For all the races I have ran in over the years, I had yet to volunteer at an event. Until now. Each September, Lethbridge is home to a well-known ultra marathon event-The Lost Soul UltraMarathon. This year’s event fell on the weekend of September 9-10th, and offered three different race distances: The 50km, 100km and 100 mile. The race winds it way through the challenging Lethbridge coulees, taking you way up on ridges that overlook the river valley, and then down along the river bottom. The course is not just full of basic climbs and descents—it is filled with grueling hills, single track madness and rough terrain. It is not for the faint at heart!
I signed up earlier this summer for two volunteer shifts. I would be volunteering at the headquarters, which was located behind Lethbridge Lodge. This is the starting and finishing point for all events, plus a transition area for different legs of the 100km and 100mile. I would be working from 4-8 pm on the Friday evening and then a few hours later, the graveyard shift of midnight-4 am.
The Lost Soul committee put on a nice volunteer BBQ a few weeks before the event on August 29th. We got to mingle with other volunteers, receive our shirts (I was able to get a long sleeve shirt since I signed up for two shifts) and basic information. On race day, I reported to headquarters and found Lorelei, our station captain. The only runners on the course at this time were 100km and 100 mile runners, as their event began at 8 am that Friday.The timing of my first shift ended up being a crazy time at headquarters. Lots of runners from both distances were coming through transition area. As a volunteer, we were to help these runners at the aid station. Whether it was fetching their drop bag (all runners could leave drop bags or boxes with their race number at each aid station) or finding them food or water in the aid tent. The aid tent was unreal-at my first shift, there was a gentleman manning the grill making bacon. Lots and lots of bacon! The runners needed their salt!!! He later on made burgers for the runners. There was hot chicken broth, various fruit, sugary candy, chips, coffee, water, pop, and a whole lot more. Runners had to check in with the timers as their entered the aid station, and could stay as long as they needed. We then would put their drop bags back and send them off.
I was able to see quite a few runners that I knew during this time as they came through the aid station. It was great to cheer on friends and people I knew from marathon club. During my first shift I even got to see the 100km lead runner crush the course record and finish in around 10 hours and 55 minutes! My friend Bob was helping crew him, so I got to hang out with Bob and his daughter Abby as they waited to see him come in and take the title.I headed out to dinner with a friend after shift 1, tried to take a nap (but failed) and came back at midnight. It was a lot quieter at headquarters then, as far as runners go. The runners have gotten more spread out, and the amount of runners coming in to the aid station at the same time had dispersed. But that doesn’t mean that headquarters was boring. There were lights and music, lots of happy volunteers to keep the runners’ morale up, and more food being served. The later shift was a lot of fun because most of the 100km runners that came through were finishing. Some of these people were seasoned vets, and some it was their first 100km race. My friend Aimee came in well under her goal finishing her first 100km race! She ran the race with her Dad, who is a veteran of these types of events! I also got to meet a lady also named Andrea, who was also from Wisconsin! She came all this way to do this race! I had brought some Sprecher Soda with me to the midnight shift, so I gave her a taste of home by handing her a Puma Kola when she was finished.
Volunteering was an awesome experience, and I wish I had done it sooner. It felt great to give back to the local Lethbridge running community, as it has already given so much to me. Honestly, running races in Lethbridge and finding Marathon Club at Runners Soul really has kept me sane as I transitioned from a Wisconsinite to a Canadian. I have met lifelong friends. I have been able to reach goals I never thought would be possible. Everyone who runs in races should try to volunteer at a local race to pay it forward. I am happy I did and I know I will again.
Lost Soul Ultra is a premier ultra marathon ran in Lethbridge, Alberta, each fall. Runners from all over North America make it out to western Canada to tackle our beautiful coulees and river valley. For more information about this prestigious event, go to Lost Soul Ultra