After captaining an aid station at this year’s Stone Mill 50miler, I was reminded of a few things and thought I would share what makes volunteering at an ultra so great. Most importantly, I love running ultras but working on the other side of the table might be more fun!
Benefits of working at an aid station include:
- Helping a whole race’s full of people get to the finish line, not just yourself and the few runners you find on the trails.
- Bonding with fellow aid station workers
This race holds a special place in my heart. It was my first 50miler, Adam or I have captained an aid station for all 5 years and it is a great race. This is the second year that we have been at Mile 35 and I love it. For people who are running their first 50miler, this is past the distance of (most) 50k races, pushing people into new milages and while it is close enough to the finish that people start to feel like they can make it, 15miles could take a while if you are not moving! This year we had an enthusiastic crew and a successful aid station. I thought I would share what helped us to make it a success (and make some reminders for myself when I go do this again next year!)
This year’s crew was perfect! We had experienced ultra runners, newbies, aid station experts and fresh meat. It was the right mix of experience and eagerness. This year, we decided on a “Lumbersexual” Theme. The internet meme has been on fire and what ultrarunner doesn’t own a down vest, a flannel shirt and boots. All I needed were beards and mustaches from Amazon Prime/the devil.
We were also lucky to have our resident vegetarian soup chef/medical volunteer/photographer, Bob Fabia. All of the photos of runners and the aid station can be found HERE!
- The pop up tent- it makes it feel official and that is important!
- Extra table- MCRRC only provided one table and that just isn’t enough! We brought 2 more and they were keys to the buffet’s success.
- Propane stoves- on a cold day, hot soup will save your runners.
- We brought a propane heater to ensure that our crew stayed warm, but didn’t need it as the sun decided to shine through
- POSTERS- placed down the trail these signs of hope are an important way to let runners know that your aid station is coming up (and to key people people into the theme!)
- Pitchers- this are a life saver, means that multiple people can be refilling liquids simultaneously and they are so much easier to use to fill bladders!
- Camp Chairs- for runners, mostly for the ones who drop and are going to be sitting for a while waiting for a ride, not for crew!
With the weather on race day being forecast for a high of 42, HOT SOUP was a must! We had 2 home made soups: a vegetarian lentil and a gluten free chicken rice soup. My personal favorite (and the runner’s as well since we ran out towards the back of the pack) were the quesadillas. Made simply from corn tortilla (again GF) and mexican blend cheese, these were a smash hit!
We also had the standard assortment of salty and sweet snacks, including donuts, honey roasted peanuts, M&M, pretzels, chips, etc. 2 loaves of PB&J were perfect!
What surprised me the most – the fruit were being gobbled up quickly! Guess we need more bananas, oranges and watermelon for next year!
With MCRRC $$$ to burn, it was important to use all of the allotted money to make our aid station great. The night before we headed to the grocery and then settled into making the chicken soup and letting it simmer all night, cooking in all of the delicious flavors from my 3! rotisserie chickens.
We arrived at the aid station early so I could go for a jog and Adam could pick up some extra propane before the other volunteers and lead runners arrived. We were putting the final touches on the aid station as the lead runners arrived, perfect timing!
Our volunteers settled into roles- Adam on grill, Bob on photos and lentil soups, Becca organizing and tracking the runners times, Greg on refilling table liquids and Hai on cowbell! The rest of us took a one-on-one approach with the incoming runners, offering words of encouragement– “only 5miles until you are in single digits to the finish” and harassing people into wearing mustaches!
Overall this was a perfect excuse to hangout in a parking lot, eat too many snacks and help new and old friends reach the finish line of the Stone Mill 50miler! Thank you to all the runners for giving us a reason to hang out, to the race organizers, volunteer coordinators and all our awesome aid station crew, I can’t wait to do it again next year!