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How to Maximize Efficiency at Aid Stations During Your Race


Aid stations at a race are one of those things that no one especially notices or talks about if you get it right, but if you run out of ice or any other essentials then people in China are going to hear all about it. Not only do you need to have the right supplies, but you also need a solid game plan for executing each aid station.

How to Maximize Efficiency at Aid Stations During Your Race

Let's start with the basics. Suppose you have a race that is 5k or less and you are going to have one very basic aid station that will provide water and possibly sports drink. Seems like no big deal to throw up a table and get some of those little cups and make it happen. If you have a small race of less than 100 people, it may be just as straightforward as we just described. At RaceDirector we like simple. No need to over complicate things. Making sure you have enough volunteers on hand will probably be your most important concern since everyone will be coming through the aid station in a concentrated mass of humanity during these shorter events.

As the distance for a race stretches to 10k and Half Marathon, you are now potentially looking at multiple aid stations. This does mean that participants will become more spread out after the first aid station and not be as volunteer-intensive relative to the number of runners. During marathons and longer events, you may be offering some basic food items such as bananas or energy bars.

At the aid station, give people designated jobs and keep them focused on that task. Someone needs to be on cup and trash detail. Have a push broom and plenty of trash receptacles on hand. Some folks will be constantly setting up cups and filling them, while others are handing these items off to runners. Make sure you have a designated aid station captain that is up to speed with your plan. Go over it with them and leave them written instructions and a diagram to reference. This may be a simple, laminated page taped to one of the aid station tables.

Related: Common Race Volunteer Positions

How should you set up the aid stations? Think about the flow of runners coming into an aid station and moving out and continuing on the course. It is kind of like a NASCAR pit stop. Some people are going to blow right through. Others are coming in for four new tires and a full tank of gas. The key is to stage your aid station to encourage people who want full service to drift off to the side, out of the way of those blowing and going, and then have them merge back into the flow of things as they get back up to speed.

One way to accomplish this is to stagger tables in the aid station over the course of several hundred feet just like pit road on a race track. Let people see that there is ample room to get in and out and that they do not need to dive in front of anyone. You can also have volunteers stand a few yards into the roadway and hold out and offer cups to those that do not want to stop. All these folks want to do is grab a cup, toss it back, crush it and plow onward without breaking stride.

Another strategy, especially in larger events if you have a wide enough roadway, is to place aid station tables on both sides of the course. The speedsters can flow right down the middle and others can peel off in two different directions on either side. If the road is a bit narrow you can place one aid station on the right side of the road and then stagger the other one on the left 100 feet down. Whatever configuration you come up with, be sure to utilize it at every aid station so that people know what to expect each time.

Related: Go Green! Make Your Race More Environmentally Friendly

The first year you have an event, even the best laid plans will present some unforeseen problems. Do not sweat this too much. The key will be to illicit feedback from your participants as well as your volunteers. Check out our recent article Post Race Surveys: Go from Good to Great! for ideas on how to get important feedback. If you have not done so already, jump on the RaceDirector platform and take us for a free test drive and see how we can get your event running smooth and fast!

See for yourself how RaceDirector can help you save money on race registration fees while maximizing your time with robust race management features.

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