This past weekend my daughters and I volunteered at Calico Racing’s Lovell Canyon race. We try to volunteer at a couple of races each year. If you haven’t worked an aid station before, you just gotta try it.
For me, as a runner, working an aid station is part ‘race day excitement’ and part ‘day at the beach’. I love driving the course to my station. Passing the starting line with the runners getting warmed up and driving to my table! It’s also a great family adventure. Wake up crazy early, drive to a remote area, and work and play for a few hours.
I think ‘day at the beach’ attitude is what you need to make this fun. I’ve only worked races with a few hundred+ runners (I’ve never worked a major 10,000+ person race, it sounds more like work than fun). The actual job is simple, fill up cups with drinks and hand it to runners. But we want fun so we’ve started decorating with flamingos and wearing goofy looking hats, we cook ourselves breakfast, and just play the whole time.
The craziest thing is its free! I’d pay to work an aid station and yet some Race Directors give out T-Shirts and credit for future races. Really! You are front line in a sporting event, participating, and its free!
Even if you aren’t a runner this should be a fun crazy thing to do with your friends and family!
Key points to keep in mind:
- I like small time races. You have a few of the fast runners, then the bulk of the crowd, then the stragglers. Plenty of time to play.
- Not all aid stations have chairs. Bring your own.
- You will be outside for hours. It may be very cold at the start and very hot at the finish. Even if it is rainy or windy, the race will go on.
- Bring your own food. Some directors might feed you but don’t count on it.
- Race Directors are crazy busy on race day, and probably are living on caffeine so they might seem jumpy and grumpy – Show up on time or earlier and be helpful.
- People running the race are generally out having fun, but they are racing. Make sure your kids don’t slow them down.
- Handing water to a runner who is racing can be challenging. They don’t want to slow down and if you mess it up they won’t stop. They’ll run the next 1-2 miles without water.
- If you have time constraints, tell the race director in advance (NOT ON RACE DAY).