Requirements of a Fluid Station Captain
I have been wanting to share a “behind the scenes” post about the set-up and logistics of volunteering for a major race, and I figured that my recent volunteering stint as a captain of a fluid station for the 2014 Detroit Marathon would be a perfect “behind the scenes” sharing opportunity.
Let’s get to it!
$46,480 possible prize money awarded
2 international border crossings
4 individual events (marathon, international half marathon, U.S. only half marathon, and 5k)
20 fluid stations
The Detroit Marathon
Attend a mandatory fluid station training meeting
Recruit 30 volunteers to help with your fluid station
Show up EARLY on race day
The Training Meeting
At the end of the meeting, the captain of each station received a box of long-sleeved t-shirts to distribute to their volunteers.
*Emergency situations include, but are not limited to medical assistance needed in the USA, medical assistance needed on the Canadian portion of the course, suspicious unattended bags, and reporting suspicious people.
Race Day Eve
Propane heater (it was 30 degrees on race morning this year!)
2 large rakes
A pair of scissors and a pocket knife
2 plastic pitchers
Extra warm clothes and gloves (volunteers often forget to dress warm for 30 degree weather)
I-Home/I-Pod (music to get the party started!)
5:15 am: Arrive in Detroit and start setting up the fluid station.
Ok, so the truth is, we failed to arrive on time this year. Somehow, we took the wrong freeway exit when we got to Detroit. No big deal, EXCEPT that we exited downtown where thousands of runners were arriving and trying to park for the race. We got stuck in major traffic trying to return to the freeway which put us behind by 15 minutes. No big deal, EXCEPT that by the time we got on the right path, the Detroit police force had barricaded the majority of the side roads to prevent cars from driving on the race course.
So, obviously, the only thing my husband could do was drive 45 mph for quarter mile stretches and then come to a quick halt so that I could jump out of the car, scoot the barricades to the side, let him drive past, and then put the barricades back in place before we sped to the next road block.
This stop and go strategy lasted for 7 miles before we arrived on the street where our fluid station was supposed to be set up. It was 32 degrees at this point and I was sweating. After all of this, our station was still positioned on the left side of the road on the opposite side of a cement barricade. We decided to make one last mad dash to our station location by driving on the left side of the road. We immediately got pulled over by a police officer and learned that we had made a poor decision.
We told the officer that we were trying to get to our fluid station before the runners arrived (T-minus 2 hours and counting), and he said, “That doesn't mean you can drive on the left side of the road.”
In a nice and gentle way, we said “Ok officer, how do you propose we get there since you and your friends have barricaded every single road?”
Then the police officer turned on his sirens and provided a police escort for us the rest of the way to our fluid station. If it wasn't so embarrassing and scary, we could have pretended we were in a parade.
6:00 am: Actually arrive at the fluid station location and find these goodies waiting for us:
7:00 am: The other volunteers arrived. Together, we poured water and Gatorade (cups are filled only halfway to help runners reduce spills and splashing). Each table stacked cups into 3 layers.
7:53 am: First hand cyclist passed our fluid station.
8:30 am: First marathon runner.
12:04 pm: The “last chance” bus passed our fluid station.
Rules and Responsibilities
2) During the race, a small group of volunteers from our station used rakes to continuously sweep up the cups discarded by runners.
3) A separate group of 4 volunteers distributed Vaseline on tongue depressors for runners struggling with chafing.
4) A small group of volunteers continuously flattened cardboard boxes and empty water gallon jugs for recycling.
5) At the end of the race, our station was cleaner than we found it, and our garbage and recycling were ready for the volunteer clean-up crew.
Volunteering to captain a fluid station is a lot of work, but it is definitely worth it.