5 Things to Know When Crewing for an Ultra Runner (Who Is Also Your Significant Other)

When G and I first started dating, I knew he liked to run. I do, too! I had no idea that finishing his first couple of marathons would lead to him running 100 miles just a few years later. We moved to San Diego from the Midwest; we hadn’t had the opportunity to run on real trails and at elevation.

When he decided to run a 50K I thought, “that’s only a few miles longer than a marathon; great!” Then when he decided to run 50 miles, I was a bit skeptical but felt better knowing I would be the person crewing for him and ensuring he fueled properly. Check. Once he brought up the 100-mile distance, I knew he was addicted and my presence at his races would no longer be a nice-to-have; I would be his one-person crew.

All race crews are made up of selfless and amazing people who are more than willing to spend whole days in remote areas all in the name of supporting their runner. I’m convinced crewing for a significant other is one of the most incredible, yet nerve-wracking duties, bar none. You want to ensure everything is perfectly planned, packed and executed so that they have their very best (and safe) race possible.

Here are the 5 main things I’ve learned crewing for an ultra runner (who is also your significant other):

  • You have to remain calm. That sounds easy; you’re not the one running. Wrong. This is the person you care about most in the world, and that factors into the entire equation. In general, I don’t get easily stressed. All of that goes out the window when G is racing. It’s partially because I know him so well. I know what his race goals are, what he said he would want at each aid station, etc. But all of those things are discussed pre-race. On race day, anything can happen and it’s easy to get yourself all worked up trying to make sure they get everything they need each time they see you. I’ve learned to just lay everything out that he may potentially want and let him choose what to take.

    PCT 50
    At the Mile 25 turnaround of the 2014 PCT 50.
  • You have to be prepared. That goes for everything from poorly communicated driving directions and little-to-no cell phone service, to packing food for yourself, because – duh – you have to eat, too. (I can’t tell you how many times I’ve underestimated how hungry I would be, yet didn’t bring enough to eat.) Print out maps of everything (you can recycle the paper later), bring a car phone charger, pack camp chairs, blankets, a cooler and anything else you think you might want at all. Because chances are, you will. The last thing your runner should be worried about is whether you’re freezing, starving, or don’t know how to get to the next aid station.
  • You have to be their champion. Sometimes, the stars align and a race goes perfectly. But more often than not, something will be thrown into the mix (exposed areas of a course resulting in really hot conditions, stomach issues, a nagging pain, etc.) that makes parts of a race kind of miserable. Throughout all of the ups and the downs that can make up a race, your runner is counting on you to stay positive. They are also counting on you to be resourceful even if they didn’t know that would be necessary pre-race. Example: While waiting to pace G for the final miles of the Monument Valley 50-Mile race in March, I noticed the main road the runners had to spend quite a bit of time on was VERY dusty. And G had nothing with him to cover his nose and mouth. I purchased a buff from the race director’s tent and made sure to have it soaked with water when he finally got to me. Definitely $22 well spent.
  • You have to appreciate the dedication. I’m not saying you have to be a runner to appreciate someone else’s running. But I do think you have to appreciate the dedication it takes to complete a race of any distance, but especially ultramarathon distances. It’s not just race day. It’s all of the days, weeks, and months that lead up to a race. The hours-long training runs on weekends, the early morning and late night runs squeezed in around a regular workday. Beyond that, the daily nutrition requirements and money spent on race-related items is beyond impressive. Being witness to the journey makes the finish that much sweeter – even for you.

    Zion 100
    So proud of G after finishing the Zion 100 last month.
  • You have to ignore emotion (yours and the runner’s). When you run far enough, for long enough it’s easy to become agitated, upset, and emotional because you’re tired. And everything is worse when you’re tired. Simply be prepared to be snapped at or for your runner to get angry that you offered the wrong thing (even if it WAS the right thing pre-race). I’m incredibly lucky that G is even-tempered in general, and even when he’s tired he remains cognizant that I’m there for his benefit and that my job is to ensure he has what he needs to continue. But I’ve seen some ugly exchanges between spouses/significant others that result in hurt feelings and that’s too bad. If you both acknowledge that some things could be said that you don’t mean, all will be right with the world in the end.

Since there are many more ultra running adventures in our future, I would love to hear any crewing advice you have!

Have a great week!


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