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Aid stations give runners homestretch fuel

November 18, 2007|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

WILLIAMSPORT - Except for a few pain pills, the tables in the road close to where Md. 63 hits Md. 68 were not for first aid on Saturday.

Rather, this was last aid.

It was mile 48 of a 50-mile ultramarathon, the last spot for runners to nourish themselves or rehydrate before they headed for home.

The volunteer crew working the aid station was from Clear Spring.

Early in the afternoon, as the first few dozen runners approached, cross-country parent Scott Canfield stood several yards in front of the station. He took drink orders from runners and relayed them to other volunteers, so the drinks could be handed off as the runners passed the tables.

The group of volunteers, including Clear Spring High School cross-country coach Jaime Mason and high school runners Amy Harbaugh, Hillary Jardine and Kyle Byrne, called out encouragement.

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Clear Spring alumnus Ryan Shifler, a freshman running cross country at Hagerstown Community College, was there, too.

They greeted runners: "Only a mile and a half to go!"

Mason's SUV was parked nearby. Music from the Goo Goo Dolls was cranked on the stereo, in honor of Mike Malinin, the band's drummer, a past JFK 50 Mile runner who was entered again on Saturday.

One of the early runners to get to the station was David Lawhorn of Frankfort, Ky. Mason realized the previous night that Lawhorn, her cross-country coach at Midway College in Kentucky, was entered.

Other runners trickled in, one or two at a time.

Some wanted a quick drink without breaking stride. Others didn't mind stopping at the station for a breather and a chat before taking off again.

Laid out before the runners were dozens of cups of water, sports drinks and Coca-Cola.

Mason, who's been helping at aid stations for about 10 years, said ultramarathon runners like soda for the sugar and caffeine and sometimes to settle their stomachs.

The aid station also offered M&Ms, potato chips, pretzels, cookies and PowerBars.

There were two types of Hammer Gel, which someone described as "caffeine jelly."

JFK 50 Mile organizers pledged a minimum of 14 "fully stocked" aid stations along the race course.

Both Amy and Hillary announced that they would like to run the JFK 50 Mile.

Hillary, a junior, predicted she would do it in 2009, after she graduates.

Mason needled Hillary for not even wanting to run cross country several months ago.

"All the complaining, and I ended up liking it," Hillary acknowledged.

"Mile and a half to go!" the volunteers cheered at one man.

"Yeah!!!" he screamed back just as loud and took off.

"OK, he's our favorite," Mason said.

A man sporting numerous Band-Aids, mostly on the back of his legs, jogged up and asked for ibuprofen. Mason hurried to her SUV, dug out a bottle and handed him a few pills.

"By the time it kicks in, you'll be done," she told him.

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