Much Ado About Aid Stations: How to Grab, Gulp, and Go with the Flow

By Dren Asselmeier

Whether you’re a seasoned runner or this will be your first race, it’s important to have a strategy for going through aid stations. Some people will try to PR (set a personal record) and fly through aid stations. Others may prefer to slow to a walk, drink as they please, fuel up if needed, adjust, and get back into a groove. Whatever you chose to do, there’s a right way and a wrong way.

Decide Your Plan
First of all, decide before you get up to the station what you’re going to do. Sometimes runners get distracted and decide at the last minute to reach for a drink, but you’re going to be smoother and have a better interaction if you know leading up to the aid station what you’re going to do.

Be Aware of Those Around You
Second, aid stations can get pretty hairy if you’re not paying attention to the flow of the people around you. We’ve seen some close calls and full-on collisions when someone abruptly came to a stop from a fast pace, and didn’t check to see if they had someone close behind them. If you’re skipping the aid station (some runners carry their own water, or just don’t feel the need to stop that often), stay toward the middle of the path so that slower people can move to the sides for hydration or fuel. If you’re going to walk or slow down considerably, start ramping down 10 or 20 feet before you reach the volunteer, and check over your shoulder to be sure no one is going to bowl you over. No matter what, be aware of the people around you so that we all run safely.

Grab Intentionally
Volunteers will do their level best to keep their hands out flat so that you can literally grab the cup with no hesitation, but trust me, it’s not an easy job! If you make eye contact with a volunteer as you run up to them, they will be able to better hand something off to you quickly.

Enter the Slow Lane and Merge Accordingly!
Once you grab your GU or drink, keep moving (even if you’ve slowed). If you’re not keeping up with the crowd, stay off to the side briefly while you sip. Then you can reassess when you’re ready to merge back into the herd and start moving in slowly as you gain speed, just like you would with traffic.

Avoid Spillage and Stomach Upset
As for tricks to ingest everything easily, try pinching your cup a little to form more of an oval or point that will help you drink quickly without getting water all over your face and shirt. If you’ve never had the fuel that we’re giving out on race day, give it a try on one of your runs and make sure it agrees with you. For instance, some people love a little caffeine and others avoid it completely, so make sure you know which flavor/color to pick up if you plan on grabbing one. As a tip, many people find it easier to have a gel or chew first, and then drink something to help it go down easy.

Aid Station Details
Information about aid stations is available on the course map section of the website. We’ll have Meijer water and lemon lime GU Hydration Drink at all aid stations on both the half and 5k courses. The 5k has two aid stations, and the half marathon course will have stations about every two miles. GU energy gels and chews will be near mile 6. The flavors of gels are TriBerry or Salted Caramel (both caffeinated) with a Strawberry Banana (non-caffeinated) option, and we’ll have chews that are Strawberry (caffeinated).

That should be everything you need to know to have a safe and happy run or walk with worry-free transactions at aid stations. Make sure to thank the volunteers for helping to make the Gazelle Girl Half Marathon & 5k such great events!


Dren Asselmeier is a runner, toddler mom and writer who has been involved with the Gazelle Girl events since they began in 2012. She loves supporting women with their fitness goals and hanging out with her stroller gang. When weather permits, she runs with her tiny ginger running buddy, Walter. Dren blogs at Drenergize.com

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