Planning a Trail Race: Part One

Posted by Filed Under: Races & Racing, Trail Running

(Read parts one, two and three of this series.)

You’ve been bit by the “race director bug” but the problem is you don’t know where to begin. We’ll take a look at the process from the eyes of this first time race director (me), and we’re going to start, of course, from the beginning.

Putting together a race takes a lot of planning. If you aren’t much of a planner, you might want to think about partnering with someone who is. Passion is also another key element which you probably already have if you have gotten to this point. Your passion will drive you forward as you put things together, and inevitably run into an obstacle or two or 10.

Start with the basics such as a tentative name of your race, location, distance and how big or small you want it to be.

Contact other race directors—especially local ones if possible. Veteran race directors can be a great source of information, and if they are local, may be able to give you invaluable inside tips to getting your race off the ground.

Talk to runners, local and out of state. Gauge initial interest in the race and see if people may be willing to travel to your event or if you will only end up with local entrants.

You also need to think about if you want to make money or not. Truth be told, many race directors, especially first-timers, can end up in the hole. Remember the passion that drives you? If you are driven solely by the money, you might want to go get a paper route because that may just pay better. Either way, figure out if you are looking for a profit or if you plan to go non-profit. If you go non-profit, you need to think about partnering with another non-profit organization to use their non-profit tax status, or you may have to set up your own company for a nominal fee, but this can take some time.

Another key element is when? You at least need a tentative date for your race. Look at other race schedules and make sure you are not conflicting with an event that may draw people away from yours. For instance, it’s really not a good idea to plan a trail marathon in the Los Angeles area on the same day as the Los Angeles Marathon.

Let’s summarize the basics you will need to get things started:

  1. Passion for the race;
  2. Some form of organizational skills;
  3. Race Name, distance, location & size;
  4. Talk to other race directors (local if possible);
  5. Gage interest by talking to runners;
  6. Decide if you want to make a profit;
  7. Pick a date (at least a tentative one to start).

Next month we’ll go into some specifics of your first steps as a new race director!

About Jessica

Jessica lives in Orange County, CA, home to hundreds of miles of trails and 30% green space along with the Santa Ana Mountain Range. After moving to California from artic Minnesota in January of 2005, she quickly became addicted to trail running, and upon meeting Dean Karanzes at a book signing was inspired to run her first marathon, and subsequently ultra marathon. She completed here first 50K race in July of 2006 and has 50 and 100 mile aspirations. In a short amount of time, Jessica has been active in the Orange County running scene by re-igniting the Saddleback church running group, founding a trail running group, and starting in 2007 launching a series of trail races throughout the county, beginning with the Twin Peak Ultra Marathon in February. In 2002, Jessica had open-heart surgery to repair a leaky mitral valve. Aside from running, Jessica is also a published author and an independent filmmaker. She works as an Information Security Engineer and part time at the flagship Nike Women store. When not out on the trails, working, blogging, writing, making films, or promoting races, Jessica can be found relaxing with her friends at the movies, lounging by the pool, or sharing a tasty meal and a good bottle of wine.

  1. Karen in Calgary on September 12th at 1:18 pm

    Oh hey, this is timely. Dawn (ontherun) and I are to direct one of our club’s XC races for the first time this winter. Keep the tips coming…

  2. Dawn - Pink Chick on September 12th at 7:34 pm

    lol Karen, I was just thinking the same thing. I’ll be taking notes on this one. Our race is in January.

  3. Planning a Trail Race: Part Two » Complete Running Network on March 11th at 5:00 pm

    […] (Read parts one and three of this series.) […]

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