Ultra WAGS (and HABS and SODS and MOFS)

This month in Ultra Tales I assembled an article for "Ultra Wags" that looks at ultra running from the point of view of the other half, the one who is sitting at home wondering where their partner is or perhaps out in the middle of nowhere waiting for their husband/wife with a handful of lubricant.

You can (and really should) download ultra tales from here. There are lots of great reports in there including the Piece of String race.

Anyhoo I thought I'd put my wife's fansastic contribution here. Apparently I am quite obsessed by a race.


Your Name:                             Gemma Greenwood

Runner’s Name:                      James Adams

Relation to Ultra Runner:        Wife

Details (eg married, kids, etc):           

 Married less than a year, been together four (it seems longer), no kids yet.

Brief history of ultra runner. (years running, ultras done etc)

What can I say about James Adams that most of the ultra-running population don’t already know? Bugger all, I suspect, since he’s a prolific blogger who loves to bang on about his running. 

How long have you suffered your partner’s extreme running? 

I started suffering my partner’s extreme running from BEFORE I met him.  Yes, it is possible.  Facebook makes these things possible, and if you know James at all, you will know his addiction to Facebook is all too real.  I think that before I encountered him, I encountered his blistered feet which were his Facebook profile picture of choice for quite a time – some of you may remember the picture: great big purple blood-filled plum-sized blisters that he got as a result of his first GUCR run. Nowadays a small blister makes him drop out of a race (NDW100, 2013). Clearly marriage is making him soft.


Did they do this kind of thing when you met and what was your first impressions of them? 

Fortunately (I think), James was already an ultra-running nutter when I met him.  He’d completed GUCR and MDS with his sights firmly set on Badwater as the ultimate race…how things have changed! Badwater is a distant memory and now Spartathlon holds James’ focus for most of the year…


Anyway, at least I knew what I was letting myself in for, and wasn’t someone expecting a normal and conventional relationship with actual summer/beach holidays or anything (despite promises to the contrary). No, instead I spend my spare time & holidays standing beside the edge of a road/field/trail, in the freezing cold or scorching heat waiting for a brief appearance from my beloved, all sweaty and smelly, before he sods off again stuffed with food and drink.


Did they start doing this after you met? Describe the first time you heard about their plans. 



How do you usually get involved in their racing and training?  (eg supporting races, helping with training, massage etc).

It depends on the race distance, location, timing etc, but so far I am mostly a taxi service, given that James can’t drive (yet). I don’t think there is a ‘usual’ for these things.  The first couple of Spartathlons, I stayed in the UK constantly sitting at the laptop and updating his Facebook fans with any developments in his progress.  Last year and this for Spartathlon, I will be there, driving along the route from the mile point to the end.  I don’t actually need to do anything on this race, since it is incredibly well organised and supported, but James did throw his toys out of the pram last year when I didn’t turn up until the middle of the Saturday morning because I was enjoying our swanky accommodation and the bugger just needed a hug.


When James ran across America a couple of years ago (as you do), I was only initially required to go out to visit him at the end of the race, and crew him for the last week before we had a week holiday in NY…until he got food poisoning in New Mexico and I got a sad/pathetic text asking me to go out there sooner.  So, for my sins, I spent ten days driving across Oklahoma in 40C+ heat wave three miles at a time.  I was responsible for carting his stinking kit, trimming his bushy moustache and beard from around his mouth, making him eat fruit, and generally ensuring he stayed alive.


Do you run? What kind of distances? Other sports or participate in? Run –

Yes, I run, and it’s how we met – through the Serpentine Running Club. Sometimes though, I do think it should be renamed the Serpentine Dating Club, given the number of our friends we’ve seen meet and marry through the club! 


Over the years that I’ve been a member, I’ve run everything from a 1k race through to ultras, although I have a rule that I like to sleep at night, so the longest I have run for is 50 miles so far.  If I can work on getting some speed like Sharman, I might consider longer distances.  To date, I’ve finished over 25 marathons and ultras. 


Do you ever wish your partner had a "normal" hobby like golf or chess or something? 

Are they normal hobbies?  No, I don’t think so.  Anyway, running is ingrained in James’ soul (and perhaps his soles too), so I wouldn’t want to change that.  It’s part of the man that I fell in love with. Also, if he stopped running, he’d be bloody HUGE. Have you seen how much he eats and drinks? That would definitely be worse…


Would you like your kids to follow in his/her footsteps? How likely is that?  

I’d definitely like our kids (assuming we have some) to enjoy sports and the outdoors.  Running would be awesome, and I suspect they’ll get little choice in the matter with regards to being surrounded by it from an early age.  My biggest concern would the ‘forcing them into it’ element.  If they HAVE to spend almost every weekend supporting running events or being involved, it might put them off a bit…


Describe the strangest moment you have witnessed while crewing your partner. 


What are they like when they are injured or not running for some reason? 

