Boston Marathon–Hydration Station #5

17 Apr

Yesterday, thousands of runner descended on the streets of Boston to run the 116th Boston Marathon. I’ve already read half a dozen recaps from the runners’ point of view – here’s how it went down behind the scenes of Hydration Station #5.

I arrived in Framingham around 6:45 a.m., which made me super happy because the last thing I wanted to do was be late for my assignment (this may have something to do with missing out on a supremely awesome jacket if late…). I had seen one water station on my way in, but then saw a guy that parked where I parked walking another way. I checked my map on my phone – good thing, I would’ve shown up at the wrong station!

Boston Marathon Map

First amazing thing of the day – almost all of the volunteers were already there/showing up, before 7 a.m. It made me feel warm and fuzzy inside that this many people were that motivated to be on time to hydrate and support the runners.

We immediately got to work – placing tables, hanging Gatorade and Poland Spring banners, moving cups, pitchers, and cases of concentrated Gatorade. 

Gatorade Sign

Gatorade sign at my station

Then it was team meeting time! We met our team captains – Shelby and Irvina, as well as Ed, the coordinator. The team I was working for is the Alzheimer’s Association – which is an amazing association to work for. My great grandmother suffered from Alzheimer’s so I know first hand what it does to a person and a family. They gave us some cool purple Alzheimer’s Association hats, which just so happen to match my planned outfit for the Cox Half on May 6th (I know, I know, such a girl…).

We were instructed on how to fill the cups, how to stay sanitary, and how to hand the cups to the athletes. Then we were sent on our way to find the station we wanted to be at.

I chose the first Gatorade station on the left hand side of the road. My teammates – Beth and Donna – were amazing ladies. They were motivated, great team players, and between the three of us we had some really good ideas for how to operate. We received a fourth teammate at some point – Tim (I believe…) – I don’t remember when he came to help us, I think it was after the madness had begun.

We set to work mixing, setting up cups, pouring, and stacking. The Gatorade girl came by and tested our product – she told us we were “Spot on.” Three cheers for proper Gatorade mixing!

Gatorade Girl

Gatorade Stack

Once we were set up, things were slow for a while. We the begun to see the mobility impaired, push-rim wheelchairs, and handcycles. These people are amazing and so inspirational to me. To participate in the Boston Marathon in a wheelchair, or a handcycle, or with a prosthetic leg – I said more than once “That’s the last time you’ll hear me complain about my IT Band.” We clapped and yelled and cheered for each and every single one of them.

Next up were the elite women – it was pretty surreal. We were watching up the hill and all of a sudden a pack of women just came barreling at us. They were HAULING ass. It was amazing to see first hand – so fast, so focused, so determined.

Then the course was quiet again for a bit.

Then it was time for the elite men – same as the women, a big pack (except for one guy who was way out in front, I can’t remember who it was though…) of men barreling down the road.  No sooner did they get by when the first wave of runners started coming at us.

And like that – things got CRAZY. We flew threw our first two tiers of cups – so, being the control freak that I am, I immediately ran behind the table and started stacking and pouring and stacking and pouring (I believe this is when Tim joined us…). I felt like I was moving at the speed of light. Luckily we were prepared – we had a (lined) trash barrel full of Gatorade and 12 pre-made gallons ready for the barrel. It’s a good thing!

Cups, Gatorade, and everything else you can imagine was flying! I was soaked in Gatorade – it was in my shoes, down my legs, all over my jacket. The jacket I was glad I was wearing at this point (even though it was already pushing 90 degrees).

Runner’s in this wave were already soaked in sweat, but still strong because it was only Mile 5 and they were fast (You have to be fast to be in Wave 1).

I was having so much fun – I kept saying how much I love working under pressure, I was just cranking out the cups of Gatorade as fast as I could while Beth and Donna handed them off to the runners. We were yelling things like “Gatorade”, “Two more tables of Gatorade behind us”, “Water is 3 tables down”, etc. to instruct runners, especially as we started to run low on our supply.

There was a brief hiatus between Wave 1 and 2 – we were able to restock our table and prepare for the next barrage of thirsty runners.

Next thing we know Wave 2 runners are headed our way – another wall of people running right for us! This wave was just as crazy as the first wave and next thing I knew, Irvina was at our table telling us to shut down and move onto the next table. 4 people couldn’t keep up with the demand for Gatorade at our table, so there was no point in trying when we could double staff the next Gatorade table and crank it out that much faster, and indeed we did. We were stacking, pouring, and handing like crazy. There wasn’t a still body to be seen anywhere!

