Ultra-marathonists and Their Support Teams
For some people, a typical marathon just isn’t enough. Those with a bold sense of adventure, uncompromising endurance, and a tendency to gravitate toward the extreme might find themselves participating in an ultramarathon. They don’t call it an “ultra” marathon for nothing! An ultramarathon is definitely not your average marathon both in length of time and distance. Many ultramarathons can span up to a few days (even up to 10 days!) and cover an overall distance of 1,600km in total!
Not only are ultramarathonists extreme enough to go the distance, but the course itself is no walk in the park. Many trails contain obstacles such as rugged terrain, extreme weather, or sharp changes in elevation, which challenge the athletes mental and physical endurance. While many ultramarathon athletes consider themselves “self-sufficient”, and carry all the supplies they will need for the event on their backs, others opt for a support group to come along with them.
Having a support team is not mandatory, however it is recommended. Support teams provide psychological encouragement during the roughest times by helping the athlete to feel less alone and pumping them up when things get difficult., These teams also share some of the physical burden, such as transporting the athlete’s bag from location to location. Having a support team is not only a matter of emotional and physical relief, but it also better ensures the athlete’s safety, as there is somebody monitoring their process throughout the way.
Being part of a support team is not easy, though. These brave comrades are faced with a few challenges of their own, such as travelling long distances, carrying heavy equipment, and weathering extreme temperatures. Support teams, sometimes called crew members, are expected to deal with the many unexpected events that can occur throughout the race. Decisions must be made along the way such as how long the athlete should run each day, if and when they will get to sleep, how to run in pitch black night, and how much fuel they need to put in their bodies to keep going. Every detail counts.
By the end of these experience, both the athlete and the support team are at a point of exhaustion, but the feeling of accomplishment and the bond of comradery makes the challenge well worth it.
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