Planning a Trail Race: Part Four

Posted by Filed Under: Races & Racing, Trail Running

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

Race Logistics

Lots of different things make up the logistics on race day.

  1. Course markings.
    Make sure people won’t get lost on your course becuase if they do you may be responsible. Mark your course clearly the day before the race. Typical trail markings might be ribbons, flours, stakes, etc. I would suggest two methods as flour can wear away and other users of the trail can take ribbons or stakes.
  2. Communications.
    You need to talk to the different aide stations, track runners, etc. In mountainous trail races you may have to use amateur radio to accomplish this. You can contact your local amateur radio club to have them help you round up volunteers. Otherwise, cell phone or two-way radios are essential.
  3. Volunteers. I found it beneficial to put someone in charge of volunteers. This is a large job. You need to know how many people will be working each aid station, who will do the trail marking, on-site registration, and other tasks. You should actually have started working on volunteers very early on in this process. Contact local running groups, place ads online and to mailing lists, etc. Make sure you have enough so you don’t end up with an unstaffed aid station on race day. Medical personal are very important as well, so if you can swing it have at least one person at each aid station who is medically or first-aid trained.
  4. Transportation and parking.
    Adequate parking is essential. You should have planned your race around a location with a large enough parking area to cover all the runners and spectators. If you have not, you will need to look into chartering a bus or passanger van. There are several companies that offer this service and school bus rental is a relatively cheap way to shuttle people between your parking area and your race.
  5. On-site registration. If your race doesn’t sell out before race day you will probably want to offer registration the day of the race. Usually the fee is a bit more for this service. Make sure you have a plan for what to do with the cash/checks and have enough people to handle the registration based on how large your race is.
  6. Bib pickup. Runners really like it when they can pick up their bibs and/or goodie bags before race day. If possible, find a location (maybe your pre-race dinner) where runners can stop by and pick up their goodies early.
  7. Time tracking. There are several timing companies that can offer this service for you. If you are putting together a smaller and longer race you may want to track time yourself down to the nearest minute and save yourself the cost of hiring a timing company. Make sure you have an accurate and consistent time keeping device if you plan to track this yourself.
  8. Food and beverages.The bane of many race directors is not having enough food and/or water at the aid stations. This is something your runners will remember. A good rule of thumb for water might be 32 oz. per runner per aid station. If nothing else, and you can afford it, have TOO MUCH food and water at your stations. You don’t want to run out.
  9. Dropped and injured runners. Almost any trail race will have at least one injured or dropped runner. If you have limited first aid personnel, make sure you have someone at your start/finish line to tend to returning and injured runners. You also need to make sure you have a method for dropped runners to be returned to the finish line. In some cases you may only have certain spots where a runner can drop. In other cases you may want to have a roaming shuttle driver to pick up those too injuried to move or too beat up to continue. You would still want to limit these pickups to aid station locations.

    Drop bags (for ultras). Drop bags are typical for any race longer than 50 miles. You may even see this option in race distances from 50K – 50 Miles. If your race is an ultra, you should offer a drop bag option to your runners. How you get their bags to the drop location is up to you. Perhaps you could have them drop off their bags the day before (with their name and bib# clearly marked). Or you could have them bring their bags to race-day check-in and shuttled the bags to the drop location with your aid station workers.

In our final part of this series, we will look at lessons learned from a first time race director and help you avoid making some of the same mistakes!

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.

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