Sunday, July 08, 2012

On crewing (2)

Dear Diary,

A lot has been written about the logistics of crewing. But having been crewed once, and having observed other crews, and been crewing Sweet Baboo for the past few years, I felt like I wanted to weigh in on some other aspects of crewing. I had a pretty good crew to work with this weekend, and I am grateful for it. I forgot for a few minutes that I was supposed to be in charge but overall, our crew was pretty great.

What follows is long, but I feel it's important.

First, If you are expecting a grateful runner, and running in with them to the finish, and you're hurt because someone snapped at you or you didn't get to be in charge, or your feelings are hurt because someone else got to help your runner or you didn't, get over it. You are there to work. Put your self-entitlement aside. Crewing is about getting the runner to the finish line safely, and as comfortably as one can finish 50, 100k, or 100 miles. It's about the runners. Being there is a privilege, and it's hard work. It you can't accept that, you shouldn't be crewing.

The crew should have a crew chief. The crew chief alone communicates with the runner and the pacer and then gives directions to the crew. The chief should be take-charge, and familiar with crewing and ultra-running. If you have an idea, make a suggestion during a calm moment. Do not argue while caring for the runner. If only one person is allowed into an aid station, that is the crew chief. Do not get caught up having your feelings hurt. It isn't about you. It's about the runners.

Be prepared to perform grooming in a car. Be ready for all your meals to be "to go". Pack as though you were camping. Wear comfortable clothes and dress in layers. Be prepared to not get enough sleep. If the crew chief says we are leaving now, be ready to be left behind if you aren't ready to move. Maybe they'll be back for you. Maybe you'll need to catch another ride with another crew. Put aside pride, the need to be recognized, to be pretty, to smell good, and to party. This is work. Don't get all pissed off because you didn't get your favorite food, or couldn't follow your special diet for 24 hours. If the runner gets a little bitchy and snaps at you, get over it. If you want a fun weekend, then be a spectator and stay out of the way. You have no "rights." Ask if you can have something from the aid station. Move back and out of the way. It is not about you. It is about the runners.

Notice that I said "runners". We want everyone to finish. If you see another runner in distress, help them. Don't tell another crew that you're "saving this space" for "our runner". We are all working together for the runners. If you couldn't make it on time to an aid station to help your runner, you'd want someone to help them out, right? Help out others. And always thank the volunteers. Even the cranky ones. It isn't about you. It's about the runners.

Finally, anyone that requires special care, and/or does not provide direct care to the runner, should not be there. Children and pets are spectators, not crew. They lack the capacity for the selflessness that is needed for crewing. This is not the time to have family time, or teach them valuable lessons. It wastes time that is needed to care for the runner. Take them to one or two spectating areas and let them work in signs and cheer, bur don't drag them to every aid station. They get in the way. They need sleep and don't understand why it is cold, or hot, or raining, and they get tired and hungry.

Remember, It's about the runners. Work or get out of the way. Your satisfaction should be from knowing that you helped another person accomplish something amazing. You may be recognized for this. You might not. Be honored that you are witness to the pain, and joy, and suffering. That is what crewing is. It is nothing else.



  1. Hi Misty,
    I've been reading your blog for a few years now--you've inspired me! I just signed up for the Mt. Taylor 50k, my first ultra and was wondering if you know much about it. Is this its first year? I'm doing Beach 2 Battleship 3 weeks later--am I crazy for having signed up for Mt. Taylor? Thanks for your thoughts...

  2. Kind of sounds like you encountered some people who didn't exactly have the whole crewing thing down.

  3. I've been trying to figure out how to get my point across without sounding "mean", so please try to keep that in mind. Your post comes across as incredibly elitist. The day that the act of running becomes more important that people and spectators and family is the day I stop running. I understand that ultras are important to you, but wow. The importance you place on it in this post is, IMO, incredibly misplaced. If I were to become this selfish in running I'd want my family to give me a good kick in the ass.

  4. Well, what can I say other than: Suck it. I think it's elitist to expect a working crew to make way for someone standing around and waving a sign.
    Kathy, this isn't a marathon. This is 100 miles and all the participants have trained long grueling hours. The runners have sacrificed a great deal to be there and to run that race. Not getting the right aid from their crew can and has made the difference between finishing or not finishing. And I never said "no spectators". I said that they should get out of the way and limit their spectating to where they won't interfere with working crews.

  5. From my perspective as a runner I see crewing as an incredibly altruistic act. The GeekGrl comes from a place of being passionate about crewing and protective of me, her runner, and for that I am grateful. Every runner should have such an advocate and I am humbled in the face of such devotion. It challenges my very humanity and forces me to ask the question “Just how good a person am I?”
    As a runner though, I have no right to make such strong demands or have such high expectations. That indeed would be the height of elitism and would warrant a good kick in the ass. My friends and family would be well advised to abandon me to my selfishness were I to act so self-entitled.
    I hope this helps to clarify the points about crewing. In this light I say that anyone would be truly blessed to have their running evolve to the point of running ultras where such acts of human kindness are relatively common place. The relationship between runners is like that of comrades in arms but the relationship between crew and the runner is much closer to that of a parent and child. It is beautiful.

  6. I am an ultra runner and it is a very selfish sport. If you are lucky enough to have crew, it should be more of a business-like a pit crew with an Indy 500 car. The crew and the runner have the same goal-to get that runner to the finish line. So yes, it is ALL ABOUT the runner. See first statement about selfishness. If you have not been around an ultra of 50 miles or beyond, it might not make alot of sense.
    I've only had the pleasure of crew once and yep, I did not worry about their sleep or food schedule. They were committed to caring for me and my needs, and I was very grateful to them. I've also crewed for runners and was prepared to drop everything and actually pace my runner in..because he needed it.
    So, good post GeekGirl. I've seen alot of different styles of crewing out there, from the truly efficient to I'm sure well meaning people who did not have a clue.
    I've been meaning to write some "how to" posts on how to run an Aid Station, I may have to work on some "crewing" posts of my own after I get this run done this weekend!!!


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