I don’t think I’ve ever known James to be injured or off running for more than about a week. I suspect his joints are well lubricated with all the fat from the pork scratchings he secretly scoffs, and he doesn’t go fast enough to do any real damage.


Do you ever go on "normal" holidays? Do all of your trips involve a race somewhere?

I’ve been promised a “normal” holiday for OVER TWO YEARS now.  I am really not holding out much hope of us having one.  We didn’t even have a conventional honeymoon as our wedding was sandwiched between two runs in New Zealand.  The weekend before we got married, we both ran the Motatapu marathon.  The weekend after, James ran Northburn 100. Even the weekend we had earmarked for getting married, James tried to worm out of because Tarawera ultra (in the North Island of NZ) was on that day… I really don’t hold out much hope for him organising a proper holiday / honeymoon experience for us!


What does your partner have to give back in return for all this supporting you do?

He doesn’t ‘have’ to do anything. Although I am still waiting to find out what special treats are in store for me… I suspect he will be the better one of the two of us at middle-of-the-night parenting, should we ever have kids.


Do you ever get the feeling that when you spend time alone together in a beautiful area they are thinking "that would make a great run"?

Feeling?? He bloody announces it ALL THE TIME when we’re out somewhere nice in the countryside.


What are they like with money? How likely are they to spend the family food budget on a solar powered back pack which inflates into a life boat? Give details of times when they have spent money frivolously. 

James is a classic for ‘packing light’, that is, forgetting or not taking stuff he’s likely to need.  When he moved in with me, he had over 40 cans of deodorant because he keeps buying more.  He forgets to take trousers to work fairly regularly, which means he’s a good customer of M&S and when we went away for GUCR this year, he didn’t pack ANY normal clothes – trousers, pants, shirt, socks etc, which meant we had to do a shopping trip for all of the above. Which reminds me, he still owes me about £30-odd for that lot…


Have they ever said "never again". How long did it last? 

I think he said that about Spartathlon once...after the first time when his leg nearly fell off.  I think it lasted until the leg healed and he could walk again. Then he was determined to go back and beat it. I’m not sure how many times he’ll have to do this before he retires from it though!

How I laughed!


When you stood on that altar and agreed to "for better for worse" did you ever think it would come to this?  

It came to ‘this’ a week later as he set off on Northburn 100. The only way I thought I’d get him to NZ to marry me was to tempt him with some ridiculous race.  It worked.


Do you deal with their feet? 

I have been known to pop blisters, cut toe nails, chop off calluses, and the like.  It’s a grim job, but he’s so inflexible, he can barely reach his own feet.  I do try make sure he’s washed them thoroughly first though – and even bought him a long-handled scrubbing brush to do so.


Do you have any special words, techniques to keep them motivated in a race (keep it clean please).

At the end of Northburn 100, I ran out to meet James on the trail and accompanied him for the last 5k or so, most of which was in the dying light or the dark.  He was really struggling by now, but of course we both knew he’d finish.  To keep him moving, I’d run out in front of him and flash my bum or my boobs on a regular basis.  I’m pretty sure there wasn’t anyone else around… and if there was, sorry!


What is their worst habit? 

You mean I can only pick one? Right now, I think it is the vile and repulsive smell of his feet.  He ought to take more care of them – dealing with issues before they escalate to this aroma!  His shoes have been banished to outside, and his socks are tied up in a plastic bag somewhere waiting for him to deal with them.

Three words to describe your partner?

Obsessed with Spartathlon.


Do you ever wish you were running? Why? 

When I want to run, I usually do.  Hopefully though, once he can drive, he’ll support me on something a bit mad.  Not quite America in 70 days, but I’ll think of something to get him back, I am sure.


If he/she didn't run what would you spend your weekends doing?

Probably walking in the countryside. Maybe bike riding.  Visiting National Trust properties… all the normal things people of our advancing age get up to ;o) 


What do your friends think about your partner? (assuming you still have friends). 

Given that the huge majority of our friends are runners and ultra-runners (the first group being the more normal), I think people are pretty used to him…it’s the reaction I get from those that don’t run which is the best.  Gobsmacked pretty much describes it.


Is your partner competitive. Please describe. Does this apply to other areas in their lives too? 

I think James is one of the least competitive people I know.  He likes to tease some particular friends, who are competitive with him, but that’s all really.  Tenacitastic is the word I’d use for James (which I just made up). That man can just keep on running.  He might not be fast or glamorous, but he will get there.  Does that make him the Skoda of runners? 


Do you get competitive? How important is it that your partner beats others to you?

No, I am not competitive either.  However, I also like to make sure that where possible he beats the same particular friends above…


What's the best advice you'd give to a new ultra WAG? 

Buy a lot of Halo & teach your ultra runner to use the washing machine.


Is there anything else you would like to add? Any amazing stories or anecdote –

Oh no… I don’t want to make his head any bigger than it already is, thank you.