Canadian in Candia

July 24, 2009

Vermont 100 – The People Behind the Racers

Filed under: Races — Tags: , , — Miriam @ 12:00 pm

As a handler for a 100 mile race we must drive 120 miles.

As a pacer you must run/walk 30 miles overnight and be cheerful about it. We’ll talk more about pacers in a later post.

IMGP1405The handlers at least only have to be cheerful for the few minutes the runner comes through the aid station. The rest of the time we can be insane, cranky, bored and anything else we feel like being. We waste time getting lost, we doodle because we are bored, we take pictures of the horsies. Mostly we spend way too much time repeatedly going over what the runner has requested for their next stop off.

The handlers or crew usually consists of family and friends willing to watch the sunrise if necessary to help the runner reach their goal. They forgoe sleep, food, cleanliness (we do use porta-potties) and their favorite hobbies for the love of their runner. And yet they seem to love it.

There is no way to truly describe the transformation that occurs when the crew member spots their runner. They go from “wow this is boring” to “how quickly can I perform these actions”. No matter how carefully you plan your runner’s items, they will want something else. They will want a pair of socks they don’t own, or wonder why you didn’t bring them ice cream at 2 am. The best thing to do is to deal with these requests in a cheerful manner. A gentleman told me at one point that crew stands for Cranky Runner Excessive Wants.


We are the calculators that tell the runners how they are doing pace wise. We are the check points that verify salt, food and liquids intake. We take off smelly socks and help dress blisters. We function as cheerleaders, encouraging runners to keep going when they think they should quit.

Sometimes the runner really does need to quit, but it’s our job to keep them positive. We encourage them to take a rest if they need to. We give them time to think about it. But we don’t make the decision for them.


One more reason why handlers are important, we are the keepers of the cameras and layers of clothes. We take those pictures at the end of a race. We encourage our runners to get into something dry and cosy right after the race. I noticed this last point especially when I waiting for Adam in the medical tent. A runner and his pacer showed up at the tent because they were freezing cold. Their handler had their layers and their handler was no where to be seen.


A good crew can make a huge difference to the runner.

And then you have spectators like Drew. Drew goes driving around cheering for all the young guys he used to hike with who turned into ultrarunners.
IMGP1682(I’ve actually known Drew as long as I’ve known Adam, the three of us were part of the same Presidential Range Traverse almost 4 years ago.)



  1. This is so amazing. It seems like a really cool event. I don’t think I would actually like to run the entire thing but maybe be a pacer or something.

    Comment by Jes — July 25, 2009 @ 7:59 am

    • It’s definitely a cool thing to be behind the scenes at. I think the runners are all a little crazy. I bet you would do fine as a pacer.

      Comment by Miriam — July 25, 2009 @ 8:52 am

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