What’s Your Favorite Aid Station

Many of us have already hit the trails for a race this year and are looking forward to more this summer. At the vast majority of these races, we’ll stop at one or more aid stations (or a couple dozen if you’re running the Vermont 100). For the most part, these aid stations serve the utilitarian purpose of providing food and drink. However, some aid stations take it a few steps further by offering hot food, full-on smorgasbords, music, entertaining themes, adult beverages, or other mood boosting amenities. We’d love to hear what you favorite aid station is and why!

Scenic Aid Station

Setting and scenery can greatly enhance an aid station.

If you’re interested in finding out how to make the most of the aid stations at future races, pick up the latest issue of Trail Runner magazine (No 73) to read my Trail Tips article Acing Aid Stations: Use Them to Speed Up Your Next Race.

BONUS: By leaving a comment, Benjamin Dunn won an entry in the inaugural Slickrock 50 mile on October 8 outside of Moab, Utah. He’ll have the option of upgrading to the 100 mile or downgrading to the 50k. Since not h might not be able to get out to Moab, the entry will be transferable to anyone of the winners choosing.

There are 74 comments

  1. stephan willow

    Road 2060 at Pine to Palm. Folks came down off Wagner Butte hammered, cold and wet. Folks left full as they could handle, drier and warm. That aid station saved my bacon in 2010. Hoping they have a much easier time of it in future years.

  2. Joe

    Waldo has great aid stations–particularly the twins, which runners visit twice, and the theme changes…Last year it was heaven the first time thru and hell the second time. All the aid stations at Waldo are awesome!

  3. Jill Homer

    Flathorn Lake at mile 22 and 86 of the Susitna 100. You stumble in off a frozen lake when the temperature is 20 below zero and Peggy has a raging fire, hot chocolate and coffee, homemade jambalaya, warm brownies, juicy orange slices and water inside her rustic cabin. More than a few racers have asked her to adopt them so they can move in for good.

  4. Peter

    The Gil's Athletic Club in Ipswich MA at Stone Cat 50miler. Great aid stations, grilled cheese, bacon, eggs, and tons of shots of every liquor you can imagine. so much spirit, music, friendly faces. best aid station i have ever not run thru

  5. Brian Walter

    I've been there (the aid station pictured above). Certainly scenic, and welcome after a the biggest climb of the race.

    My favorite was the mile 24 aid station at Dances with Dirt Devils Lake last summer. It sits on top of the east bluff and offers incredible views over the lake and a luscious green valley. It offered a welcome rock to sit on and enjoy the views (and rest) and the Chips Ahoy! cookies there tasted homemade!

    Second place goes to the only aid station in the Twin Mountain Trudge outside Laramie, WY. Whisky in a shot glass made of ice and scrumptious lemon cookies.

    Evidently I run for cookies.

    I'd run Slickrock for cookies.

  6. KA

    I don't tend to hang around at aid stations, and rather try to carry what I need on me rather than be reliant as I have a silly peanut allergy. An aid station with pb&j sandwiches or nut cookies could turn problematic for me.

    Sort of on topic, but it was interesting running a trail race in the UK last year and seeing the different approach over there. Jelly babies instead of gummy bears (which did not look at all appetising after many hands had delved into the bowl and sweatily removed the powder coating on the remainder), water instead of electrolyte mixtures, and no ice, just sponges soaked in cold water to grab.

    Hmm, favourite aid station so far would have to be one on the mid point of a low key 50k with friends to celebrate another runner's birthday. Birthday cake and a mini party at 25k was pretty good.

  7. Ken

    My favorite aid station is the Hyannis Drive station at the Kneeknacker 50k in Vancouver, B.C. The station is supposed to be water only but the station team go all out and have loads of food, sponges to cool off with and great music blaring away. It's set up only five miles from the finish and just before the last big climb so it a great place to regroup.

    Ken Eng

    Smithers, B.C.


  8. John.Corvallis

    I remember my first time at Brown's Bar at Western States. It is one big party sponsored by the Hash House Harriers. Bob Marley was blasting from speakers above the aid station and bouncing up the canyon. (That year they played my favorite Marley album, Babylon By Bus.) Fortunately, the previous aid station warned me that I would hear them miles before getting there. When I did arrive, bright neon lights broke the darkness offering an oasis to a weary runner. They offered beer along with all sorts of good stuff. At the end of the race, I compared experiences with my neighbor/training partner who was a bit behind me. He thought it was one of the worst aid stations on the course.

