Volunteers are not paid ---- not because they are worthless, but because they are priceless.
For those of you that know I live near Cleveland....spare me any jokes about the title. Nowadays the Burning River is a 100 mile endurance trail run.
Four years ago I volunteered at my coaches aid station. The saying above was printed on the back of the t-shirts they gave us.
This past weekend I volunteered again at the aid station of running and tri friend Elizabeth (E-Speed) . When I saw the t-shirts I was happy to see they kept the saying on the back.
With 2010 being the fourth year of the race it was also selected to be the USATF 100 mile national championship race. I was expecting to see some very talented ultra-runners on the course.
The Boston Store Aid station is a very busy place. The runners come into the station at mile 49.1 before heading out for a 5.4 mile loop which brings them back to the same aid station at mile 54.5. The aid station would be open for 12 hours running three 4 hour shifts. We had the first shift.
Elizabeth does a great job and decided upon a pirate theme for the aid station.
Here is the first shift crew ready for the runners.
Here is Elizabeth on the left with her sister Katie who was scoring
For those of you not familiar with ultra running these aid stations are something else. The food being offered was immense. PB&J sandwiches, pizza, watermelon, cookies, chips, grapes, soup, coffee, gatorade, water, ice, sponges....what am I forgetting.
The runners can also have a gear bag dropped off at the aid station. Inside the gear bag can be almost anything. Nutrition, change of socks, band-aids, bandannas, hats, etc.
My task was to be a handler. I would great the runner into the aid station and ask what he needs. Water bottles would be handed off to another volunteer to refill. I would call for his gear back to be brought forward and help him with whatever he needed. While he was getting ready for the next section I would tell him how far the section was and what to expect. I also made sure runners headed in the right direction for the loop they were doing. We wanted to avoid someone accidentally skipping a loop or doing a loop twice.
The first group of runners, the elites, often had their own support crew who would have most of their needs taken care of. As volunteers were weren't needed to much. If the runner was from out of town and didn't know the course we made sure they understood the next section.....distance, terrain, next aid station.
This dude in the white tights and black shorts (thank goodness) had a support crew so we didn't offer much help.
After about 30 runners had made it through the first pass of the aid station I moved over to the street corner where the runners would be returning. Aimee and Lou were now handling the first time runners, I started working on the runners coming to the aid station the second time.
Here is Aimee waiting for a runner while talking with our friend Dale who was handling gear bags.
As the runners made their way back to the aid station for the second time I would handle them before they went back out for their next 4.1 mile section. They were far enough apart that I could handle them on my own.
Here I am with the eventual second place finisher and local runner Mark Godale. He had a crew but I was still able to help.
There is much to be inspired by when watching an ultra race. Many stories to tell and motivation to absorb. The runners below on the right is an 18 year old local. He finished his 100 mile run in 18 hours and 49 minutes.
He's a cancer survivor. That's Aimee helping get his bottle refilled.
One runner I handled was 20 years old from Indiana. When he came into the aid station he was a little out of it. He wasn't very talkative and wanted to sit and have something to eat. I had seen the look on his face before....many times....usually at Ironman races. But here he was at mile 54.5 out of 100. He was over half way done. I was concerned that he wouldn't make it. Fortunately two local legends were close by and offered the right encouragement, advice and motivation to get him moving. His mom was listening intently to what they said....so did I. I couldn't recognize the symptoms and offer a solution because it was a different environment for me. But when it comes down to it......Ironman and ultra running are very similar.
He finished the 100 miles in 22 hours and 7 minutes.
My final take away from this race was offered by my friend Dale. As I was waiting for a runner to come into the aid station I could hear behind me someone yelling for a change of socks. I saw someone running towards me with a pair but when I turned towards the aid station I saw Dale sitting on the group removing his shoes and socks for the runner.
That's the type of guy Dale is. He will give you the shirt off his back, socks from his feet and...well we can stop there.
Overall Aimee and I had a great time helping at the aid station. I hated to leave but we had other things to do. There would be two more 4 hour shifts at the aid station. I wanted to stay all day.