Have you ever participated in an Ultra Marathon? Recently myself and a friend of ours served as support crew for my husband who was participating in the 50 Mile Individual race of the Keys 100. Talking to others we soon realized that many ultra-runners consider this the step below the Badwater run in Death Valley.
The weather in the Keys, while gorgeous if you’re coming to dive or sightsee is brutal for a runner. There is no shade during the race and any breeze you have dies away as soon as you get on the island. With a 9:45am start time for the 50 mile race the sun is already blazing and it’s going to be a long day. The 50 mile racers have until 2:00am to finish the race.
So what does support crew do? The basic answer is you follow your runner in a car, meeting them at approved locations along the route, providing them with what they need at any given point. This might be food, water, sunscreen or even a muscle massage. We had the car stocked with everything from chill towels, sunscreen, first aid items to extra running clothes and food. We were also there for moral support…after all, your runner is facing 50 miles in the Florida Keys….it’s not a piece of cake.
We learned a lot on that race, our first time crewing. There were things we just didn’t think about bringing, from a chair for our runner to sit on, to a high powered flashlight for crossing 6 lanes of highway in the pitch black lugging a cooler to meet our runner. We quickly started a list on our phones for next time. With it being our first time we weren’t sure what to expect, but we were quickly learning. We had made an error with hydration for our runner, giving him only Gatorade in his hydration pack which quickly soured his stomach after the 7 mile bridge making it hard to convince him to eat. And by mile 20 our concern was things were going to get worse if we couldn’t get some food in him. Thankfully the aid stations had Drip-Drop, a medical grade powder to combat dehydration. We got some of that into him and some food and things started to look up…but we were far from the finish. It’s things like this you have to be prepared for.
The camaraderie on throughout the day is amazing! We talked with other runners support crew and learned about them and their racers. We cheered on our runner, but others as well. We shared supplies with others who might have needed something. You really are a family out there dedicated to getting every runner to the finish safely.
I wouldn’t have thought it would be so exhausting to crew for a runner, after all, I figured we’re basically there to drive the car and provide supplies. But the hours in the sun, worried about your runner, rushing around to be sure you can give them what they need when you meet them really takes its toll. We were out there for 14 hours with our runner.
Some tips for those crewing:
1. Try to think outside the box when you are stocking the car with supplies…a chair for your runner to sit on is essential. Don’t forget safety gear for yourself once it’s dark depending on the race start time.
2. Bring extra of everything…we ended up sharing some food & band-aids with other teams who either ran out or didn’t have some items packed.
3. Make sure you are taking care of yourself…we were sunburned quite a bit even though we applied sunscreen. You have to take care of yourself to take care of your runner
4. Have a plan ready in case your runner is exhausted, physically hurting or thinking of stopping the race. What will you say if they say they can’t finish…you need to know when they truly can’t and when they are tired. We watched other runners that had to take themselves out of the race because they just weren’t able to go on. You need to be able to give your runner “permission” if they ask you if it’s okay to stop or ask your opinion, assess the situation and give your honest answer.
5. Be aware of what the aid stations have to offer your runner….like us, it may become necessary to take advantage of things like the Drip-Drop to help your runner along.
6. Drive the race route the day before and discuss with your runner points that you may want to meet them, talk about the expected pace they will have and make sure you have a way to stay in touch with your runner during the race.
I am your friendly Travel Professional with Kingdom Magic Vacations and a runner as well. My first RunDisney Race was in 2010, the Wine & Dine Half Marathon Relay…and since then I’ve been hooked on Disney races and others. Some of my favorites are the Wine & Dine Half Marathon, the Turtle Krawl 5K and the USA Beach Running Championships. If you’re a runner and you need help with travel plans for a race, don’t hesitate to contact me! I’m here to help you and support your efforts!