How to design a Trail Running race – Part 1

How to design a Trail Running race – Part 1

12 April 2020 0 By Carlos Ultrarun


Designing a trail running race is not easy. There are many factors that can affect the final result and on which the future race and its success over time will depend completely.

I have been working as an extreme trail running designer for more than 17 years with international Organizations such as RacingThePlanet Zitoway Lavaredo Ultra Trail or China Ultra 100 and I think it is something exciting and worth spending a few minutes telling about what it is for those who are interested in reading it. Since I talk too much, to make it more bearable, I have divided it into TWO releases.

The racing world is becoming more active every day, and new races appear every day in an increasingly crowded calendar. Many popular runners with average experience in trail running races are signing up for these races and new organizations are proposing new competitions that they must manage, given the large demand.
And the questions are:
How is a trail running race designed?
What parameters must be assessed and evaluated to make the product interesting?

Let’s go by parts and try to organize the ideas:

The type of race that you want to organize, from my point of view, clearly limits our location, so deciding on the type of race is, in my opinion, the first step in designing a race. Factors such as whether it is mountain or desert, mono stage or stage, ultra or short, self-sufficient or assisted … etc are logically decisive along with its hardness.
In the world of trail running today, races of all kinds have appeared with new formats that did not previously exist.
The location must be appropriate to each race format, that is, if we want to carry out a mountain race in stages, the complications can be multiplied enormously, due to the greater difficulty in finding suitable places for camps, for example, or for a matter of simple accessibility.

The Location
It is clear that all races are in great places, or at least I have never heard of a race in a horrible place, it probably would not be very profitable, so we take the attractive part of the route for granted, although it is not only the beauty of the environment that we should look for when selecting locations for an extreme race or not, but the adequacy of said environment to the type of format selected.

Depending on the type of race selected, multiple needs will be created that each environment must be able to offer, service routes for access by rescue vehicles or aid stations, adequate kilometer distances, etc. etc. The greatest adjustment from format to location will grant ease of race management, and as a consequence a greater success of the race.

Registering a mountain or ultra race, especially if you want to do it with a certain professionalism requires the use of adequate instrumentation.

The compass and maps can be useful, but nowadays the runner wants to have precise information on what they are going to face, not only in terms of mileage but also in terms of elevation and type of terrain and the race director or tracer must be able to supply all that information, since he is usually the one who knows the route best.
Today the least imprecise technology is the GPS, and Garmin IMHO is the leading brand in this world, not only in terms of precision but also in the efficiency of their equipment.
Complementing a handheld receiver with software to use it on your computer will make the tracing work a little easier, and Garmin BaseCamp responds to this needs successfully.

End of the first part.

There are still many factors that we will analyze in the second part of the article to be published shortly.