Planning a Trail Race: Part Three

Posted by Filed Under: Races & Racing, Trail Running

(Read parts one and two of this five-part series.)

trail running

Advertising & Sponsors

Before I begin part 3 I do need to remind you of the time committment in planning a race. As you can tell by the sporadic updates to this 5 part series, I have been busy. Planning a trail races takes A LOT of time. If you don’t think you have the time, don’t do it. Or make sure you have a team of people helping you in which to delegate tasks. Taking on this kind of planning solo is a big mistake unless it is the only job you have.

By now you have a lot of your basics covered and hopefully have insurance and a permit. Some of your sponsors may require proof of these, and some of them may require their name to be on the insurance depending on what they are providing for you.

Advertising Steps

  1. Do you have a Web site yet? If not stop what you are doing (after you finish reading this article) and get that done first. This is going to be the main source of information for your race and the more details your site has the more runners will appreciate it —even if the site is put together in five minutes using a Web-page generator program. A flashy site can help, but most of all it needs to be practical.
  2. Set up the registration process. You can offer mail in registration, internet registration or both. It’s probably a good convenience idea to offer both to your entrants. The most common internet registration site is They charge a fee per transaction. You can cover this fee, build it all into your price of registration, charge the entrant, or do a combination of covering a portion of the fee and passing half on to the entrants. If you are not a fan of, I’m sure it would be easy to search around and find alternatives for online registration.
  3. Start placing ads. You can do this for free on many Web sites including Runners World, Trail Runner, etc. You can also put your listing in magazines such as Trail Runner and Ultra Runner. You really should place you ad in as many places as possible. In most cases you don’t need to pay for advertising and can probably get enough people to your race with all the free advertising options available.
  4. Spread the word. Talk to everyone you meet about your race. Tell your friends to talk about your race. This will be easy if it’s a good race. People will be excited and they will start talking. The word will spread.
  5. Strike up a partnership. Maybe there is another race or organization around you who does similar type of events? If so, talk to them about a flier exchange or maybe even a booth exchange. You can each advertise at each others events assuming your events don’t conflict too much.

Sponsor Steps

  1. Determine your needs. Do you need water? That’s an obvious one. But think about what else you need. If it’s a longer race you may want electrolyte capsules. For any size race you will want water, an electrolyte drink, something to eat at aide stations, gels, etc.
  2. Go after the right sponsors. Make a list and then start looking for sponsors who could fill your needs. Try to stay away from any sponsorships that could be considered a conflict. Don’t talk to two different gel companies just so you can get lots of product at your race. Remember they are giving you product to advertise, not to just be another company giving you stuff.
  3. Do you need sponsorship levels? Somtimes a race has gold, silver, broze sponsorship levels, etc. This may be a good way to differentiate sponsors who have given you a lot of goodies. Sponsorship levels are not required and many smaller races don’t use them.
  4. Plug your sponsors. If you have race shirts put them on the back of your shirt. We have all seen these before. Make sure you put their logos on your web site. If you send out race updates to your registered runners you can plug specific sponsors in these emails. Another opportunity for plugs might be at a pre-race dinner or pre-race announcements.

In our next installation we will start looking at some of the logisitcs of the actual race. Stay tuned!

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. Joe Ely on March 6th at 6:42 am

    One other obvious place for simple advertising is to connect with bloggers and ask them to plug the race.

    One other thing to do on the race site is to put up links to bloggers who will likely run the race. Make this part of the registration process: “Do you have a blog on running? If so, can we publish it on our web site?” Then get the URL.

    More free publicity. For the race and for the blogger. Everyone wins. All free.

  2. Planning a Trail Race: Part One » Complete Running Network on June 3rd at 12:55 am

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