When someone completes an epic feat of endurance, they see the achievement – a number, a distance, a time. What they don’t see is the scores of people behind the scenes that it took to get that person across the finish line. When it comes down to it, you really can’t do it without the crew.


2022 seems to have been the year for ‘normal’ people doing extraordinary things in the running space; think Nedd Brockmann traversing the Nullarbor and Erchana Murray Bartlett breaking the world record for the most consecutive marathons (150 marathons in 150 days!).

These epic feats might focus on the person clocking up the kms each day, but behind this (anything but) normal individual is a crew; a well-oiled, sleep-deprived team of people, trying to alleviate all obstacles for the runner so they can focus primarily on the task at hand.

Crew is Key

Erchana’s Tip to Toe mission would not be possible without her partner, Ry, who like Erchana, is embarking on a challenging endurance feat as crew chief on a cross-country mission. I caught up with Erchana to see what crew means to her.

‘My support crew, or person to be more specific, wears more hats in a day than I’ve worn in my life. Videographer, chef, camp setter up-er, logistics co-ordinator, runner, whinge sponge, content creator, vehicle driver, and most importantly of all, motivator. Tip to Toe is a machine and all I do is run. I have the easy part!’

Whether you’re running across the country or doing your first ultra, having a solid crew is essential to achieving lofty goals. With trail running and ultra running becoming more and more popular, a vast majority of people look at these individuals and think, ‘Nup, no way, not for me’.



And I’m not here to tell you that if you set your mind to it, you could do an ultramarathon (although, you totally could!), but to give you a brief insight into the world of crewing, which may be your way to get the endorphin high, without losing a toenail in the process.

Accidently Becoming an Ultra Runner

My first experience of traversing long distances was Oxfam Trailwalker, an entry-level event that encourages teams to walk 100km together, whilst raising money for Oxfam.

I did my first Trailwalker back in 2018, and my girlfriends and I roped in parents and partners to meet us along the way so we could ransack our carefully packed stashes of voltaren, carbohydrates, and dry clothes.

We spent 90% of the 19 hours on-trail talking about what food we’d request at the next aid station, and then three blissful minutes devouring the oily, salty, delightful carbohydrates.



Fast forward a few years, and like many, I found myself graduating from the half marathon distances to ultras, dipping my toe in at the 50km and working my way up to the somewhat daunting 100km milestone.

Along the way, I met a range of like-minded people who similarly worshipped at the ‘dirt church’ of a Sunday morning, always went back for seconds at dinner and shared a different definition of ‘bonking’.

When I did my first 100km in 2020, friend and fellow runner Jess immediately put her hand up to crew. She loves crewing and is fantastic at it.

I was a bit laissez-faire about it all, but wasn’t going to knock back having someone to ‘mother’ me along the journey. Every time I rolled into an aid station, Jess was there with a beaming smile, thrusting some form of food into my sweaty hands, whisking off my running vest to top up my water, removing the rubbish, and replenishing snacks.

While I hoed into a smorgasbord of chips, lollies, and roast potato, my needs were taken care of and before I knew it, I was vested up and being corralled back onto the trail with words of encouragement from Jess.

I had a fantastic experience out on the trail that day – each aid station was a social affair, filled with friends, family, support, and high fives.

Trail running can be pretty lonely, and these interactions gave me the boost I needed to get back out there and complete that milestone, despite my weary limbs.


What can the crew do for you?

A good crew is a bit like a comfy bra – you don’t realise it’s there, because it’s just doing its job without any attention or expectation. Crewing is a selfless task, as it involves the same travel, early starts, long days, and exposure to the elements, but without the accomplishment of actually doing the event.

So when the time came for me to be of service to someone wanting to run a bloody long way, I was there, keen to experience what crew life was like.

My friend in trail running and environmentalism, Karin Traeger, had long wanted to run the length of the Yarra River, from the source in the Yarra Ranges to the mouth at Port Melbourne.



It was a 280km journey, tracing the length of the river through forests, across creeks, along highways, and through cities over six long, fulfilling, and memorable days.

Despite being a somewhat seasoned trail runner myself, being on the backend of the adventure was a whole new experience, and one that has given me a new appreciation for the people like Jess who offer their time, kindness, and energy unreservedly.

Let me share with you the lessons learnt along the way, and hopefully inspire the sane non-ultra-runners amongst us to embrace the crew life.

1. Preparation is Key

As crew, you’re the supporting actor in this story, and it’s up to the runner to take charge of logistics, such as maps, schedules, gear etc. This expedition is their baby, and therefore their responsibility.

As crew, you have to be self-sufficient, and use the tools the runner has put in place to feed, clothe, and keep them safe on the trails.


