Any ultra runner could tell you that they are only half as strong as their pacers and crew. Pacers tend to bring the strength and positive energy, pushing weary runners through the emotional and actual peaks and valleys of the race. They remind their athlete to eat, drink, pee, and keep forward movement to stay on pace, all while echoing phrases like, “I think we should both have some water,” and “do you think you can jog a little while you cry?”
While the pacers are more “boots on ground” the crew is like a special-ops team driving through the night, lugging heavy bags full of things the runner may, or may not, want; while discussing every bodily function of the runner in order to keep them healthy and functioning. The unofficial acronym of CREW is Cranky Runners, Endless Waiting-which while pessimistic, is at least half true. There is a lot going down on the trail, and at most ultras, the crew has absolutely no real guess at to how long a runner could be out at any given section. So they sit, wait, reorganize, wait, eat, take photos, wait, and finally spring into action to change disgusting shoes, refill packs, and wipe tears.
It takes time to hone in one’s skills to be a supporting member of an Ultra Marathon runner’s team, and often the strongest pacers and crew are athletes themselves, making them better able to anticipate the needs of the runner.