positive! Your runner has likely has been waiting a while to see you and needs a good pick me up. Yell! Scream! Holler! Smile! Hug! Be obnoxiously loud to the point that other crews are annoyed by you. I am speaking from experience when I tell you, this boost is better than any can of Red Bull when you are at a low point. You can rest later… bust your ass to show your runner how excited and proud you are of them.
- Have an ace-in-the hole. Call a loved one at the lowest point. Break out a surprise gift. Get homemade cards from the family saying “Stay Strong Daddy!” Have something ready for that spot where continuing is almost Piss them off. Tell them they have worked too hard to quit. Be creative – what your “ace” is will vary dependant on the runner, but find something!
I am not going to include this as a tip – but I think it is important to mention – cut your runner some slack! Don’t get all butt-hurt if they snap at you. Don’t quit on them or stop being positive and supportive because they cussed about the water being too hot or the soup too cold. They are doing something VERY DIFFICULT and don’t mean to take it out on you. Be there as a punching bag or a shoulder to cry on if that is what they need. Ultimately the BEST way to learn how to be a good crewmember is to get FIRST HAND EXPERIENCE – so get out there and help someone earn that finish!
Until Next Time…. BE EPIC!