Can’t Do it Without The Crew,Hilary McAllister


Certainly, you can help during the planning process, but it’s up to the runner to have their bases covered, as no one knows better than them what nutrition they’ll feel like at 5am in the rain on day four.


2. Be Open About Expectations

Poke and prod your runner about what a successful expedition looks like to them. Are they trying to get an FKT? Do they have a personal goal time? What injuries or niggles are they worried about? And what are their weaknesses?

Our ability to think becomes distorted under stress and fatigue, so as the crew, it’s up to you to know when to encourage your running mate to eat, drink, get sleep or maybe push harder.

Ultra running can be a real rollercoaster, and regardless of how much preparation you put in, you’re at the whim of your mind, body, and the elements when you’re out on the trails.

Blisters, chafe, a rolled ankle or hectic weather can turn a good day bad pretty quickly. Knowing what a successful run was to Karin was essential intel for me, so I could help guide her to a fulfilling outcome.


3. What spare time?

When a person is running all day, and your job is to drop them off, maybe meet them along the way once or twice and pick them up at the end, it’s easy to think that your day will be filled with productive work, a midday nap, and maybe even a run of your own.

Crewing sucks up your time like a high-end Dyson, and before you know it, it’s 6pm and you’ve been up since 3am, haven’t stopped and still have more shit to do.

I packed a hammock and a book for Karin’s run, thinking I’d be spending hours waiting in tranquil parks along the river, reading in the sunshine. LOL! And the real kicker is, you can’t complain about being tired, because compared to the runner, you’ve been sitting around all day!

So suck up your tiredness, lower your expectations and just let being a chauffeur/chef/coach/cleaner take over your life for a few days, and plan some downtime afterwards for your own recovery!


4. Pick Your Moments

During Karin’s run, there were three opportunities to join Karin on the trails, and I jumped at all of them. It involved some out and backs and ubers once we made it to the city, but it was worth every step and dollar.

It’s really strange being part of an expedition that’s so intrinsically linked to exploration and being in nature, whilst spending most of your day driving or waiting around in car parks.



So if you’re a walker or runner, join in the fun when you can, so you can share some time on the trails and appreciate the wild places you’re exploring.


5. Accept that your diet will consist mainly of lollies and chips

Being a portable aid station means that you’re surrounded by sugar and carbs 24/7, and resisting the urge to eat snakes at 6am isn’t worth the anguish, so just embrace it!

Whilst the runner spends all day burning calories, you’re consuming them, and might need to go for a long run of your own once the expedition is over! BYO snacks and meals to limit snake-intake, but be kind to yourself and consume aid station supplies wholeheartedly!


6. DIY Documentation

Capturing content is exhausting at the best of times, let alone when you’ve been running for days on end. Chances are the person you’re crewing is doing a pretty amazing feat and their accomplishment could inspire others to explore their limits.

So don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and capture some tales from the trail, either for social media or the archive. Your mate will inevitably appreciate the close-up footage of them popping a blister or applying anti-chafe cream to their bum crack at some stage, so (with their consent!) snap away, for another day!


7. Ask For Help

If you’re a runner out there and want someone to pace or crew you through an epic adventure, put it out there and ask for help!

Karin posted on the Victorian Ultra Runners Facebook group asking for pacers, which resulted in Scotty the-nicest-guy-in-ultrarunning Beams travelling three hours to meet Karin for a 4am start on day three.

On this, Karin says, ‘It’s a great way to build strong relationships with like-minded people. The times I’ve had random individuals offering to crew, were the most magical ones.



I have incredible friends that came out of those opportunities, which also gave me good time to share experiences with special friends. The crew life is the best way of bringing adventures and time in nature with your trail fam, whoever that might be’.

In summary, crewing for a multi-day event is an exhausting, selfless, and draining task. I don’t have kids, but I imagine it’s on par with caring for a toddler 24/7, with the same irrational behaviour, rollercoaster energy output, and specific food requests.

However, that moment when your metaphorical offspring crosses the finish line, you’re filled with elation, relief, and purpose, which makes every early start 100% worth it.



Along with the rush of endorphins that come after completing something as epic as traversing the Yarra River, also comes the appreciation and love from the runner to their crew, as they reflect on everything it took to get them to the end.  

I asked Karin what having a crew meant to her. 

Having a crew was a game changer. I felt supported all the way, making those hard times less crappy and more about looking forward to the jokes, hugs, and trail love that was waiting around the corner. So big kudos to my crew. I couldn’t have done it without them. They kept my spirits high and fed me through it.

– Karin Traeger

Regardless of whether you’re a runner, crew life may be for you. And the best part is, once you crew for someone, you’re now in an unspoken pact that they’ll one day return the favour.

I’m already dreaming up what epic adventure I’ll bring Karin along on when it’s my turn to take to the trails and enjoy the hospitality of a reliable, fun, and encouraging crew.