Open Source Athlete - July Edition

Monday, 2nd July 2012

Crew and Pacing

The loneliness of the long distance runner is never more apparent than when I am out on long training runs, doing it tough. Although it never takes long to remember why I am doing it, and that I enjoy the solitude and that feeling of achieving a certain goal on my own, whether it be an epic long training run, or a race.

However, I view ultra-running as a team sport.

A) It is generally a time consuming effort that tends to be one-sided, leaving a spouse or partner with plenty of spare time on their hands alone

B) It can become all consuming, which in turn requires significant input from the other half to balance things out

C) It can also be financially challenging as runners pursue exotic races. Again, not something that everyone in the family necessarily enjoys spending money on particularly if it coincides with annual leave time and if the race destination happens to be in an area where certain bacteria, animal species and human tribes have only been recently discovered.

So when I think that I am doing it tough, I have to remind myself that others in the family are also living my dream, which is why we are a team.

Having said all of that, I think that there is nothing better than to share an experience with your teammate on race day. Crossing the line and meeting your teammate or mates on the other side is well worth the experience. Put yourself through the ringer, hit rock bottom, and see just how much better it is when you can share that personal victory with the people that helped you across the line.

The next step is to have your teammate / partner / spouse, crew for you on the day. This is a great opportunity for them to be more than slightly involved. They become your brains for the day. Crewing is an art form. In many ways it is more stressful than actually running the race.

Driving long distances to aid stations, standing in queues to catch shuttle busses to remote aid stations, being on time, bringing the correct nutrition, despite the fact that it may be freezing and raining or diabolically hot, always having a smile and encouraging word to offer. These things are all out of your comfort zone, but are critical factors in the success of the runner. As a crew you have the power to influence so much behind the scenes, that it can make the difference to a runner winning or losing, achieving or not achieving their goals.

A concept which has also long been embraced by a large percentage of races is to allow a pace runner to be part of your crew. There are varying rules regarding pace runners, but mostly they are able to join the runner approximately two thirds of the distance into the race, and are there to provide moral support. They may not assist the runner in carrying nutrition or hydration, but are merely there to maintain the speed and momentum of the runner.

I have run races with and without pacers, and my experience has been that having a pacer with me has been to my advantage. Pacing is also a fantastic way to be part of a race without actually having to run the full distance or experience pre-race nerves. It is a good way to recce a particular race that you were thinking of doing. Running a section of the course, experiencing what the aid stations are like, weather conditions, terrain etc.

As a crew member or pacer you may never want to run a 100 miles or complete an ultraman but if you pace you can still be a part of the glory and the scene, and if you're thinking about running a race next year, offer to pace someone this year.

So in summary, I look at my crew and pacers as my pit crew. They are critical to me in achieving my goals, but more than that, creating that rewarding experience of the race day. To be able to have someone to share something epic with makes the hard yards doable.

There is a good chance that your crew or pacer will inspired by something on the day, and that you will be able to return the favor of creating an awesome experience for them in the future.


#3 Chris Maclean 2012-07-23 16:37
Great comments and very well timed as I prepare for my first 100 miler. Running these distances is like at tree falling in the forest - only the tree knows how much noise it made. But if there is someone there to witness it, it's much more exciting.
#2 Sharon Cohrs 2012-07-12 12:01
Following you every step of the way and love reading your blogs.
You are an inspiration to many.

Sharon and Allan Cohrs
#1 Scott Hawker 2012-07-03 23:53
A fantastic read Mike!!

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