Volunteering at Voyageur

For the second year in a row I’ve had the honor of volunteering at the Voyageur 50 as part of the official Upper Midwest Trail Runners Aid Station. We gather at the Beck’s Road station which is at mile 19 and 31 of this amazing out-and-back course. Our volunteer captain Rob is an incredibly experienced ultra runner, and does a great job making this aid station work.

We decided to camp for the weekend, about an hour south at St. Croix State Park, which meant that we didn’t have to fight traffic to get all the way up north on a Friday after work. We arrived shortly before the station was set to open, and my wife and I headed down the road to the Seven Bridges station to check in there. My wife was supposed to be floating medical between the two stations, but it turned out they found a medical person for that station and she didn’t need to go back and forth.

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Photo credit: Kevin Langton

We got back up to Beck’s and helped get things set up. Myself, along with Willow, volunteered to record incoming numbers, so we headed a few feet down the trail to get out of the way of spectators. At times we ended up quite a bit down the trail as we chased elusive shade on an increasingly warm and sunny day. Soon the runners started arriving and we got to work. By the time the runners reached mile 19 they were pretty well spread out. This meant for much easier work for us than some of the earlier aid stations.

It was a lot of fun greeting friends and familiar faces as they came into our station. Getting to welcome people to a place of respite is always a good time. They love to hear the cowbells and see all the smiles, knowing that they’re one more stop closer to being home and done. By about 11am things had slowed to a trickle and the final few dozen runners were coming in at a much slower pace.

This was when I decided it was time to go pick up lunch for everyone at the nearest pizza joint. I arrived back just as the final inbound runner was leaving the station. We all started breathing a bit easier knowing that the busiest part of the day was behind us. As the afternoon crept up the temps continued to rise, and many runners were coming in very hot. We started offering people water in their bottles, and over their heads. Since our water jugs are filled from a nearby spring, it’s rather cold. You won’t believe the sounds that come out of runners when you douse them with fresh cold spring water. Squeals of surprise and delight filled the air as one by one we got people cooled down.

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Photo credit: Tara Jean

Because our aid station is right around the 50K mark we did end up with a few drops from folks who just weren’t having a good day. We got them hydrated and fed, and into cars heading back to the finish line. Thankfully, we only had a handful of people who had to drop for medical reasons, which considering the hot July heat was a blessing.

Soon the final runners passed through the station and it was time to break everything down. We helped get everything consolidated for the sweepers who would be by shortly, and then we started our drive back to our camp. It was a great day to spend outside, helping amazing people do amazing things. I’m grateful to all the people who answered the call and came out to help Rob and UMTR put on a great aid station. I’m hopeful that we’ll all be back again next year for another beautiful Minnesota summer day outdoors.