Posted: 22/09/2014 at 23:46
Most people here help out at a few events, as well as participating in them. While anybody who is willing can be a useful asset to an event, the people who do it more often have a few extra layers to their game. This is a thread to swap tips for race staff and prospective race staff.
Working at a checkpoint you want to give the runners the best chance of finishing that you can, and this means that you have to be a bit of a psychologist sometimes. In most cases it is enough just to be positive, but if somebody wants to quit prematurely then you have to be creative. Checkpoint staff who are not runners can almost talk somebody into quitting, or facilitate them quitting, out of concern for their welfare. A runner will usually appreciate that quitting is going to hurt them more in the long term, and will do nothing to move them in the direction of taking this action. Sometimes you might have to undo the well meaning but misguided work of another volunteer who has acted as a facilitator for them quitting. The best thing to do is to say something like, “OK, have a cup of tea and then see if you still want to quit”. This might in itself be enough to make them rethink their decision, and if it does not it will buy you more time. After the cup of tea has gone down, focus the runners mind on a positive, like that they are still on course to finish, or the sun is going to come up in a couple of hours. Take a slightly assumptive tone with them i.e. “what I will do for you is X” and “what you need to do now is X”.
Dealing with medical emergencies
It is in the nature of ultra distance events that medical emergencies can happen, and you might be the person on the scene when they do. The conditions that are potentially dangerous to the runner, which you are most likely to encounter are hypothermia and dehydration. Both can happen at any time of year in an ultra, and you need to be alert to the symptoms. I always keep a spare belay jacket and a sleeping bag with me when I work a checkpoint or finish line. If somebody comes down with an attack of the shivers you can put them in the jacket, and the sleeping bag as well if necessary. This will often allow you to deal with the problem on site, and avoid the need to involve the emergency services. If the problem has already progressed beyond the stage where you can del with it on site, it will stabilise their core temperature and buy you time until the paramedics arrive. Sometimes the runner is able to continue, but they are suffering from the cold, and their clothing is not up to the task. If this is the case, you can wrap a space blanket around them, and put their jacket on over the top.
Dealing with injuries and kit malfunctions
People can break, and kit can break. A roll of duct tape can be used to repair both. It is waterproof, sticks to skin, and can be torn with your bare fingers. I keep a roll on my person for checkpoint duties, and sweeping duties.