Having to work that hard, that fast, and as that much of a single unit when you’re dealing with 8 individuals was a giant adrenaline rush. I loved every. single. second. The communication between all of us was beyond amazing – I wish everyone in the world communicated like our group did!

There was no hiatus between Wave 2 and Wave 3 – the people just kept coming. About 75% of the way through this group, people were starting to look run down, tired, hot. We were slowing down in our Gatorade delivery, and I was able to take notice of the runners for the first time all morning.

My heart ached for the people running – it was BRUTAL. Temps reached 90 and there was not a cloud in the sky. I cannot begin to fathom how they felt, I am just so honored to have had a part in helping maintain hydration.

I want to send a HUGE shout out to Poland Spring water – they were on the ball. As soon as we started breaking down our station, they picked up all of the remaining full water jugs and (I assume) brought them down the line to the remaining water stations. I’m sure water stations anywhere from Mile 10 on were in desperate need of extra water.

I will do this again next year, I’d love to do it with the Alzheimer’s Association team again, as they were phenomenal people to work with. Clean up was as much of a breeze as set up, everyone was just so motivated to continue working until everything was 100% done.

I now plan on volunteering as much as I can at races I’m not running – now that I realize what it is like to be behind the scenes taking care of runners versus being a runner, it is something I feel that I need to do, something that I know I will always enjoy doing, and most importantly it will always be a humbling experience.

If you have never volunteered at a race – I urge you to do it, even if just once, and make a difference in the lives of thousands of runners.

Congrats to everyone who ran yesterday – whether you finished or not – you got out there, you ran, you tried, and gave it your all. That’s all that matters – it was a crazy brutal day.




28 Responses to “Boston Marathon–Hydration Station #5”

  1. nycrunningmama April 17, 2012 at 9:35 pm #

    I have volunteered at several races before and agree 100% with you – it is such an experience to be on the other end for a change!! I have SO much appreciation for all the volunteers now that I know what goes into it and how hard they work for hours before the race even starts!!!
    Glad to hear that you had a great day =) =) You will be running it one day. Trust me.

    • runcupcake April 17, 2012 at 9:42 pm #

      🙂 I LOVE your confidence for me!

      It truly is an amazing experience, I can’t wait to do it again.

  2. Robin April 17, 2012 at 9:36 pm #

    OK, so I probably grabbed a cup from you and didn’t even realize it because I grabbed from the left side of the road at every aid station. 🙂

    My first time I volunteered for a race was Boston a few years ago and I loved it. Such an experience. Thanks again for volunteering, you guys were all amazing and much appreciated!

    • runcupcake April 17, 2012 at 9:43 pm #

      HAHA That’s funny – you probably did. The people were flying at me so fast, and when I was filling my head was down, just watching my pour, I didn’t see anything else! 🙂

  3. jshade77 April 17, 2012 at 9:46 pm #

    That’s so awesome Samantha! So sorry I missed you guys Sunday morning. By Monday, boys were on the mend. I love reading about your volunteer experience–volunteering at a race IS a truly AMAZING experience. 🙂

  4. Carissa @Fit2Flex April 17, 2012 at 9:49 pm #

    That’s awesome! Love this post! I hope you got all the Gatorade off you! Between working and running I have never volunteered for a race but I should.

  5. jobo April 17, 2012 at 9:52 pm #

    Wow, sounds like an awesome experience! I’d love to volunteer at one of these!!

  6. Wild Things Run Free April 17, 2012 at 10:21 pm #

    Volunteering is SO rewarding. I’m actually TOTALLY stoked to volunteer at the sole of the city ( a huge deal to baltimore this year!) this weekend even though its supposed to POUR rain. It’s just that special to help the running community i love so much

    I would have LOVED to have been able to volunteer for Boston in particular! maybe next year I can make a trip down just to help out such incredible and inspirational athletes!!

  7. the MF Dre April 17, 2012 at 11:11 pm #

    You and all of the rest of the volunteers were the reason we all were able to accomplish this feat on Monday. There is no way we can thank you enough! I loved being able to share in the fun with you this weekend! Thanks for organizing such a great event on Sunday. xoxo

  8. runwiki April 18, 2012 at 8:15 am #

    Yes, I am an emotional person.. but this made me cry. Being a marathoner I appreciate the volunteers so much. I have volunteered at smaller races but, volunteering at Boston sounds like it was an experience. I LOVE that you went and enjoyed yourself so much. It tells me as a reader how very passionate you are about our sport. So proud to be your fellow FFA. NICE WORK!!! xo

    • runcupcake April 18, 2012 at 8:39 am #

      😀 Speaking of emotional, your comment made me cry. Thank you so much. It was an incredible experience, which I highly recommend!

    • Run To Munch April 18, 2012 at 11:06 am #

      I teared up a bit reading this as well!

  9. krisranhere April 18, 2012 at 8:32 am #

    This is something I SO want to do! Thank you for volunteering and sharing your experience on “the other side” The stacking technique is so clever!

  10. Lindsay (@LeanGrnBeanBlog) April 18, 2012 at 8:44 am #

    omg what a fun experience!!!

  11. Kristin April 18, 2012 at 9:05 am #

    Thanks for sharing your experience! It sounds like you had a great time despite the heat. It’s so important to give back, especially when the running community is so supportive. Way to go!

  12. Jess Sutera April 18, 2012 at 9:09 am #

    I can’t even imagine what it must’ve been like seeing the WALL of runners coming right at you. Amazing, fierce, determined. I can’t even fathom!! SUCH a cool experiencde for you!!

  13. Run With Rabbits April 18, 2012 at 9:26 am #

    I felt awful for the runners as soon as I heard it would be so warm out. Thank you for volunteering! And thanks for this post – I volunteered at a water stop during the Long Island Marathon almost 10 years ago, and it was an awesome experience. I always wondered how they were able to plan for things at big marathons like Boston.

  14. Run To Munch April 18, 2012 at 11:05 am #

    You and all the other volunteers did such an amazing job! Thank you so much!!! =)

  15. willrunformargaritas April 18, 2012 at 6:07 pm #

    Thanks SO much for volunteering – everyone was amazing and we couldn’t have run without you! It was such a HOT day and I took water from every single station (sometimes more than 1) Thank you, thank you!!

    • Dan April 18, 2012 at 7:44 pm #

      I’m glad you had such a good experience Sam. Race directors and runners need people like you out there on the front lines. From what you wrote it sounds as tho you really picked a good race and had the good fortune to be working with such quality people all the way around. One reason I love to run Boston is that they have had the wrinkles worked out for a long time, at least as far as I can see.

      I’ve volunteered before where it wasn’t like this. Race director gave us minimal instruction, never passed word to us when the last runners had come through, didn’t really seem to give a damn that we were there. Runners who didn’t understand how races worked bitched at us before the races started, some other idiot runners bitched at us after it was over. And this race was run by someone I considered a friend. For our trouble we got the cotton volunteer shirts we were wearing and a pair of extra beer glasses that didn’t sell. Just keep picking your races and those you work with wisely. If you do get trapped, please take charge and make good on a bum RD’s part!

  16. Heather Iacobacci (@hriacobacci) April 18, 2012 at 7:37 pm #

    Loved the recap – and seriously what a great thing you did by just volunteering. We don’t always have to run to participate. Must remember this.

  17. Christine @ Love, Life, Surf April 18, 2012 at 7:43 pm #

    Wow. That’s amazing so hear the story from the other side. I would have been flipping out once those 1st two tiers of cups were gone trying to refill as quickly as I could. Definitely makes me so thankful for all the volunteers at races. Thanks for inspiring me to do it one day too.

  18. Andi Graham April 19, 2012 at 8:36 am #

    So awesome!!!! I so wish I lived near a major marathon like that – I’d love to volunteer. As it is, I’ll have to find something local (that I’m not running) because that sounds like so much FUN!!!

  19. Kara April 19, 2012 at 5:45 pm #

    What a fun experience! That’s so great of you – I’ve volunteered for races before but it’s been awhile…you’ve motivated me to sign up again 🙂

  20. Jo DeMoranville April 19, 2012 at 9:27 pm #

    Great recap.. I’m not much of a writer. I was at Mile 4 Hydration Station, but many of your words hit home. Almost every runner thanks us…we were there because of their cause and reason for enduring 26.2 miles.

  21. FruitFly April 19, 2012 at 11:05 pm #

    I don’t know how you wore that jacket the whole time!
    I was at 26.1 in the shade for most of it … I left there sweaty and pink from the lovely sunburn I am now sporting!

    On behalf of my friend/coach … thanks for volunteering and helping keep the runners hydrated!

  22. brgrossesq April 20, 2012 at 11:37 am #

    Much thanks for slinging drinks to us runners. Without you & all the other volunteers I would have passed out by mile 10!


  1. Boston Race Reports from the Blogosphere | - April 23, 2012

    […] Running and Cupcakes — Samantha "I’ve already read half a dozen recaps from the runners’ point of view – here’s how it went down behind the scenes of Hydration Station #5." […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: