What I’d want in an ultramarathon crew

As I’ve battled with injury the past few weeks, I’ve familiarized myself with several ultramarathon running documentaries. One thing that’s stood out to me across the board is watching how different runners approach the parts of the race in which they are no longer running, when the focus turns instead to those around them. This has caused me to hypothesize as to how I would handle the various aid stations of a race, and what I would want in an ultramarathon crew.

With that, I break down the characteristics I’d be looking for in a crew-mate between the two key types of crew members (aid and pacers).


In a dire and desperate state of an ultra, I’d likely want someone that could be motivating, positive and capable of holding a conversation. I might not want to do too much talking myself, but I’d be fine with someone talking at me for the duration of the race, and keeping me focused on the task at hand. Running long distances can become mentally exhausting, and after a certain point, the flow state becomes mush and delirium. I think this is why pacers even exist to begin with in these races, ensuring runners stay safe through the darkness of the night and don’t wander off thinking that the garbage can they are talking to is actually a person.

The other essential would be in finding someone who can hold the pace I’m looking to run, without getting in the way, pushing the envelope too fast, or slogging along too slow. It would be beneficial for the pacer to have an awareness of when to pace from the side, from the front or from behind, and to keep the focus on ensuring I’m having a successful race. In dark, rocky, ridge-filled terrain, it may be beneficial for my pacer to go in front and use their headlamp as an additional source of light. In many other moments, such as the end, it would be more beneficial for them to pace from the side or behind. Devon Yanko describes her pacers as ’emotional support donkeys’, which I find both amusing and helpful in this analogy.


When it comes to aid stations, I’m finding that runners have a whole mixed bag of strategies when it comes to rest, recovery, relaxation and their interactions with their crew. Gary Robbins appears very directive when instructing his crew members on what he wants, and his instructions are short and succinct. Others seem to leave it more in the hands of their crew to tell them what they need and suggest different foods that they may enjoy.

For me personally, knowing that I don’t necessarily love being told what to do, I’d want an aid crew that would be unafraid to ask how they can help and what I need, rather than trying to make decisions for me. It would be even more imperative that these crew members stay positive and keep me motivated, rather than telling me that I can’t do something that I have my mind set on.

I would give clear instructions to my aid crew in advance, and use any of their skills to bring out the best in my race day performance. This might mean that if someone is particularly knowledgeable on navigation or climbing or fueling, I may want their advice both in advance and in the moment. I also wouldn’t want to be swarmed by several people at once asking questions and trying to direct, so I’d personally like to keep my team small. Ideally, the crew would even include a higher ratio of people that are with me for the adventure, rather than to coach me through the pain.

The dream would probably be to have a crew of other positive, motivating ultra runners who have been there before and know what it takes to push past the pain. But familiar faces and close friends that can remind me what I’m doing the race for would also be beneficial. Overall, it should be a mix of both knowledgeable experts, and motivators, so long as they all have a positive frame and an approach mindset.

What do you want in an ultramarathon crew? Be sure to share your thoughts and start a conversation. Who knows?! Maybe I’ll even join your crew one day or vice versa. You never know unless you start that conversation.

Be sure to check out more of our content below, and join our community!

Thanks for reading & see you soon!

Strava Profile | Rhys Desmond


High ambition, high caution: my new running motto

As I enter a new phase in my running career and take on a cautious approach to dedicated training, I find myself balancing the line between all of these crazy ambitions I have within my running career, and accomplishing those ambitions in the most cautious ways possible.

Around the Bay & the quest for intentional training

Since March has rolled in, it’s been all the more imperative me to slightly adapt my approach to what’s coming at the end of March – Around the Bay 30k. Around the Bay is one of Canada’s most famous races, and is often stacked with a deep field of runners from a variety of categories…

My best mistake was plantar fasciitis

As much as the past three months have been somewhat brutal from both a physical and mental perspective (I even thought I’d have to retire at one point!), plantar fasciitis has been one of the greatest learning experiences I could have asked for in my running journey. I now feel like I’m setting myself up…


2 responses to “What I’d want in an ultramarathon crew”

  1. […] you want to crew me for my first ultra on Sunday July 30, 2023, check out What I’d want in an ultramarathon crew. Be sure to check out more of our content below, and join the B2B […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: