Being a support team member

We asked ‘Dads Army’ support team member Jackie Stephen about her experiences at Monster and for her top tips for other support teams.

Q: Why did you decide to be a support team member?

My husband Les, who visits Maggie’s Dundee, and my sons Adam and Cameron and my daughter Leanne are in the team.

 Q: Have you been a support team member before?

Yes, this is my 3rd year as a support team member at Monster, where I will support our team through this tough challenge to the Gold finish at Inverness.

 Q: How many people were in your team?

We’ve had as many as 17 team members to support in previous years. With 13 team members this year we have gathered a support team of 8 to give them the best possible support and encouragement throughout the challenge.

Q: Did the support team members have specific roles?

We had one person keeping an eye on the arrival time of each participant and that way we were able to help them get fed, changed, bag packed for next section as quickly as possible all within 30 minutes. If you can, have one support member just taking photos to capture special moments. Have another member in charge of your catering needs.

Q: What is the most important role of the support team?

Keep cheering, wave your flags, stay positive, keep your team focused, make sure you all eat sensibly.

Q: How did you get to your next cheering point?

If you have a large team, a transit van is brilliant for storing all the kit needed. Each of our participants have a clear plastic box marked with their name for easy recognition. This has everything they need for each section.

Q: What kit or preparation advice would you offer other support teams?

We make sure that we have hot meals at lunch and dinner and snacks for later in the night. We also have a kit box just for the support team. This could include – first aid kit, torch or lantern, tissues, pen and paper, camera, change of clothes, extra footwear and towel. Another must is a sleeping bag or blanket along with a warm coat and hat. The longer you are waiting the colder the night becomes.  Also if you have room take a few fold up chairs – it’s easier for changing footwear etc and just to ease tired legs. I have also taken an air bed in the past which has come in handy.

Q: Any other top tips?

At the changeovers it is easy to get caught up chatting and going over the high and low points of the last section but try to stay focused on your team’s needs. Some of the team members may need some extra encouragement at these points. Listen to their needs about how they are feeling mentally and physically and be realistic about what they can achieve.

Q: Should the support team get some rest?

Once you finish at Silver then head off to Inverness, make a point of insisting the drivers in your group go into the sleeping room for some rest. You may think you will not sleep but you will manage something. The sleeping bag comes in handy here. We were up at 5.30am and did not get to bed until 9am the next day. Do not travel in a vehicle alone and don’t drive if you feel tired. Make sure you have enough vehicles for all support team and participants for going back to your base from Inverness. Take the cars to Inverness earlier in the day if you have time and all the support team share the driving.

Q: What was the most difficult bit?

Don’t underestimate the demands of being a support team member so remember to look after yourselves during the event too. Plan ahead what food/drinks you will need for yourselves. It’s very important to eat regularly and take plenty of fluids to ensure your energy levels are maintained.

Q: What did you enjoy most?

Being part of this whole experience can be very emotional and also very humbling.  A huge box of tissues will not go amiss as you watch with pride and respect as your team members make it over the finish line. 

Q: Any advice for the finish and the next day?

Keep an eye on your team members throughout the challenge and within a few hours of them finishing. There is a first aid team with a doctor at each of the checkpoints in case anyone in your team is struggling. Make sure everyone has enough fluid going back into their bodies. Also it is a good idea to have a basin for sore feet along with plenty of dressings for any blisters.