Volunteering At A Multi-Stage Ultra Marathon

Written By Rosanna Heward

Rosanna is an accoundant by trade and Ultra Volunteer by annual leave. She’s crewed in Jordan, Sri Lanka, Mexico and England, and has her sights set on racing the Azores.

8 January 2019

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As I take time at the beginning of 2019 to reflect on the past year, there is one experience that stands out amongst the rest.

In October, I was lucky enough to volunteer to be a part of the crew out in the desert for the 2018 Wadi Rum Ultra (now Ultra X Jordan).

With the exception of avidly tracking nutty friends from the confines of a desk in the past, my experience of ultra marathons had been minimal before my arrival in Amman airport. I did wonder if I was going to be a particularly useful addition to the crew (I am an accountant… not sure how many runners were keen to discuss their tax return halfway through the race) but I was promised an unforgettable week, in an epic location, with amazing people. Ultra X Jordan did not disappoint.

The crew’s main role during the week was to be there as a general support for the runners. During the race, there were checkpoints every 10km and we were on hand to provide water, encouragement and any medical support. During the evenings the crew were in camp, helping out with any organisation for the following day or any preparations the runners were making.

Each day we would see the runners off and then drive along the course to set up each checkpoint. I had wondered if it would get a bit boring – spending hours a day sitting with a gazebo – but the Wadi Rum Desert is one of the most spectacular places I have ever been and it was very exciting waiting for each runner to appear over the nearest dune.

The nature of the event meant that I got to know all of the runners well, and found myself really invested in their progress. Quickly I got to know who liked to sit down and have a good catch up, who liked to grab water and power on, and who liked to have a rendition of S-Club 7’s “Reach for the Stars” to serenade them each time they headed off into the desert.

Wadi Rum Desert Landscape

After making sure everyone was safely through the final checkpoints we would head back to camp to cheer the final competitors over the line and prepare for the following day. Totally cut off from internet, electricity or any other modern luxuries – the evenings were spent chatting round the fire before a night under the stars in anticipation of the next day.

So… am I now inclined to sign my name down to run a future Ultra X event? Definitely. And this is coming from someone who, prior to touching down in Jordan, had never run more than 10km. But the overriding emotion as I cheered on the runners was that of inspiration, so much so that I am determined to take on an Ultra X event one day.

From Charlie Henson’s amazing effort on the last day to finish only two minutes behind the great desert runner Salameh al Aqra, to Matt Tomkin coming back from illness to power through the long day, to Rena Mutaguchi suffering from such severe blisters that she completed day two in sliders – I was totally in awe of each and every one of them.

I might not be making my Ultra X debut in 2019, but it is sharpied to the top of my bucket list. For now, I will be crewing as many as my holiday allowance will let me, and scoping out which of the locations is the most epic for my first foray into ultra running. These are very special events and it was (and is) a real privilege to be involved…can’t wait for the next adventure!

See you in Sri Lanka!

Ultra X Crew Member at Ultra X Jordan

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