Three ultra marathons this year, all over 12hours, all rather wet, one freezing cold and all of them a challenge but not for me, they were a challenge for my primary support crew, the wife and the dog. She’s the designated driver – I don’t drive, she walks the hound while I run , giving him probably the most fun he’s had in a month but even a dog walk can’t last the whole length of me running. She carries my additional supplies, usually changes of clothing, spare socks, additional food and good cheer. She’s also my primary cameraman which I have to say I’m grateful for because over the last few years of racing she’s got some rather nice shots of me. She acts as support for the other runners as she waits at the checkpoints, often helping out the official runners, she’s a bit of a legend and I couldn’t do it without her, which is why I say my medals are often run for in her honour (and the dogs). But next year I’m running at least four ultra marathons, probably more likely seven or eight in an effort to ensure I get the UTMB points I so desperately crave and this leaves me with a problem – my friends aren’t really runners and they are spread out across the globe so asking them to crew for me is a bit of a no go and I’ve discovered that this is a problem for many of the ultra running fraternity. It seems to me that this is the greatest struggle of the ultra marathoner – that our nearest and dearest do get a bit bored of standing round at checkpoints waiting for us to turn up.
So what do we do? One solution, which is the one I will be adopting for at least my first couple of ultras next year is to run them completely solo. This offers a couple of unique experience challenges – I will have to carry all my own kit, there won’t be anything waiting for me at the mid point, it would just be me and the spare pair of Vibrams and 12litres of space in my Ultimate Directions vest. But then there is the alternative, ultra runners by their nature seem to gravitate towards one another and I know that at the very least a couple of my lovely twitter followers offered to support me on my aborted TG100 attempt and this gave me a thought – perhaps the Twitter community could be helping each other out? Now I don’t drive so I wouldn’t be much use in the driving round stakes but I would make a decent pacer for so someone doing a 100 miler to help them through those most difficult of stages. Plus this would be an excellent way for practice on some genuinely tough trails but also what fun knowing that you helped someone achieve their dream.
It seems to me that this makes for a way to give something back in addition to the volunteering element – something I also intend to get into over the next year or so.
So there we go twitter and wordpress I am offering myself out as crew, to help support one or more of my fellow runners, of course it’s subject to being available, free of injury and the like but then you racing is dependent on those factors too, but what needn’t be a factor is a lack of crew support. I hope more of the wonderful social media community will consider thinking about this too because as the song says ‘we get by with a little from our friends’.