Interview with William’s crewman Alan Young

Alan in Hungary

Alan Young who along with Tim Rainey is crewing for William in Hungary answered a few questions just before the start of the race.

Alan with William

Question : What does crewing for an ultra-runner actually involve?


Alan Young : The athlete is in charge and your job is to do everything they request, always putting the needs of the athlete first at all times.

It helps if you are part of the planning process, as trying to carry out miracles with on pair of hands is very difficult with no more than one laps notice.

The most important thing is to be 100% focused on your athlete at all times, and remember they always get priority.

Being a “solutions” is also very important, and certainly in no way a “negative” person.
Question : Does crewing for a top runner involve much travel? What races / events have you crewed before?

Alan Young : Yes much travel (which I really enjoy, although you normally see little of the country)

Overseas I’ve been to Basle, Brno, Athens, Spartathlon in Greece – where I did see a lot of Greece -as the race is from Athens to Sparta (I crossed over the Corinth canal 3 times, but as they say that is another story !!! And no need for your athlete to know the reasons !!!), USA, France, Finland, Sweden, Holland,

Austria, Italy, Germany, And throughout the UK – and of course now Hungary
Question : in a 6-day race, how much sleep would you expect to get?

Alan Young : If I’m the only crew member, probably not much more than the athlete.

However if there are two of you crewing you can perhaps get 3 or 4 more hours sleep per day than the athlete.
Question : Is it easy to keep yourself (and the runner!) Motivated over such a long period?

Alan cheering William on in Hungary


Alan Young : Yes – as normally I would have quite an input to his pacing programme, there is an interest virtually every hour. And there is so much to do time just flies by.
Question : How to you keep yourself focused and remember what to do, even when tired?

Alan Young : William’s check lists are great, and you go almost on automatic pilot, and set routines help
Question : Do you have to do any running yourself when you are crewing?

Alan Young : Yes back and forth from your station out to the track. Many many times, and I must put on a pedometer sometime, it would be very interesting.
Question : Obviously the weather conditions can effect the runners during the race, is the weather an issue for the crew?

Alan Young : Yes very much so. Wind and rain are hated by the crew.
Question : What is the hardest part of crewing during a multi-day race?

Alan Young : If your athlete becomes sick or unwell. Trying to find a cure can be difficult, and sometimes you feel so useless, as they suffer.
Question : What is the best / your favourite part of crewing?

Alan Young :

Best – showing others just how professional “Team Sichel” are

Favourite  –  the planning beforehand
Question : How did you get involved in crewing?

Alan Young : Now this is a long story, but to cut it short i was asked to stand in and crew for William on “The Devil O’ The Highland” race (North half of the West Highland Way ) in 2004, and then he asked me to crew at future 24 hour races, and it has just gone on from there
Question : Has crewing taught you anything useful that you can use in your own running/racing or that you think would help other runners?

Alan Young : I stopped running in 1997 with a back problem, and have no intention of “racing” again.

Crewing for “elite” athletes has certainly given me a great insight, and yes I now feel I can help many other runners, as the trick is to find what best suits the individual, and have a plan which can be changed.
Question : Is crewing during a multi-day race only for fanatics? Would you recommend trying crewing to others?

Alan Young : Certainly not only for fanatics, and the best way is to come along to an event and find out what fun you can have.

I also think if athletes were to do a stint crewing it would help their performance – simple things like thinking ahead and giving your crew notice like “tea next lap”  helps the crew provide good quality food and drinks.
Question : And finally William’s bonus question : Why do you do it? Is it because of the big financial rewards?

Alan Young : Yes its for the money 15% of the prize money is the going rate* – ha ha ha

I’m not sure exactly why I do it, but you can get much joy being part of a team and seeing your athlete perform well.

As a former runner who was well looked after, it is now rewarding to give a little back to such a great sport

* This works out at exactly £0.00 – there is no prize money and all expenses are met either from William’s own pocket or by the ever generous crew. And you can imagine how much of a sacrifice that is for a proud Scotsman…!