Aid station tips for race volunteers

Here is a list of tips when working an aid station or water stop on a run course. I cover some general tips, races in the heat & dealing with elite runners. I’ve also included a checklist for volunteers on what to bring.

Here are some aid station tips for race volunteers that I learned while working the aid station at mile 3 of the 10k run during the Rockett’s Landing Triathlon.

General aid station tips for volunteers

  • If you can’t fill the cups fast enough to keep up with runners, take the lid off the gatorade jug and just start scooping
  • If you can’t hand runners cups, it’s better to make sure they are filled. Put the table in a spot where they can grab it. They would rather have to pick up their own full cup than have you hand them an empty one.
  • If a runner is not responding when you ask them what you can get them, and they look out of it, they could be deaf/mute. Don’t just assume they are suffering from the heat. But of course, when in doubt, air on the side of caution.
  • If a runner is holding out her water bottle, please ask her what she wants, and offer to fill it for her
  • Don’t fill the cups to the top. 3/4 or halfway is fine. They will only knock half the water out of the cup if you fill it to the top.
  • If you have Gatorade in your cup, yell “Gatorade.” If you have water, yell “Water.”
  • Keep the sports drink at one end of the table, and the water at the other.
  • Create your own tasks. You won’t always be told what to do. So look around, see what needs done, and do it.

Aid station tips for handing out water in the heat

  • For a really hot, humid race, water is more popular than the sports drink. You can never have too much water or ice.
  • During a hot race, be prepared to pour water down someone’s back, or ice into their tri suit. Someone will probably ask for it.
  • If you can spare it, keep some ice separate in a cooler by itself. Some people will ask for ice only to put in their hat and/or shirts, shorts… basically anywhere it will fit.
  • Volunteers… REMEMBER TO DRINK. It’s easy to hand out cup after cup, and forget about yourself. Please remember to stay hydrated.
  • If you have a tent providing shade, offer it to the runners. They might not think to stop, but once you offer it, they realize it’s a great idea.

Aid station tips for handing out water to the elite runners

  • Practice your cup handoff  before the elites get there. They expect (and have earned) water to be handed to them. They will be traveling very fast. And they will not stop or slow down to get it. Handoff is crucial.
  • For many of the first runners you see, only fill the cups halfway. They will knock half the water out of the cup when they grab it from you.
  • For the faster runners, all volunteers should offer up water, 15-20 ft. apart. If the first handoff is dropped, and even the 2nd and 3rd handoffs are dropped, the runner could still be able to grab a drink.

Volunteers. What should you bring with you?

  • Shorts/Pants with pockets
  • A copy of the course map and/or transition area (you are likely to get questions)
  • Dry clothes/shirts to change into, especially if it’s hot
  • Sunscreen
  • Folding chairs (you won’t use them once the runners start coming through, but you might have 30 minutes to an hour to wait before they do)
  • Refillable water bottle (so you don’t have to use the cups)
  • Snacks. Most races will have bottled water for you, but don’t count on any food.
  • Towel. Keep in the car. Use to dry off and/or lay over the seat.
  • A semi-empty trunk and/or backseat. You may be asked to transport supplies.
  • Sunglasses
  • Hat/visor
  • Hand sanitizer (…especially if you are having the post-race finger foods. You will get nasty dirty.)
  • Swiss Army knife (or even a simple pocket knife)

One thought on “Aid station tips for race volunteers”

  1. yea, and keep an eye on your aid station buddy. If they start to lose basic muscle function, it's a sign they're dehydrating.

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