How to get through your buddy running experience without losing friends or getting a divorce

Written by Wendy and Alex Whearity.

Below are some tips and advice for ‘buddies’ to help you along your Canal race journey.

1. Know what you are signing up for
Being a buddy is not a glamorous job, you may have 50 miles of tantrums, blisters and vomit on your shoes! Don’t go into it expecting extensive conversations about the meaning of life, do expect to be moaned at and asked continuously ‘how far until the next check point?’ Plans can change, what might have originally been 8 hours to run 50 miles could quickly become 20 hours walking in the pouring rain to complete the same distance. That being said, it is very rewarding, but you need to know you are up to the job.

2. Plan for yourself and look after yourself
Of course when you are a buddy your number one priority is your runner, but don’t forget about yourself. If you are doing a 50 mile + stretch you will be tired and need fuel. Be prepared with kit, and plan how to get to where you are meeting your runner and getting home afterwards (there are limited trains in the middle of the night!). You will need all the mandatory kit too, and as much as this a great opportunity to be involved, this is not your recce run, you are there to support, not to be supported. Make sure you wear appropriate footwear and layers to keep you warm, it can get very cold overnight if you are walking at 2-3 miles per hour.

3. Be honest with yourself
Don’t turn up injured, unwell, or with a niggle. Your runner will need you at your best, be honest if you don’t feel you are up to a long stretch. Discuss expected pace and distance with your runner, you should feel confident that you can manage that pace/distance with ease.

4. Talk to your runner beforehand
Before the race ask the runner what motivates them when they get into dark places. For example, never tell Mrs W that she is ‘Looking great!’ after 125 miles. Know their goals in terms of time, do they need facts (checkpoint is 3 miles), tough love or to be left alone for 30 minutes. Know how to pull them out of a tough spot. Talk to them before the checkpoints about what they want to eat and drink, do they need anything from their drop bag such as a warm layer or spare batteries? A tired runner may not be thinking logically.

5. Safety
Know the signs for low blood sugar, dehydration, and hypothermia. If your runner is wobbly, make sure you run beside the canal. Ensure you have the emergency numbers for the Race Director programmed in your phone too.

6. You are not there to pace!
It is explicitly in the rules that you run beside or behind the runner. You are there for safety, company, and moral support.

7. Sleep monsters
8-time finisher of GUCR Paul Ali will tell you a lot about his ‘sleep demons’ during the night sections. Be alert to your runner losing focus. Get some caffeine into them, music and perhaps a ten-minute power nap at the next aid station.

8. Maps and rules
Ask your runner to share the maps, rules, and race information with you before the race. Make notes on the maps of tricky navigation points and checkpoints along your section.

9. Remember your manners
Be kind and courteous to all volunteers and path users. Be polite and get used to being asked ‘How far are you running?’.

10. They are grateful
Though they may not show it at the time your runner really does appreciate your help. If they do decide stop, at the end of the day it is their race! You can encourage and support, but you cannot make that decision for them.

Enjoy the experience, remember next time your roles may be reversed, and you will be grateful for their support!

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