Musical Camping: Ultramarathon Crewing

Oh, the things ultrarunners will do. Ultrarunning can seem like a selfish sport, where it’s all about the runner. It kind of is, but we all take our turn being crew members and pacers at ultra races, giving back and supporting other people’s dreams. It’s truly an amazing community.

I’m sure you’ve heard of the acronym C.R.E.W. Cranky Runner Endless Waiting. This acronym is pretty accurate, but the runner isn’t always cranky, they can be pleasant, as well. This is crewing.

You know what else crewing is? Musical camping. As my friend Jamie said I were chilling in the woods, crewing our runners. She was crewing our friend, Mike, and I was crewing my husband, Stephen. I was sitting in my comfy folding chair and Jamie on a cooler full of her runner’s beverages. It was evening and we had been up since stupid-o-clock in the morning. While chatting, I’m observing our community, our tribe. We’re all sitting there waiting on our runners and helping them out for a few minutes and then they’re off again.

“I don’t know what’s more ridiculous,” I said to Jamie while sipping coffee. “The runners or the crew members?” She looked at me, like “go on,” and I explained. We get up crazy early in the morning to crew these runners. Plug in a navigational coordinates to a GPS, usually don’t know where these spots are, unless you’ve crewed or volunteered at the race before. We also usually don’t know if our GPS will take us to the correct location. Once we drive miles, we unpack our runner’s gear, food, beverages, and little for ourselves. We mule it all out on the trail to the aid station and set up camp.

Next, we sit, we wait, enjoy the company of those around us and nature. Pee parties in the woods. We don’t know how long we will be there waiting for our runner, but may have an educated guess. Depending on their condition, the race course section, and the weather, it can take an hour, plus. When the runner arrives, we scramble to take care of them, like a NASCAR pit crew. Get them what they need, inform them of mileage, pace, time, and boost them up mentally. They take off down the trail slightly more refreshed after spending only 3 to 15 minutes with you. Crew then packs up, types in the next aid station coordinates, and the process starts all over again.

When I finished, we were chuckling about the ridiculousness. Jamie stated that she thinks the runners are more ridiculous than crew, which I agree. She added that crewing is fun, we get to just sit and hang out in nature. Continuing on, Jamie said, that she thinks of it as “musical camping.” It’s like musical chairs and camping combined. “Oh, really?” I said, smiling. Jamie explained that we move our chairs or camps from one location to the other, and repeat, “musical camping.” I’m a fan of that term, crewing is 100% musical camping.

P.C.: Sean Harcar

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