When runners choose to participate in a trail race of any distance, having a properly marked course is at the top of the list of expectations. As well, safety is of paramount concern, or should be for both the race director and the participant.
Ultra-distance events have some nuances which put them in a special classification based on runner needs and expectations which result from night running, the length of the course, and the time a participant is out on the trails.
Below is a list of items for consideration when marking ultra-distance trail races, those events longer than the marathon (26.2 miles) distance, as well as suggestions for stocking aid stations.
Marks must appear on the ground and in the air (at approximate eye level). Marks may be chalk, flour, streamers, arrows, etc., something that is biodegradable, environmentally friendly and/or removed immediately after the race is complete so as to limit the impact on the trails.
All course markings must be in line-of-sight or approximately ¼ mile when no alternative paths exist.
At intersections with alternative paths, marks must appear ahead and leading out of the intersection and have some visible way to block access to alternative path or denote the wrong alternative.
Leading out of an intersection or turn, at least one “confidence marker” must appear within line-of-sight of the turn.
Glow sticks or reflective tape/lighting must be present in line-of-sight or approximately ¼ mile when no alternative paths exist.
Aid stations should be well-lit at night with directional lighted signage so that runners can “find” the aid station. Indoor aid stations are optimum, or at the very least, tented areas for inclement weather and the option of a fire pit for warming area in colder climes.
Along with an option for transporting drop bags to various aid stations for individual runners, the aid stations themselves should be stocked with the following:
Recycling bins which should be placed at/near aid stations for all materials with signage indicating where various materials – paper, plastic, aluminum – should be deposited.
Water in jugs to fill hydration packs/bottles.
Electrolyte and energy drink.
Electrolyte tablets or capsules.
Carbohydrate containing food (for example: chips/pretzels, potatoes, soup, sandwiches) with both hot and cold choices.
Hot and cold liquids (for example: soft drinks - carbonated and de-fizzed, hot water for hot chocolate, coffee, tea).
Typical first aid supplies and a medical support person/team.
Heated hand warmers for gloves/mittens.
Chap stick/lip balm.
Plastic gloves for volunteer workers to ensure items are not contaminated.
Portable toilets, or access to indoor toilets if available.
At the runner pre-race meeting, course markings should be explained to the participants as well as what participants should expect at aid stations. Runners, volunteers, and race officials need to be prepared for what lies ahead on race day. For more tips, refer to www.trailrunner.com.