Individual or Team Sport?

Do you think of running as a team or individual sport? One of the appealing things about running, for me, was that I could do it as an individual. When I began running my schedule was such that no one else in their right mind wanted to do (2 am long runs since I had young children).

It wasn’t until years later that I began running with friends and on a team (relay team). I loved running with my team and would love to pull another team together for more relay races in the near future.

But Ultrarunning as a team? Why not? I’ve met many couples who run as a team and some running partners/friends who run as a team. I think this can be very beneficial to many people and if you are a social runner, I highly encourage you to find others who are social runners and make it a team event.

The most difficult decision a team must make is if one drops out do the others? What if one runner just doesn’t have it that day, and so they are going at a much slower pace than what the others can do. Does everyone slow down (no runner left behind kinda thing)? I think these are questions every team should answer before showing up to the starting line.

If you are teamed up with another runner and are sharing a crew and pacers, the questions above become even more relevant if you’re going to continue while a teammate either slows down or drops from the race.

I’ve trained with other runners and have always been very upfront about race day and running together. If we happen to be going at the same pace great, if not, we’ll wait for each other at the finish line. To sum it up-training together doesn’t mean racing together.

Even if you don’t run with someone else, ultrarunning can still be viewed as a team event because there are few ultrarunners who get through a race alone. You have your pacers and your crew and they are your team. Choosing individuals who work well together is very important. The more you work with them as if they are a team the better your outcomes will be. Conducting team meetings and recruiting the same people for multiple events will help you achieve better outcomes at your races. Obviously, these people must love you and you’re likely crewing/pacing for their races.

For those out there who think that ultrarunning is a lonely sport, you are sadly mistaken. We are a tribe of individuals who share a passion for putting one foot in front of the other. Although our teams look different than those of a cross country team, they are likely more closely bonded with one another than many other sports teams. After all, sacrifice, suffering, sleepless nights, and a common cause form bonds that run deeper than the blood we leave on the trails.

To Know or Not to Know

When you register for a race do you really want to know what you are in for? There are two sides to this argument as there is to pretty much anything running related. I’ve approached races from both ends of this spectrum and at various points between.

The obvious benefit to knowing the course is you know how to exactly how to train. You may actually be able to train on the course. You are also less likely to get off course during the race. It also makes it easier to anticipate what you will need at each aid station because you can give a better guess at what time you will come into each aid station.

The potential down side to knowing, you can psych yourself out and worry about particular points in the course. I have a fear of heights and have avoided watching videos of the courses because I can get myself worked up if I think there is going to be a section with big drops and narrow trail.

If you do have fears about certain aspects of courses, you should be training in areas where you have to face those fears. When I’ve gotten to sections where there is drops during a race, I’m able to push through them because I’m in race mode. However, it would be better if I just didn’t get so worked up.

You can also begin to question your ability to complete the course or to deal with aspects of it. Sometimes just having to deal with a situation when it is happening rather than stressing about it is an effective strategy.

The middle ground would be knowing the amount of ascent and descent for the course overall. Knowing that is going to give you enough of an idea to shape your training program to fit the course.

You may choose different styles depending on how far the race is. With a 50k, you’ll finish in less than twelve hours and won’t have a crew. For a 50 miler, you may have pacers and a crew, but i’ll finish within 12-15 ish hours.

One hundreds are different and a lot more planning goes into them. It is better to know more about the course.

When you are using a crew and pacers, the more you know about the course the better it will be for for them because you are going to be able to provide them with more information about what to bring for themselves and when they will be meeting you at each aid station.

If there are big breaks in the time your crew will have the chance to sleep, eat and go to get anything you or they need off the course (depending on how close services are of course).

Knowing the course allows you to build a better strategy. Get to know it as much as you can. Find profile maps, youtube videos, talk with other runners, you’ll be better off in the long run and so will your pacers and crew.

Don’t Let Me Give Up and Don’t Let Me Die


This is my last week of hard training before I begin my taper for the Buffalo Run 100. I was going to do the 24 hours in Moab, but decided that financially, Buffalo Run 100 is better for my crew and me. Spongebunny and J$ ran with me Saturday morning and afterward I took Spongebunny out to the Buffalo course.

He has agreed to be my pacer for miles 50-70. J$, as always, will pace for miles 75-100. Buffalo Run is on Antelope Island, which is the largest island in the Great Salt Lake. The race is on trails 98% of the time. Runners run almost all the way around the island, twice for 100 milers. The race starts and finishes at the same location, White Rock Bay. Spongebunny will meet me at White Rock Bay at about 11:00 p.m.

I pointed toward the mountains on the west side of the island. “That’s where we will be running. We’ll go up to that ridge and over to the beach and then back. There’s one aid station and we will go through it three times.”

He nodded his head, “okay.”

What else is he going to say?

We drove around the other side of the island so he could see the rest of the course.

“So what does a pacer do exactly?” he asked.

A pacer runs with the race participant. They are the rational mind if/when the runner becomes delirious or confused. They make sure the runner does not get lost. They make sure their runner eats and drinks when they should, even if the runner doesn’t “want” to do it. They take note if the runner is limping. They help tie shoes and massage legs. They provide entertainment and distraction from the cold and aches.

A pacer cannot “mule” or carry any of the runners stuff. They can hold it while the runner uses the bathroom or vomits on the side of the trail, but they cannot carry it while running.

What pace does the pacer run? This is something that you have to talk about before. As a pacer, you want to keep the runner moving as quickly as they can given the miles they have already done and the amount of miles they have in front of them. Sometimes the runner can just tell them, “We need to maintain a 9 minute pace to make my goal time.”

Sometimes it’s, “”Don’t let me go slower than a 15 minute mile.”

When things are interesting it could be, “I don’t care if I have to crawl, just get me across that finish line before the cut off.”

A pacer balances these two things: don’t let me give up and don’t let me die.