During races I try hard to be grateful for the aid stations and the people that work them. Often times I had considered volunteering at one of these events. It wasn’t until the owner of the dog kennel that I use asked me to volunteer after I commented on his Wasatch 100 shirt that I was truly dedicated. I ended up volunteering at the Desolation Lake aid station last week at Wasatch 100. I learned some stuff being on the other side of the aid station table.
1. Most runners are super grateful. I would say about 85% of the runners that made it through our id station were very grateful for us as a crew. They all realized that the nearest road was at least 4 miles away in any direction and we had packed a ton of stuff in. I have always been someone who is thankful at aid and it was nice to see that others are as well.
2. Some runners are assholes. Some runners just aren’t feeling well 66 miles in on a brutal course at high elevation. Some just suck. I was making instant mashed potatoes for people and this was one runner’s response, “These potatoes taste terrible, way too much salt.” Then he dropped the cup on the ground and walked away. Hike your own potatoes in and make them at 3:30 AM next time…Dick!
3. The bigger the crew the better. As the night goes on aid workers get tired too. We had a pretty solid schedule of working, resting and goofing off going on. It led to higher morale for the crew, allowing us to give the runners the best service possible.
4. If you are going to bring a hammock to sleep in bring a sleeping bag. It was really cold.
5. Ultrarunners are weird. We participate in a crazy sport. We eat odd crap while we run. We double dip Vaseline and rub it on our balls, nipples and other unmentionable places. We ALL double dip from the same bottle with grime-covered hands. This is a socially acceptable practice. We convince our friends to come and run with us in the middle of the night in the mountains. We make sure they know not to let us lay down at aid stations, they yell at us if we try to. We run and run until our bodies refuse to eat and we start breaking down. We convince our significant others to allow us to spend sizeable amounts of time and money on training and races. We are miserable more than half the time during each race and we keep coming back for more. All of this was apparent at the aid station. By the end of the night I couldn’t wait for my next race.
6. Aid workers need to be chemists as well. The amount of crazy requests for different mixtures of water, broth, GU brew, Coke, ginger ale and other stuff was amazing. 4/16ths full of water, 3/16ths full of GU brew, 5/16ths of coke and 4/16ths with broth. Runners actually requested stuff like that. OK, that was an exaggeration; they didn’t give us exact measurements. Which actually made it harder.
7. If you are a run ultras and haven’t volunteered at one, do it! It is a cool experience and a different way to get involved in our awesome community. There has to be some good karma coming my way now too.