Tony Machado is a different kind of athlete. You won’t find him topping the podium, but Machado and The Extra Mile Crew are heroes in the eyes of the marathoners they helping to find their edge when they hit The Wall.
1 What is The Extra Mile Crew?
The Extra Mile Crew started three years ago at Ottawa Race Weekend. We’re volunteers ready to offer on-route encouragement to runners who want support to reach the finish line.
2 What led you to get involved?
Late in 2014, I was really overweight. I was walking up a set of stairs, getting absolutely winded and I realized that someone in their early 30s shouldn’t be experiencing that kind of discomfort. I kind of just made the decision to change my life at that point. It started slowly with walking; at first I hated every minute of it, but walking turned into walk-running and then running, and it kind of took off from there.
3 When did you run your first marathon?
2015, the Niagara Ultra Marathon. It went much better t han I expected, those last 10 to 12k were really tough, but the joy that I got out of completing it was just amazing. I’ve run 26 marathons since then.
4 At what point did you decide to help others?
In the Belleville area, at the Prince Edward County Marathon in the fall of 2015. One of the organizers was looking for some pacers, so I threw my hat in. I’ve paced close to 20 races since, from 5k’s to marathons. I absolutely love it.
5 How to did you become part of The Extra Mile Crew?
I signed up for it last year and participated and they asked me to be a team lead at one of the stations. We had a really good group stationed at the 37k mark. It was really hot at last year’s Ottawa Race Weekend so there were a lot of people that definitely needed our assistance.
6 What’s the benefit of The Extra Mile Crew to those running the marathon?
By the time you hit The Wall in a marathon, you’ve likely done the training distance but not the last full distance. You might be physically capable of doing it, but need that little extra push for whatever mental barriers you’re experiencing.
7 How do runners find you on the course?
We’re stationed in the full marat hon at various points, starting at a round t he 31k marker. We wear br ight g reen shir t s that make us obvious on the Ottawa course.
8 How do you know when a runner needs help?
When a runner signals that they want a hand, an Extra Mile Crew volunteer will run alongside them until they reach the next volunteer. Everyone’s unique in that regard so you’ ll have some people for whom it’s very obvious. With others you look for more subtle signs.
9 What are some of your tactics to get runners over the finish line?
We try to create whatever mental distraction we can for people. By the time we see the runners, they’ve fallen into that mental low and it’s really obvious they are not in a happy place. Everyone’s different, but I may mention there’s an aid station coming up in a half kilometre, and they may say, OK, I’m good now. Others want you to walk with them; they want to tell a little about their story. Sometimes just someone, anyone distracting them with anything gets them out of their rut.
10 Beyond helping struggling runners reach the finish line, what do you find most fulfilling about being a volunteer with The Extra Mile Crew?
That’s the great thing about the role – you find out about everyone’s story. Especially the ones who want to talk, the back of the pack runners; they all have amazing stories.
LEFT Tony Machado races the 2017 Ottawa Marathon