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The importance of a support team to Ultra runners

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Posted by Cags R under Ultrarunning on 17 September 2012 at 11:00 PM

Ultra runners take on some of the toughest endurance challenges in the world but what difference does it make to have a support team there to make it a smoother run?

Rory Coleman - world record holder and Ultra running events organizer, explains the importance of having your own support team:

Having your own team is vital for any race over 50 miles I would say. Having people that understand you and your needs and are rooting entirely for you makes a massive difference. On our races we like to offer that kind of support to our runners giving them personal encouragement and attention at all times. Support can be the make or break of any race…
 

Last month, Ben R ran the Ultra Trail du Mt Blanc - the 170km course was cut short to 100km due to the extreme snowy conditions on the day of the event!

Over the 23 hours of the race, Ben had a 3 man support team (plus his parents!) to help him at every step of the way. Jack A was one of the 3 and recalls the experience of what to expect as a support team:

Our main tasks included keeping him topped up with Jelly Babies, ensured he had dry socks/t-shirts ready if needed, let your runner know what’s coming up till the next refreshment post and of course keep him motivated! Along the finishing straight we ran with Ben and the crowds were absolutely incredible! 


The finish line was all smiles and cheers, but it's a long 100km to get to that point. As a support team we had to work hard to keep him mentally motivated and physically prepared with food and dry clothing.

"Having a great support team is the difference between quitting or finishing. Without the solace of knowing my team awaited me I would've given up for sure."

Rule 1 is always being there before your runner! We learnt this the hard way when Ben arrived an hour earlier than we’d expected and he had to wait a couple of minutes for us to arrive. No matter what, be there, it may be cold, it may be raining but its nothing compared to what your runner is going through!

Ben's girlfriend Nikki advises:

Stay Relentlessly Positive

Remain always encouraging

Smile your ass off

And remember this, whoever you’re supporting was a Champion before the race started!

If you're interested in Ultra running and would like to join a community of running-crazed lunatics, then a great way to get into it is to volunteer as a support team. Check out local races near you (or go for an international one and combine it with a holiday!), contact the organisers and offer to volunteer - they'll always be glad of more help!

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    Comments

    20140226194307-cags

    Thanks Louise - have you ever stewarded an event?

    20120914044717-silverfox

    No I haven't but thinking of offering to help in some way at teh West Highland Way race next year as I would like to run it in 2014. Your blog was very inspirational and motivational!

    Cags R encouraged this.

    20121217225936-ckettman

    Its so true - every person I've spoken with who has doen Ultras always praise their crew. It can make or break the experience for them. I'd love to be able to do that someday for one of my friends. Very great blog post!

    Cags R encouraged this.

    20130718100342-jack

    If any TS users ever get the chance to be on a support team definitely go for it, it's an amazing experience and so inspiring!

    Ben R encouraged this.

    20130429143836-begallant

    Great blog! Running-crazed lunatics indeed! I can't wait to join your ranks! Someday... someday... :D

    Cags R and Ben R encouraged this.

    20130324210646-ricardo051178

    Would agree fully on the need for a good team. Generally have a team of cheer leaders and food/drink givers for anything from a marathon and up! Completed a 33 mile ultra back in February, running round for 5 hours in -10 winds, snowy kentish fields and no training (my friends view me as barking mad!) gave me an a breif insight into what a team can do for you, handing out food, and cheers of encouragement as I went steaming by. Would love to do the North Downs Way 100 next year. Found this artical very interesting to read.

    Cags R encouraged this.

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