Aid Stations 101

The most basic function of an aid station at a trail-race / ultramarathon is to provide runners with food and water so they can continue running and finish the race. From the race organizations standpoint, it gives us a place to check on the runners to make sure they are doing ok and are able to continue running. Aid stations are also a place from where we track runners progress, record their bib numbers etc. Simply put, the primary reason we have aid stations is for the runners safety and to help the runners accomplish their goal of finishing the race.

At times you may go a long while without seeing any runners and at other times, you may be dealing with a mass of runners all coming in at once. Runners needs will differ greatly – some may have a crew and will not need anything from the aid station, while others may need a lot of assistance from you. Late in a race, when runners are working hard and are fatigued, coming out of the woods into a lively aid station can be a disorienting experience. Don’t overwhelm the runners, instead calmly ask if you can help in any way, offer encouragement and generally be of assistance wherever you can.



Working an aid station – simplified:


  • Be sure to spend some time studying all the sections of the race website to learn as much as you can about the race. Doing this homework in advance allows you to be prepared come race weekend and be the best resource possible for the runners and your fellow volunteers.
  • Feel free to put your own personal touches on the aid station and please work with your aid station captain to plan an extra more substantial food item (burgers, pizza, vegetarian or vegan items – whatever sounds good and you know you can pull off)! We will provide soup mixes and primarily pre-packaged snack foods for the runners.
  • Arrive on time or a little early to your volunteer assignment. For aid stations, the estimated time of arrival of the first runner(s) is just that, an estimate.  Introduce yourself to your fellow volunteers. Familiarize yourself with all of the information in your aid station manual / folder and with all of the equipment that you have been provided with.
  • Introduce yourself to the Ham Radio Operator(s) who are stationed at your aid station as well. There is limited cell service in the Zumbro Bottoms, we rely on Ham Radio Operators for the majority of our communications. They can provide communication from aid station to aid station and to the start / finish / race headquarters area. In the event of an emergency they will provide communications.
  • Get the aid station equipment set-up, put out food and be ready for the first runner.
  • Name badges on lanyards. In the aid station bins will be lanyards with name badge holders and magic markers to write down your name on the card and insert into the holder. I know not everyone loves name tags but just as we have found with the runners (having their names printed on their bibs) we have found 1.) It helps runners be able to identify who the volunteers are 2.) We meet so many people on race weekend that it is hard to remember everyone’s name and 3.) Knowing people’s names and truly getting to know people builds community.
  • Fill water bottles, help find drop bags, help get and prepare food – generally just be of assistance to the runners and offer encouragement. When not in use, keep food covered, cold/hot, protected etc.
  • If a runner is having a medical problem, notify the Ham Radio Operators immediately so they can radio for help if needed.
  • If a runner drops out of the race, make sure that the information gets written down and notify the Ham Radio Operators right away.
  • Runners bib numbers will be recorded as they enter each aid station. Depending on the aid station or year, this may be done by the HAM Radio volunteers, the aid station volunteers or a combination of both.  This is done so we can track runners throughout the race and in the event that a runner is un accounted for (either not listed as a DNF or finisher) we can query the logs to see last known location.
  • The trail “sweeps” will be shortly behind the last runner on the last loop. The sweeps are there to make sure that nobody is left behind / hurt on the trail, pick up course markings and pickup any garbage left on the trail. When the “sweeps” arrive, that is your cue that you can close your aid station. Please offer them food and drink prior to doing so.
  • When you start packing up your aid station please pack similar items together in the bins i.e. one bin for dirty dishes, one bin for food, one bin for equipment, etc. Fold up your tables, take down the tents and leave in a neat pile with a water jug or something heavy to weigh down the food bins.
  • Even when we have warm days at Zumbro it usually gets pretty cold overnight, so please be sure to bring warm clothes; think down-jacket and other winter gear especially for those late night shifts. Rain gear is advisable as well. There is always the potential for mud at Zumbro so bring appropriate footwear.
  • For those working really long shifts (many of you) please work with your aid station captain and those in your group to rotate out and get some rest, feel free to bring a tent, sleeping bag etc so you can catch some Z’s – we do not want, need or expect anyone to try to stay awake for two days straight!
  • You are welcome to all the aid station food you can eat but you may get tired of it… you may want to pack a lunch so you have something you like. We are hoping to make some pizza at West Assembly and will plan to make that available to everyone a couple of times during the race.
  • Make sure you get a t-shirt, hat, etc. (whatever the years swag / giveaway item is) – if nobody brought to you (it gets busy and those in charge of doing that can forget!) please ask for one.