Although not common in most obstacle races a crew does pop up in some of the more extreme endurance events like Worlds Toughest Mudder as well as is commonplace in ultramarathons and other endurance endeavors. Who you pick for your crew can be just as important as your training, your gear, and your travel plans. A good crew can make an event whereas a bad crew can literally derail your entire race.
What is a Crew?
In long races a crew is your support team. They are your go to people while you are racing. Depending on the race a crew can be fixed in one location, like in Worlds Toughest Mudder, or they can be moving with you on the course, like many ultras including the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning races. Normally a crew consists of 1 or more people dedicated to helping you finish your race. A typical number of people in a crew is around 2 people but can also be more.
What Does a Crew Do?
Depending on the race a crew can serve several functions depending on the race and the needs of the racer. One of the main tasks of the crew is to serve as the brain for the racer, they need to anticipate their needs in terms of gear, nutrition, hydration, and overall wellbeing. The crew is also a guide when it comes to a racers competitors and can give the racer updates as to what is happening on course.
During a long endurance event often a racer goes through varying mental states and the crew is the glue that holds their race together.
For races like Worlds Toughest Mudder, the crew should have the food, drink and whatever clothing changes are needed before the racers get into the pit area. For point-to-point races, the crew needs to get to the next checkpoint ahead of the runner and have all their needs and anticipate their wants ahead of time.
Another important job of the crew is to keep their racer moving. This is particularly important in the night hours of a race where it is easy to stop, rest, relax and even quit. The crew is the one who needs to be there and push them to continue on even in the darkest times. They are your motivator.
Who Makes a Good Crew?
Knowing what a crew is and what they do, the next important step is to pick the right crew person or team. Many people out of ease pick their significant other, parent, or sibling as they can sometimes be the only ones who are willing and have the time to make a commitment to a race weekend.
While these can be great options as they often know you the best of anyone they can also be the worst options for some. If you want to have a family member crew for you it's important for them to know what your goals are, how you will react in times of stress, and they need to know endurance racing can get messy and ugly. You, the racer, will go through painful moments and it might be hard for a loved one to watch. Many, however, have a great experience with their loved ones and take comfort in the support.
Friends and training partners can make great support teams especially training partners as they know what you are like while in action. Friends and training partners will often be able to push you further than a family member would and be able to handle the tough moments better than a loved one.
But ultimately finding the best crew is what works well for you. It's about surrounding yourself with the people who will support you and push you at the same time. Its also about finding the people who will not take your crap at 3:00 am when everything is telling you to stop. Finding that good team is key to having a great race.
A good rule of thumb is to have a pack, whatever is said on course stays on course. There are no hard feelings of comments made in the middle of a 24-hour or longer race.