We got there late for various reasons but luckily the storms delayed things just a bit and we ended up not missing anything. We were assigned to aid station 5 with another woman at what we were told was mile 16 of the full marathon.
Trail marathons are the real deal. During road races I think it's safe to say the stations have water and some kind of electrolyte replacement drink, maybe some oranges and/or bananas and probably some form of goo (Gu). At this race, our setup was legit. Gallons upon gallons of water and Heed, flat Coke and Sprite, peanut butter filled pretzels, Chips Ahoy mini chocolate chip cookies, oranges, bananas, peanut butter and jelly on the good whole grain bread, Hammer Nutrition goos, and salt tablets.
We set everything up including our fold out chairs and waited patiently for the first runner. We also had a sheet with the bib numbers of the runners and we were to mark down what time they came through as a way to keep track of everyone.
With my Deep Woods Off applied I was doing alright in the forest. It was gorgeous and stopped raining so sitting outside wasn't an issue...although I did have a poncho just in case. Finally we got our first runner. First impression was that he was more badass than any character Jason Statham has ever played (and I love Jason Statham). He was also surprisingly nice and looked completely chill. He chatted with us a bit while he refilled his bottles and had a few bites and then he was gone. Second place was over 3 minutes behind him but pretty much the same impression. They kept rolling in, one at a time, every few minutes until I saw an old friend I met in college about a hundred years ago. "Oh. Hey Evan!" He had that determination/misery/badassery/I'd kind of like to stop running and be finished now look that we found quite common in trail marathoners as the day wore on but was also perfectly nice, refilled his pack and off he went. I was surprised to only see 3 women out of the 36 total marathoners but they were hanging tough just like the men. Trail aid stations are so different because the runners really do stop to take a breather, consume some calories, stretch and throw away articles of clothing and ring out socks decimated by the multiple creek crossings and obstacles they'd already passed. The worst part of the whole day was having to tell people they were at Mile 16. About half of the runners had GPS watches which all said they were at Mile 18-19 and we had to be the messengers that in fact, they had 10 miles to go instead of the 8 they had convinced themselves they could do on the way to our station. *Did I mention we were located at the top of a particularly grueling hill? We of course didn't know this until people told us...which every one of them did. But that did make everyone really excited to see us! I also happened to see another guy I knew who is a board member for the organization I used to work for. I'd only ever seen him in a suit and tie so the wet and muddy shorts and tee, trail shoes and a backwards baseball cap was a little bizarre, but cool all at the same time. Even cooler when I informed him that I wasn't working and that this was just something I do because I got a new level of respect I think. Like maybe the real trail runners might consider opening the door to let me into the trail running club. Anyway, we only had one scary moment and that was the guy who looked us in the face and said, "I'm done." We asked the standard "How are you feeling?" and everyone was ok despite the occasional "I feel like shit." said with a laugh but when he said he was done we pulled up a chair for him. He was in his 50s and obviously in great shape but he told us he just knew when to call it, especially since we were Mile 16 and not 20. It was obvious how seasoned he was because he knew exactly why he was feeling that way and what could have been done differently and that he physically could not finish the race and was ok with it. We called a medic and Nurse
All in all it was a blast and I can't wait to do my first trail race! There's something about volunteering that gives you a weird insight into worlds you want to enter but don't know how. I'm excited to have been there to help them and am looking forward to racing myself and having others return the favor.