    The next year I was running slower and hit Brown's Bar after sunrise. They played boring music. Most of the people there were sleeping. The place stunk of stale beer and vomit. It made me think of a frat party the morning after. At the finish, my training partner, a few hours faster than me, told me how great it was. I realized why he was disappointed the previous year.

    Timing is everything

  9. olga

    Interesting view on timing for Brown Bar at WS…

    Virginius at HR – hard work to get there. Sherman at HR has the best food spread. Never remember the name of AS at Bighorn that serves giant shrimps every year – I came back just for that. Waldo AS's are all awesome, indeed. Hope pass at LT also deserves mentioning for wow. I had a shot of vodka once at Dimple hill at the Mac. The ones I owned and volunteered at:) Thanks, ya'll, for taking care of the runners!

  10. Nick P

    Kroger's Canten/Virginius at HR is one of the most impressive I have seen. Pretty impressive considering the effort to get up there…and the volunteers are spending a good amount of time fairly exposed.

    Although, 'the best' is often the one right up ahead just when you need it!

  11. Reid Landes

    The two most memorable ones for me were notable for the foods they had when I most needed them.

    (1) The 3rd (also 1st) aid station of the Midnight 50K at Lake Sylvia near Little Rock, AR. It had dark purple, very tasty, seedless grapes that helped me recover from barfing up my chocolate-flavored gels over the few miles prior to the aid station. I'll not do chocolate or coffee flavored gels again. Turns my stomach thinking about them.

    (2) The Lake Vista Road aid station of the Ouachita Trail 50M/50K for the dill pickles that got rid of the sugary, surprisingly lasting, after taste of the gels and shot blocks I had eaten during the 1st half of the run. I will hence carry small dills on me when going on very long runs.


  12. Terry Miller

    Never done an ultra yet, or even an actual race on trails(even though that's where I do most of my running anymore), to compare aid stations. Shooting for my first ultra this fall anyway though, so the timing for Moab would be about perfect!

  13. xaviniesta

    Hopeless at Leadville…stumble down a talus slope, threads of re-chunked goo dribbling from your face…and an alpine meadow full of llamas greet you with such indifferent nonchalance that you have to wonder what they wonder you are thinking…

  14. Joey

    Sunrise Aid Station "the Dog Pound" @ San Diego 100

    Biggest variety of Hot foods and drinks, Great music in the station in addition to entrance and exit of trailhead, lots of fun lights, lifesize themed decorations, crazy hair, superb First Aid, Most crazy volunteers in one place at the same time…

    *but I'm biased as I also volunteer at this station.. none the less, if I was running this would likely still be my favorite!

  15. Nicholas Lee

    I'm going to go with Hope Pass (Leadville 100). Not because there's anything spectacular about the food or anything. It's just damn impressive that the volunteers haul all the gear up there (with the help of llamas). And, seeing llamas feeding on the grass at 12,000ft is a bizarre sight.

  16. Mike D.

    Any aid station at the Bighorn Wild and Scenic Trail Run. Fresh Bacon and potatos at Cow Camp, burritos, pizza, etc. at Dry Fork. The list goes on.

  17. StevenB

    Most aid stations are unrecognizable, but appreciated. One that does stick with me was the AS at the turn around at the Leona Divide 50 this year. They had the BEST homemade quiche I have ever eaten. Fatty, salty and delicious! Since I had a 2.5 mile climb back up to the trail it gave me plenty of time to enjoy the quiche and get it down before getting back to business. I would go back to the LD50 in a heartbeat if they promised the quiche.

  18. Jeff Faulkner

    Last year's Virgil Crest Ultras had 2 awesome aid stations. Rockpile was manned and supplied by Ultrarunning Matters and they had awesome hot soup and fresh fruit cut into small pieces that were easy to eat without choking. At night Gravel Pit was manned by some harriers from the Ithaca area. They had disco lights and beer! It felt like a party to us runners, it was a party for the aid station people. Good times.

  19. Anonymous

    Silver State 50/50!
    Best food and volenteers. George Ruiz’s aid station at the top of Peavine is totally awesome.
    The finish line food is better than any other race. They feed everyone with homemade food and goodies!

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