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Long live the crew!

Her smile … sigh … A quick kiss and I’m on my way. Twelve kilometers to go to the next refreshment post, where I will see here again. I can do this. Running is so much easier with a crew on my side.

This crew-thing is all new for me. New for us. Us is Sara and me. I’m the runner, Sara is my crew on these ultras. The Mighty Marathon at the MUT Festival in the Ardennes in Belgium is my third ultra. A mini-ultra, with only 45 kilometers, but still an ultra. I could have done this alone, but it’s more fun doing it together.

Help from my parents

Not only with Sara, also with my parents and their dog Bruni. They are here today as well. We gave them a long weekend away for their birthdays. We’re staying at a nice, little holiday home, Roeskouter, in Lierde, just around the corner of Geraardsbergen where the race is. The three of them are following me today from refreshment post to refreshment post.

Every race has its own rules. At the MUT Festival a crew is allowed to wait 50 meters outside of the refreshment post for their runner. At the first two stops their support has been mostly mentally. A quick word, a smile and a kiss from Sara. And I have to say, just seeing them makes me happy.

Load of my shoulders

When I run onto the Markt in the center of Geraardsbergen the sun has come out. This refreshment post is the last one before the finish. From here onward it’s more or less 8 kilometers to the finish. By now not only are my legs painful, but also my shoulders. I’ve been running with 2 soft flasks filled with 600 milliliter of water and Isostar, a handful of bars, my phone, a waterproof jacket, emergency blanket and a dry shirt in my running vest. I’m happy to leave some of it with my parents and to take off a layer. Altogether it’s maybe just a kilo, but every kilo counts.

I know I see them just for a couple of moments, a couple of minutes on a run of five and a half hours, but they make me feel good. The race is beautiful, I chat with lots of runners, but seeing them is something extra.

Ultra running is an emotional journey

These days I’m reading The rise of the ultra runners by Adharanand Finn. He started running ultras without a crew and noticed as well that ultras can make you emotional. You go through different states of mind while running. A hug can do wonders, or just somebody to talk to when you finish.

In later races he has his wife (and friends) by his side to spur him on, to console him. I haven’t read a lot about the importance of a crew during an ultra run. I think it’s an overlooked part, yet it’s an important one. A crew can pull you through, if you’re having a dip. They can think for you when your mind goes blank after hours and hours of running. A crew is part of you.

Encouraging messages

At least that’s how I experience it during my first steps on the ultra circuit. In Sussex, when I ran my first ultra, my parents followed me from home, with the help of the Garmin tracker. They sent me encouraging messages. Sara was there for me on site. Here in Belgium all three of them are there for me. Four, including the dog, who is happily licking the salt off my legs. Maybe ultra running is more a team sport than it looks like. So long live the crew!

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