With the permission of Zach Adams, we are reprinting this post about how an ultrarunner (usually the one running) takes on the role of aid station captain. For those of you who have manned aid stations, you will be able to identify with Zach. For those of you who are used to aid station workers taking care of you, well … just say “thanks” to your aid station folks next time you’re in a race. Thanks to Zach Adams and Eric Steele of Epic Ultras for letting us post this piece.
At the inaugural Flint Hills Marathon and 40 Miler I got my first taste of running an aid station for the full duration of a race, and HOLY SHIT was it a real eye-opener! Since I started running ultras about 5 years ago, I have been amazingly taken care of at almost every race I have started. I have had workers fill my bottles, give me food, and offer me everything from a sandwich from their own cooler to Tums out of the glove box of their car. I have stumbled, shuffled, and flown through innumerable aid stations, but I have never worked one. I now realize after working at one, that while I was grateful, I was still taking them for granted. Not anymore. Never again. I realize that I am not unique in that I usually run ultras so I am really excited to share some observations from my first experience from behind the aid station table.
1. It is HARD. You have to show up early and stay late. You have to rush around and get stuff ready before runners get there. You have to load and unload everything. You have to clean as you go. You have to clean, inventory, and repack everything once the last runner comes through. It isn’t running, but it is a LOT of work.
2. It is STRESSFUL. The pressure of being able to quickly and efficiently provide for all the needs of the runners while still cheering them on and infusing them with confidence takes a real toll on you. Waiting for a group of runners to come through and making sure you got them all checked in can leave you worried that you missed someone. You will question yourself. Did I do everything I could for them? Did I find the right drop bag? Did I give them the right bottle back?
3. It is INSPIRING. Watching runners push themselves to the breaking point and battling it out against the elements and their own exhaustion and overcome all obstacles to meet and exceed their goals will give you a shiver. Working an aid station will leave you with a renewed faith in humanity and a solid week’s supply of warmfuzzies.
4. It is FULFILLING. Spending time and energy taking actions that directly correlate and make an impact on people realizing their dreams is extremely fulfilling. Playing a part in an organization that co-creates EPIC “ultrarunning experiences of a lifetime” is extremely rewarding. You are a character in a memory of these runner’s lives that, while unnamed, will stick with them for their entire lives.
5. It is FUN. This is the best part. It is fun as hell! Hooting and hollering, yelling and screaming… It is a blast. Laughing and having fun with a huge group of people who share and understand an “insane” sport that you also love; how could this NOT be freaking awesome. I had a blast. I made friends. This is priceless – and it is an aspect of our “beloved sport” I had been missing until that point.
All said and done, I am so glad I took a race off of running and took my time helping others reach their goals. IF you have not done this yet, I HIGHLY suggest that you do. If you HAVE… why in the HELL did you not tell me that it was imperative that I DO SO!!!?? So for those of you who have not – I will make it easy. Go to epicultras.com/brigade. Sign up and get involved. Put your ultrarunning experience and enthusiasm to good use. Although your body can’t run as many ultras as you want, it doesn’t mean you can’t still soak up the “Epic Energy”. Epic Ultras is known for having incredible support for runners in their events – both aid and staff. I am honored and proud to say that I played a part in executing their mission: co-creating EPIC “ultrarunning experiences of a lifetime”!
Until Next Time…. BE EPIC!