Race day is stressful for a runner. But for many a support crew out there it’s even more traumatic! Knowing where to go, being there on time, having everything organised and helping your runner get through the challenge is a logistical and emotional rollercoaster. So to help you survive the big day, here are a few tips.
- Know Where the Checkpoints are
This sounds obvious, right? Well, it’s one thing to know that you need to meet your runner at Checkpoint 3 (6Ft Track) but it’s a whole other story being well versed in how to get there and knowing the time it’ll take. Some checkpoints have parking right on site, others may require a walk. Also, get to know what will be supplied at them. It’s handy to keep in mind what the event makes available so you have options t your disposal and can communicate to your tired athlete what’s on hand. And another thing, know where the toilets are!
- Familiarise Yourself with their Gear
It pays to be well versed in the various bits and pieces of kit your runner has and how it all works and where they pack things. Bladders and soft flasks can be fiddly, headlamps might need new batteries, packs might need adjusting in a rush and it’s good to know where the pockets are so you can quickly refill them and empty the rubbish to streamline the checkpoint process.
- Learn About the Course
The more you know about where the course goes the better. This way you can talk your runner through what they have ahead of them and help them mentally prepare. It also means you will be aware of spots you might be able to cheer for them from that are outside of the locations where you can provide aid.
- Don’t take it Personally
In any ultra there are high and low points for a runner. One moment you feel amazing and are having the time of your life, the next you might be wishing you were home watching TV! It’s at the low points or later in the race when the fatigue is setting in that your runner might be a tad grumpy. Don’t take it to heart! Provide some comforting and positive words and be understanding that the demands of the trail can sometimes turn the happiest person into an asshole!
- Expect the Unexpected
Pack extra fuel, spare shoes and a change of running clothes just in case they need something due to bad weather, blisters or something unplanned. Arrive early to checkpoints in case they are ahead of schedule or you take a wrong turn on the way. Keep your phone charged and on-hand as you may get a call from the trails to say hi or in the case of an emergency.
- Prepare Before Departure
Before departing one aid station and heading to the next, get everything your runner will want at the following checkpoint ready. Fill water bottles, organise their nutritional supplies and any other things you will need to give them so that when you arrive on location you’re set to go. Plus it also means that if there’s something missing or you have to replace a damaged soft flask, you’ll know right away and can get onto sorting it out.
- Have Checklists
Go through everything the night before and make checklists of what your runner wants/needs throughout the day. The more detailed your notes the better so you don’t forget anything!
- Plan a Surprise
It’s always awesome to come into a checkpoint and be surprised by a special welcome sign or a visiting friend or family member. It provides a mental lift that can reinvigorate tired legs.
- Be Assertive
Your runner might think they’re fine and don’t need that extra gel or to have that cup of Coke they said they’d want the night before, however you should be confident in yourself and judgement and tell them to take it anyway. If you’re assertive then it can help your runner with making tough decisions and sticking to their plan. This also means you need to keep them on the trail! If things get tough, tell them their fine and to keep moving and you’ll meet them at the next checkpoint. Never provide them with an excuse to stop….unless of course they have an obvious medical reason to pull the plug.
- Enjoy Yourself
It’s a long day out, so make it a fun one. Take plenty of photos, meet or make new friends during the race, stay positive regardless of the stress of driving around chasing your runner. And don’t forget to eat and hydrate yourself!