An aid station can be a huge pick-me-up for an ultra runner who has been on his or her feet for many miles. The pick-me-up not only comes from calories and the opportunity to rehydrate, but from the emotional energy boasts that aid station volunteers give runners. Here are a few tips for volunteers who are working aid stations at ultramarathons. Without volunteers we could not run ultramarathons.
1. Give encouragement. Always give encouragement! This is huge and can really give a runner a big boast of emotional energy that can not come from any where else. There have been many times in races that the sight of an aid station gives me an emotional boast especially after I have been moving down a trail for a long time. I think this is the case because I know there are good people there ready to help me with what I need and to give me encouragement.
2. If possible, provide “shelter.” This is not always possible and sometime not always needed, but when the weather is at either extremes some kind of shelter can offer a much needed reprieve from the elements. Shelter sometimes can be as simple as setting up the aid station in the shade on a hot day. If it’s windy, shelter can be creating a wind break to get out of the wind. Shelter can be providing a place to warm up on a cold day. It also can be a place to get out of the rain or sometimes snow.
3. Offer your help. As soon as a runner comes into the aid station find out what he or she needs. Most often it is just topping off a bottle or retrieving a drop bag, but sometimes it can be more than that. Understandably there are times when an aid station will get slammed with runners coming through, when this happens just do the best you can.
4. Keep the aid station stocked. Have everything out and ready for runners to grab and eat. If possible have cups of water/sports drinks for runners to grab. The easier it for runners to see what is available the better and quicker runners can get into the aid station and out.
5. Talk them through it. While pacing my dad during the Wasatch 100, I remember getting into an aid station and seeing a runner struggling to find the motivation to go on. At this struggling runner’s side was a wonderful aid station volunteer talking to him about how he was feeling and gently giving him encouragement. There may be time slike this when runners need this kind of help. Seeing runners struggling like this is more common in 100 mile ultras than in 50Ks or 50 milers and it is usually during the night section of 100 milers that runners need this kind of encouragement.
6. Be familiar with the course. One question you will get from runners coming through your aid station is “how many miles until the next aid station.” Make sure you know this so runners can prepare mentally for how far they need to go until they can refill their bottles and when they can eat again. When runners know this they can have a better idea on how much they need to eat and drink before the leave the current aid station they are at.
7. Be familiar with weather conditions. It’s important to know if the weather forecast is forecasting rain, wind, cold/hot temperatures or snow. This kind of information can help a runner know if he or she should grab a jacket from his or her drop bag or leave it.
In ending all this can be very helpful to runners and help them feel recharged when leaving your aid station. Aid station volunteers are an important part of ultramarathon running and without them we would not be able to run ultramarathons.
- Aid Station Etiquette In Ultramarathon Running (dallanmanscill.com)