Crewing and Pacing Tarawera Ultra

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Top tips for pacers and supporters at Tarawera Ultra










The best pacer is the one with you on the startline!

39833_423598637376_6590465_nThe most important things any runner could ever do is

  • understand how fit they are
  • know what time they are capable of running
  • have a plan
  • and execute it smartly.

Seek out someone that is in the same shape as you, compare notes and set out from the start with the intent to apply your fitness evenly across the course to achieve the best possible result.  You’ll pace one another from the very 1st km.

There is no point picking up a pacer for the last 40km if you’ve wrecked your race by running like a goose for the preceding 60km.  Use the ‘buddy-system’, get yourself a ‘wing-man’ and run smart from the start.  Feel free to kill each other in the closing hours but ensure you set yourself up well for that battle by running smart from the start.  One of the biggest difference between the elite runners and the rest is the pros run even splits.  Be like the pros!

Aid Stations,

There are 11 aid stations in the race.  Many are not accessible to supporters during the event.  The Aid Stations you can support your runner at are as follows:

  • Blue Lake
  • Okataina
  • Tarawera Outlet (not recommended)
  • Tarawera Falls (recommended)
  • Titoki
  • Fishermans Bridge
  • River Rd

TARAWERA_50K_2015_010689Tarry not at the Aid Stations once your runner has passed.  So often people fail to make it around to the next aid station before their runner arrives.  If your runner hits the Aid Station and you’re not there with the essentials assume the next conversation you have to take place via two very expensive lawyers.  I’m pretty sure this is how war broke out in Europe a century ago.

The trip from Blue Lake to Okataina is quite an undertaking.  Know where the buses operate from and get there to grab the first available one.  Once your runner has departed Okataina you have little time to pick your nose.  You gotta go!  Get the first bus back to your car and haul-ass to Kawerau ‘Pacer HQ’ before heading to into the Forest.


WARNING – Paul will run your ass off the road if you attempt to drive places you shouldn’t on race day.


Rolling resupply and rules for mules

There is an undocumented rule that 200m either-side of an Aid Station pacers and supporters can do pretty much anything to support their runner.  Outside of this 400m zone it is clearly understood that you may not touch your runner or provide any assistance other than moral support.  You may NOT pass them any fuel at any time outside of that ‘Aid Station support zone’.  If your runner falls you may not help them locate their teeth, reset a dislocated appendage or apply anti-chafe to an angry crevice.  It’s a tough old sport but rules have to apply to everyone, elites included.

What you CAN do though…
Stand within 200m of the Aid Station and have everything your runner needs ready.  As they approach have them dump their gear and pick-up the resupply from you.  If you’re sharp you can do this at their run pace thereby not hindering their progress at all.  Doing this prior to the Aid Station means the runner can arrive at the Aid Station with their resupply and still have the opportunity to grab a purple jet plane (everyone knows that’s the best jet plane).  Be aware though that 200m prior to Blue Lake puts you on the road, 200m prior to Okataina puts you in a difficult bit of single track, 200m prior to Tarawera Falls puts you on a busy stretch of river.  It might just be easier in some cases to meet them at the Aid Station.  Safety first.

Similarly, pacers can help runners with their resupply within 200m of an Aid Station.  As you approach the Aid Station ask the runner what they want.  Typically they will want handhelds refilled.  Within 200m you may take gear from your runner, sprint ahead, and start the refill/resupply process.  When your runner arrives at the Aid Station they can busy themselves with the important search for purple jet planes while you carry on refilling handhelds etc.  You have 200m to get that gear back to your runner before it’s yours and you can no longer pass it back to them.  Play by the rules!

Nothing you could possibly do is right, you’re hopeless and I hate you!

Welcome to the dark moments of an ultramarathon.  If you’re crewing and your runner just rolled into the aid station complaining that everything you did is wrong, they hate you and your ugly face, chances are someone is in a wee bit of a trough.  EXPECT THIS.  I’ve seen some pretty unkind behavior at Aid Stations by the nicest people.  Late in the day you should almost expect your runner to behave like an ill-tempered zombie with Tourette’s.  Stay cool.  They love you deep down, right now though they just hate life.  The world.  And everyone in it.

Have useful information for your runner and do the splits


I’m not implying that you send both feet in opposite directions in an attempt to scrape your undercarriage on terra firma, however don’t rule out the benefit of a little cheer to bring the fun back into your runners day.  No, the splits I’m referring to is the difference between your runner and their mates elsewhere in the field.  If their buddy Bryon has just left the aid station 5 minutes ago, let them know.  If they were 10 minutes clear of Bryon at the last Aid Station, let them know.  These things can make a difference and having useful information about how Bryon is getting on can lift your runner.  I love you Bryon.

If your runner is up or down on race plan that info could be useful too.  Likewise, the kms to the next Aid Station is good info if they don’t already know it.


A good pacer is a game changer

I’ve been lucky enough to crew and pace for some of the best in the world.  And Michael Wardian.  Be the best pacer you can and research tips for pacers online.  There are many tips and most are universally applicable,

  • Be supportive and positive. Troughs are a certainty, there will be dark days, be prepared to see your runner through them and try to establish the cause for trough (Hydration?  Fuel?)
  • Everyone is different with how much conversation they might want but talk incessantly at them regardless. No one want’s to run for hours in awkward silence.
  • Ensure your runner is concentrating and engaged in the activity and not dwelling on the dark clouds and suffering.
  • Talk to them about their form and efficiency – it matters!
  • Run smart lines on wide corners
  • Look for the terrain that offers the best purchase as opposed to the loose gravel
  • ‘half-wheel’ your runner to help dictate the pace but be aware of what they’re presently capable of.
  • Help them set achievable targets like “lets run to that bend in the road up there” / “lets catch that blonde girl in the green dress”
  • Know when to run and when to walk. Generally most inclines are walked late in the race.  Run all the downhills and flats where possible.
  • Carry spare supplies and potential aid like gels, Panadol, anti-chafe (etc) but remember you can only hand it over in the 400m ‘supporters zone’. NB – Ibuprofen is banned. It’s not a performance enhancing drug, it’s just plain dangerous.
  • Sing! Everyone knows the words to “The Gambler” – belt out some tunes.  Your manic optimism is infectious even if your inability to hold a note is offensive.
  • Get some messages from friends and family further afield and pass them on to your runner
  • Look after yourself. Pacers need nutrition too!
  • Pace as a relay. Tarawera affords you the luxury of swapping pacers in and out every 10km or so.  You have the option of changing your pacers around and splitting up the workload but you MUST swap your pacer number and the active pacer MUST wear the pacer number at all times!


Be Informed!

Regardless of whether you’re racing or pacing, all the information you need is readily available on the website but if you have a reading and comprehension issue (many do), be sure to ask Paul or Sarah who will be manning the Race Directors Info Centre throughout the expo (Friday 10th).  Attend the race briefing (11am Friday 10th Holiday Inn).  Knowledge is power!


If you, or anyone you know, or have ever known is a smoker please do not go anywhere near the Kawerau Forest.  Cigarettes are gross and your antisocial habit is far too combustible to be allowed anywhere near the race.  Also it could mean a lifetime ban from the forest for both you and your runner! Tarawera Ultramarathon official line ‘Smoking is not permitted at any of the checkpoints or along the trail. Anyone who smokes in the Tarawera Forest will be immediately removed by security. Both the smoker and their runner will receive a permanent lifetime ban from this event’.