Crewing Mimi Anderson on her “Fastest Crossing of Ireland on Foot” World Record Attempt
The most important part of crewing any event, no matter how long or hard it is, is to know your runner! I have had the pleasure of crewing the marvellous Mimi Anderson on 4 occasions so know her better than most! I first crewed her in 2008 on John O’Groats to Lands End (JOGLE) where she achieved the Guinness World Record (GWR) as the fastest female in 12 days 15 hours and 46 minutes. Next was the Grand Union Canal Race (GUCR) where she broke the then female course record by several hours. After this came Double Badwater (296 miles through Death Valley) which she crushed the previous female record by over 21 hours. The most recent adventure was running the length of Ireland and the pressure was on to help her to another world record!! It was going to be tough but I never once doubted it could be done!!
We set off at 6:01am on Saturday 22nd September 2012 from Malin Head, the most northerly point in Ireland. Mimi started at an outstanding pace and ran the first marathon in 3 hrs 46 mins, a time anyone would be proud of, let alone at the start of 345 miles!! There were 3 crew, Katherine, Tim (Mimi’s husband) and myself; we took it in turns to rotate between cycling behind her and being in the support van. Cycling was in fact the easy part as all you had to do was keep her safe, make sure you fed her on the go and kept her spirits high! The van sections where full on!! It involved navigating and ensuring the cyclist knew the correct route, keeping the log book updated with everything from mileage to what she ate, working out the routine stops every 3, 4 or 5 miles depending on the time of day, keeping the van tidy, preparing food for Mimi and the cyclists, getting witnesses statements to verify that they had seen Mimi running (a condition of the GWR), keeping on top of the mileage so you knew exactly how far she had gone and how long it had taken, keeping her twitter and facebook updated and taking phone calls from people who wanted to meet up and run with her on route. There was virtually no time for resting or relaxation.
One of my jobs prior to the event was to come up with a pacing schedule that we could use during the record attempt to see how close we were to her target of 3 ½ days. I had 3 plans set out A, B and C and on several occasions we were with 5 minutes of plan A and B. I feel this is one of the most important parts of successfully achieving this type of ultra, it gives focus to both the runner and crew knowing that the they are on target, and if they are not then gives them direction on how to get back on target. It is also incredibly useful as a motivational tool to show the runner how close they are to achieving the record and showing them how far they have covered. You can never take on the whole distance in one go and therefore you have to break it down into manageable chunks!
She very soon started ticking off significant mileage points, 50 and 100 miles! Before we knew it we had reached the first day mileage target of 110 miles in just over 20 hours. The van found a suitable stopping place and we got the van ready so we could catch forty winks. Mimi got into the van and got ready for bed where she lay and ate a rice pudding while I gave her a quick massage. I then jumped into my bed fully clothed so I would be ready to go in the morning. Before I knew it the alarm was ringing and I was wondering how we were going to cope on 1 hour sleep!
We started again at 4:30am and it was tough!! Mimi struggled to wake up and it was really hard to keep her awake, I kept telling her that day light was on its way and as soon as the sun came up she would feel better. This was probably the only point during the attempt that Mimi was not her usual happy self! It was at that point we decided we wouldn’t start at that time in the morning again and we would try to drag her through until 4:30am so we could sleep and start again at 6:30am when it would soon be getting light.
Again we started to clock off significant mileage markers such as the ½ way point and 200 miles, this lifted Mimi’s spirits no end. At the half way point I managed to make a sign with an old discarded sign I found at the side of the road. On the back I wrote “½ way” in big silver letters with duct tape, upon seeing this Mimi burst into tears!! We had the pleasure of Mo’s company for a few hours today, he is one of the Irish 100 marathon club runners and it was lovely to have someone new for Mimi to talk to.
We had planned to get to 210 miles before we stopped for some sleep but at about 205 miles Mimi was falling asleep as she ran so we decided to call it a day at 206 miles and 4:30am. The bed time procedure had become slick and Mimi managed some food and I gave her legs a quick massage before a 90 minute sleep.
We left the van again at 6:30am, this was much easier as there was daylight within 20 minutes and she instantly felt more awake. We had several runners join us today from the Irish 100 marathon club, Pat and his army ran with her for about 2 hours giving her a bit of light relief from us. Before we knew it we were marking 100 miles to go with yet another home-made sign from a black bin liner and silver duct tape saying “100 LEFT”.
Soon the night drew in and we climbed to what seemed to be the top of the world, well it was probably only a small mountain but it was blowing a gale up there. The weather changed completely and it felt like we’d suddenly been thrown into winter. At this point the lack of sleep was really showing as we all started to have very vivid hallucinations, we saw monkeys, dinosaurs, cartoon characters and bunches of flowers! Thankfully it was soon time to sleep and we managed to drag Mimi through till nearly 4am with just 57 miles left to complete in about 28 hours. Tonight we had the luxury of 2 hours sleep – we felt that as we had such a big margin to play with to beat the current record an extra ½ hour in bed would be well worth it and it really helped!
The final day just flew by passing the 300 mile mark was fabulous!! Again today we had another runner Jo join us for support and she ran with Mimi for a couple of hours. With about 35 miles to go we saw the sea, at this point I felt the best way to celebrate was to do a handstand, it felt good knowing we were so close. The last section seemed to take forever, I have never known 3k to take so long, and I guess it was the expectation of the finish. Mimi finally ran over the finish line at Mizen Head at 21:37pm on Tuesday 25th September this gave her a new Guinness World Record (subject to verification) of 87 hours 36 minutes and 23 seconds; this knocked over 10 hours off the previous record set early this year. I am so proud to be part of this record.
Although the attempt was over this is not were the story ends, the few days afterwards takes some adjusting. The sleep deprivation takes several days to overcome and the aches and pains from riding the bike are a little uncomfortable but are made better with a sports massage. However the memories and the emotions stay with you forever……for me crewing is highly satisfying and I gain a huge amount of pleasure helping the runner achieve their goal. To date I have a 100% success rate when crewing, Mimi calls me her lucky crew member, I just think I’m incredibly lucky to be in her crew!
Key things to consider on being a successful crewmember!
– Always put the runner 1st
– Never lie to the runner but sometimes don’t tell them everything – it’s a need to know basis
– Give 100% – do all the jobs 1st (i.e. keeping log books up to date) and if there is a spare minute then that can be your time (brush teeth or have wet wipe shower!)
– Stay organised and tidy
– Look after yourself and other crew members too – if you are not in a fit state then you can’t give 100% to the runner
– Be bossy!!! Apparently I’m quite good at this!!!! Anyone who knows me though knows I’m not really like this – so it must be my crewing alter-ego!!!
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