Winter Ultra Marathon Requires Large Ham Radio Corps

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HUFF ham 2017 2

Webmaster’s note: This article appeared in the December issue of the Indiana ARRL newsletter.

An unusual, winter public service event requires a large contingent of volunteer ham radio operators Dec. 29. The Hoosier Ultra Fast Fifty (HUFF) is a 50-kilometer (31-mile) ultra-marathon through the rolling, wooded trails of Chain O’ Lakes State Park near Albion. Hundreds of people participate — as many as 960, according to race director Mitch Harper — no matter how cold, snowy, or wet the course is. Mobile phone coverage in the park is spotty at best, so HUFF organizers rely on ham radio to help keep runners safe. At the time this article was written, dozens of ham radio shifts remained unfilled.

Covering the entire event requires ARES to fill 95 individual two-hour shifts. Although many operators volunteer for more than one two-hour shift, filling that schedule still requires a large staff of operators. ARES must rely on operators from outside the immediate area.

Why would a ham want to spend two or more hours outdoors in sometimes harsh winter weather? Communication emergencies can happen in the dead of winter. Earthquakes, for example, don’t care about seasons. The HUFF provides an excellent and unusual opportunity for operators to test their preparedness for cold-weather service. It’s also great for public relations, as the event exposes hundreds of people to ham radio and its capabilities. Plus, many hams actually enjoy the camaraderie with other race volunteers and with runners and a famous hot soup buffet offered for free to all.

“Runners competing in ultradistances during what often are extreme winter weather conditions have true friends in the skills and service of the ham radio operators at the HUFF 50K Trail Run,” said Harper. “They are the eyes and ears of safety for every participant and volunteer. No greater ambassadors exist for all ham operators than these great folks.”

If you can drive to Chain O’ Lakes State Park in less than a couple hours, please consider volunteering, to help assure that ham radio operations are fully staffed and that HUFF runners remain safe. Contact district emergency coordinator Jim Moehring, KB9WWM at kb9wwm@arrl.net.

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