Ultra Crewing

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The author crewing for his ultra-running wife. 

The sport of ultra running can be such a selfish, personal, and independent existence. It is often hard to find ways to give back to those whom you assume can understand your nomadic ways. Day after day, week and week, month after month, year after year I spend a lot of time and energy crafting my sport of choice. Unless you are running for a school or a team, running is all about one person, yourself. However there is a great way to give something back and that is to help crew or cheer on a fellow runner.

My wife and I have spent an incredible amount of time training, which we usually do by ourselves. We often take turns watching over our daughter while the other runs. We have decided to skip many non-running related activities in lieu of our own running plans. On the flip side we do sometimes “support” or “crew” one another at some of our ultra distance races or events. This past weekend it was my turn, as I crewed for my super-human wife at the Freedom Park 24 Hour race. The ultimate in crewing duties, 24 hours of staying on your toes and making sure your partner has her needs met. You have to stay on top of all the nutritional requirements and have anything ready at a moments notice. You also have to become a cheerleader sometimes and help with the mental part of running for 24 hours straight. Doing both of these at the same time are not always easy to maintain for 24 hours straight. You certainly don’t want to complain to your runner. I had the …umm…easy part.

I’ve crewed for Anne before at a 24 hour race (1 mile loop) so I was prepared for what was to come. The same clichés are heard throughout the event by other spectators and crew members. Statements such as, “this is like watching paint dry” or “I can’t even drive my car that far” are heard frequently. Crewing for another runner for an extended amount of time is like running a long distance race in itself.  You have many of your own highs and lows. The start of the race is always exciting for me (one of the highs), then as things settle down it becomes rather mundane watching Anne go round and round (one of the lows). Then a few hours later Anne started to pass her competition or simply outlasted them, so I got excited and pumped up again (one of the highs). Then as nightfall set in and the caffeine waned, I myself got cold and tired (a big low). The night slowly evolved to morning and the thought of a possible PR and CR became quite evident. I once again was super motivated and much more upbeat for my wife (a big high).

Trying to keep on even keel and not show my own emotions to Anne was tough to do but something that was needed to be done. Instead I think I drove everybody else who was crewing or working the race a little nuts. I paced back and forth like a caged animal as the clock slowly counted down for what seem like an eternity. I constantly looked off in the same direction that Anne would circle some one hundred and forty two times. I felt like I was using some sort of mental telepathy to will her around the one mile loop those last couple hours.

In the end Anne had quite a successful race. She was most grateful for my efforts and told me so countless times. As I drove us home she said it must stink for me to be that tired and not have run my own race. I thought about that one for a bit. In actuality I was happy to be a part of it, witness someone who can run 140+ miles in 24 hours and to give a little bit of my time back. I was really tired and sleep deprived but pleased with myself for helping my partner. However I also know what goes around comes around……..

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