skip to Main Content
Support Our Cause by Donating Through PayPal
Juana Cruz Garcia en Puerto Vallarta by UTMB 2022

How to Crew Ultra Runners: A Complete Guide for Crew Members

Crewing an ultra-distance race is an intense experience. It’s a full-on commitment that you will need to prepare for and be dedicated to so the runner can depend on you on race day.

You need to be reliable, determined, prepared, organized, motivated, and tough in a military kind of way.

These extreme races take some extreme commitment from everyone involved.

At Oax Sport, we support ultra runners right from training through to race day, so we know what works best for our runners and us.

Our trail-running community gives male and female athletes opportunities to train and compete in trail, marathon, and ultramarathon running.

Here we share an outline of how to support a trail runner during a race, including helping your ultra runner prepare for the race – and supporting them on race day.

What is a crew member, and what are their responsibilities?

Running an ultra race requires a lot of preparation and support. Runners need someone on the sideline for morale and motivation, backup nutrition and hydration, keeping spare gear at the ready, monitoring them to ensure they are physically okay, and taking photos and videos so the moment can be recorded (plus a tonne more random things that you won’t find out until they happen).

A crew member needs to stay calm and be a source of mental and moral support during the entire event.

While the runner is putting in the hard yards, it means everything to a runner to know someone is there for them, so they can focus on making the distance without worrying about other details.

You will need to have a pre-race meeting or meetings to make sure everyone is on the same page so you can work together as a team.

Study the Course Ahead of Time

Courses can vary radically, so as crew, you must research the course details beforehand. Being adequately prepared will make all the difference:

Know the following information before race day:

  • Parking locations for race day
  • Drop bags locations for runners
  • Expected arrival times for registration
  • The time of the pre-race briefing
  • The time of race departure
  • Aid Station location – Know what times your runner expects to arrive at each aid station and if you expect to meet them there.
  • How you will get to the next aid station to stay ahead of your runner
  • Other places you can wait for your runner with gear or anything they may need and to cheer them on
  • Places other supporters and family member will be during the race
  • Calculate which area of the race will be traversed during the night so you can be prepared
  • Weather conditions expected – ensure you know hourly how the weather will be. Hot, humid, cold? Snowing or raining? This will affect the gear your runner will need on hand and the type of nutrition they may need.
  • Have GPX files and handwritten directions for the race (in case of no service)
  • Make sure to have contact details of at least one family member of the runner.
  • Know if your runner intends to sleep – when and how – in a chair. Lying down? Night or day?
Roque Luis Garcia

Gather the Right Gear

You will need to pack this type of gear for the runner. However, don’t over pack – you may need to walk some distance to get to aid stations and meeting points. Ensure you know where all the gear is so you can access it quickly if the runner requests it.

List of gear for an ultra trail race:

  • Spare shoes ready for shoe swap
  • Spare Compression socks
  • Hydration
  • Spare Running Clothes – Technical t-shirts, shorts or leggings, and socks
  • A lightweight jacket
  • Brimmed hat
  • Sunglasses with UV
  • Headlamp
  • Trekking poles
  • Water bottles

Crew gear you will need for yourself

It’s your job to look after yourself too. You must be well prepared and in good condition to make it through. Make sure you wear comfortable clothes and shoes, have a good watch (backup in case your cellphone runs out of battery). And something to help you carry everything as efficiently as possible. Make sure to pack well in advance – there is a lot to remember, so packing in advance will help ensure you have everything you will likely need.

The types of things you will need to pack:

  • Your own food and drinks
  • Your own clothing for all weather events
  • Phone and battery charger (you won’t have access to recharge during the race)
  • Fold up chair
  • Water bottles
  • Umbrella
  • Hat and sunscreen

Know your Runner and their Goals

Make sure to have the following discussions, so you are entirely up to speed for the big day and can work together with the athlete to achieve their goals:

  • Discuss their race plan, so you have a good idea of their expectations and can support them in that by keeping them updated and motivating them
  • Know what pace they hope to hold and have an idea of where they will be during the course, and have it planned out where you will meet them along the way.
  • What they would like you to say to them during the competition. What motivates them best? What will keep them going until the end? Knowing your runner will help you be there for them when needed.

Morale, Motivation and Safety

Know what times the runner expects to be at each station and keep an eye on their progress so you can let them know how they are going and encourage them along the way.

Stay cool. Be efficient and confident when your runner finally arrives at a crew point. Listen to their needs and take note of their condition. Do you need to suggest some food or hydration they may not think they need? Be a voice of reason for them. Motivate them to keep going and send them back out confident and ready.

Safety is your number one priority. Watch for signs of serious problems such as joint injuries, heat stroke, altered mental state, or any other significant issues. If you are not an experienced runner, you may need to call on a medical volunteer or experienced trail runner to help you make a safety assessment.

Rosalino Meneses Lopez
Rosalino Meneses Lopez

Creating a Nutrition and Hydration Strategy

Know if they plan to take rests along the way and have a plan around food. For example, do they plan to eat a few meals or snacks? What kind of foods do they need you to have ready for them?


It will be important to the runner that you take photos and record videos for them. An ultra-distance run is a real feat, and sharing the experience after will be very important to them.

They may want to forget the pain, but they will want to share their experiences with everyone when they are done.

Tips For First-Time Crew Members

Participating in a multi-day or ultra-running event as a member of the crew can be intimidating and overwhelming, especially if you are doing so for the first time.

It is important to stay positive and maintain communication with the runner and your crew teammates to keep everyone motivated.

Additionally, make sure to anticipate the runner’s needs – not only their physical needs but also mental ones.

Make sure to look after yourself too – get rest when you can and keep food and drink for yourself on hand and eat and drink when you need to.

Planning will help ensure that changes on the fly won’t be too difficult to handle.

Enjoy being part of such an incredible process – from watching your teammate push through moments of doubt to crossing the finish line.

© Ultra Trail México Series. Todos los derechos reservados.
© Ultra Trail México Series. Todos los derechos reservados.


After the race, congratulate yourself, your runner, and all your teammates! You’ve done it—an epic mental and spiritual feat. Just finishing a course is extraordinary and worth celebrating.


Ok, there’s going to be an after-party—time to celebrate.

But make sure to go over the race and discuss how everything went. See what you could have done better and what equipment you ran out of or didn’t have. What didn’t you need? This will help you refine your crewing skills and improve the experience each time you crew.

Don’t Overthink it

If you haven’t been a part of a trail races crew previously, don’t worry, you have likely aided loved ones by various means throughout your life. By implementing the right strategies, you can become a phenomenal crew member.

It’s imperative that you pay close attention to what your runner requires, whether it’s basic sustenance, moral support, or refilling their hydration sources. You must also be equipped to handle any situation that arises, no matter how challenging it may seem.

When your runner is pushing their limits and facing difficulties, it is crucial that you remain positive and offer words of encouragement. Prove your mettle by being thoroughly prepared with all the necessities and exhibiting a high level of empathy and understanding towards your runner.

That said – let’s not forget to have fun and enjoy the experience as much as you can!

So happy to be a contributor to this dedicated organisation that backs local committed, talented athletes.
I am a sports lover and believe it brings everyone together from all walks of life in a genuine way. We have so much to share and enjoy together.

This Post Has 0 Comments

Leave a comment

Oax Sport