Why do you need a support crewUltra running is lonely. I know, I always say that ultra running isn't lonely. And it kind of isn't. But as nice and efficient and friendly and supportive event volunteers are - having someone at a Checkpoint that is there just for you is the most wonderful feeling in the world. This is equally true as the event gets deeper and darker into the night, and early morning, and as I learned at GNW100s, into the next day.
Being a support crew is not for everyone. You need to be a special kind of person to give up basically a whole weekend to sit around, waiting, often in the dark, and cold, so that someone else can tick something off a bucket list.
For the GNW, when KKB wasn't able to make it, I asked my dear friend SEG to crew for me. (You can read my post on the GNW in pictures post to find out why this meant a lot to me.)
So what does it take to be a support crew?
Once you've gotten up at stupid o'clock and got your athlete to the start line, there's a lot of down time, waiting, but also being in the right place at the right time. You have to have your game face on but you also have to go with the flow.
Have a plan.Plan not to use your athlete! You'll need a schedule of approximate arrival times for each checkpoint (your athlete should give you this). Make notes so you remember the actual arrival and departure times. I also gave my crew a list of what I'd need to do at each check point - new maps, switching gear, additional gear, change of clothes.
Navigation is also important. As a support crew you can cover up to a few hundred kms, all to a schedule (and someone else's unpredictable schedule). Navigation is important. Reliance on Google maps can be patchy, depending on whether you can rely on having internet access everywhere you're going. In this case, screenshots can help.
Make the most of downtimeFor SEG and JQ this meant exploring some of the country close to home that they hadn't seen before. They discovered some beautiful countryside (that I didn't really get the chance to take in) and some wildlife.
Manage sleep deprivation
When I got to CP3 I was so relieved to know that my support crew had slept. 36 hours is a long time for anyone. If you're not active, it must really suck. (Remind me never to crew for anyone attempting a 100 mile ultramarathon?)
So, back to planning - plan to have a suitable vehicle and some creature comforts to allow yourself some sleep. And don't forget to set an alarm!
Stay fuelled upFor SEG and JQ this also meant a diversion from their usually healthy style of eating. (I think they secretly enjoyed it.)
But equally you could pack an esky of your own food and take it with you. But remember, the food supplied at checkpoints is almost always exclusively for the runners. You won't be allowed to eat it and it's bad form to ask.
Find random ways to help
And seriously this could be anything. An unexpected treat for your runner, motivational signs, a hug (if you don't mind getting close to a sweaty smelly body), a spontaneous song or dance.
Here's JQ helping me get my mandatory gear in and out of my pack at the gear check at CP2. At one checkpoint he grabbed some wet wipes and cleaned off my dirt encrusted legs. Talk about going above and beyond! I didn't expect this kind of support but I so appreciated it.
Make the most of itCrewing is a big favour to ask and it's a big job to take on. To a runner, having someone who's important in their life to greet them at each checkpoint is a massive lift.
It's something that can create shared memories that last a lifetime. So enjoy it and savour it.