US Trail Running Conference RD Master Class Webinar Features Course Marking Innovations

June 28, 2024

Technology and sustainability enhance runner and race experiences

/ENDURANCE SPORTSWIRE/ Mastering Course Marking Innovations was the subject for the sixth webinar in the nine-webinar RD Master Class series produced by the US Trail Running Conference presented by Marathon Printing, and was live on Tuesday, June 25. The webinar series is free for all race directors and event organizers to access, and is held in partnership with the American Trail Running Association.

This webinar’s panelists featured four industry professionals that have all been involved with course marking for races and events. Kim Levinsky, Sassquad Trail Running, Noah Bloom, RunGo, Markus Kemetter, Suunto, and Amy Rusiecki, Vermont 100. Terry Chiplin, founder of the US Trail Running Conference, was the moderator for the session.

Chiplin prefaced the session by sharing that course marking had traditionally been focused on ensuring participants made it to the finish line. This is still at the forefront for race directors, but there are other factors critical to course marking including :

  • Participant safety
  • Participant experience
  • Race operations
  • The brand or sponsors of the race
  • Communication

The panelists each shared humorous stories from previous races or events that illustrated some of the many challenges faced by race directors and event organizers. This segment also included interesting discussion on visually impaired and color blind runners, with Rusiecki outlining how she has been able to successfully include visually impaired runners in her races.

Discussion then turned to changes in race course signage from minimalist to maximalist, and resources that are now available. Levinsky shared, “More and more athletes in the last few years are utilizing GPX files, which is really nice – as a race organization we put the GPX files on our website. You can download it for free as well as a digital copy of the course maps.More and more runners are also going out ahead of time to check out the course, using the GPX file, and then having the GPX file in the race. We really encourage people to learn how to load a GPX on your phone, learn how to use a map, and we provide those resources online, a how-to tutorial.”

Kemetter from Sunnto added, “With the tools available now, the GPX files and sports watches, you don’t need the phone as such, you can run with the map and the route on the watch. It’s really really handy to follow that route if you have the GPX file…you can mark different segments of the course..make sure you make waypoints of aid stations on the GPX file. We have race companion tools – if you know in advance aid stations for example, you can mark them, and the watch will actually tell you while running that you are this far from an aid station. You can put in more information as well.”

Bloom commented, “I think back to the early days of trail and ultra, and how many races were pretty minimal with maybe a turn flag, a warning flag and a confidence flag, and kept it pretty simple. I think some races want to espouse that wild, DIY, quirky kind of race experience. What we are also seeing right now is this tremendous growth of our sport, with all these new entrants, and I think it’s on us as race directors and those in the industry to figure out how we can make sure these new entrants feel welcomed and comfortable, and want to come back. So that they don’t have a bad experience the first time, and do want to come back and do it again… I am a technologist, and so I am thinking of ways we can make the experience the best it can be on all levels. I think races should require runners to have their phone with them for safety, or a smart connected watch so they can communicate through that. I know some courses have spotty cell service, but that’s changing. Areas that didn’t have coverage do now, new iPhones can connect anytime through satellite communication. It’s great to be on the wave of those improvements. The question is…are you comfortable using technology in your events?”

Rusiecki mentioned, “I am all for technology – I also want to recognize that technology is a way to draw in some of these newer or younger people, but I want to make sure that’s not at the expense of some of theses seasoned runners that have been around, and push them out by requiring technology. I have a husband who runs with a digital watch, if even running with a watch…I wouldn’t want to lose some of these runners who are really the foundation of the sport. To me I still want to maintain that community and that vibe. I think there is a balance of how do we serve the needs of the people that want that technology, and want that comfort, but also here’s the traditional way. Go in this direction and follow pink markers until you’re done. I think there’s a need for both of those at this time.”

Participants from the live audience of race directors and event organizers also confirmed that they are using more GPX files for runners taking part in their races. Discussion also took place on strategies to deal with course vandalism ahead of a race, with several useful suggestions from the panelists and the live audience. Discussion also covered: does race course signage represent a way that races can help their runners perform at their best, especially with the rapid growth of ultra distances?

A recording of this webinar is available on the US Trail Running Conference YouTube channel at


Active at Altitude, organizers of the US Trail Running Conference and the webinar series, reported 194 participants registered for the session, representing 40 states, as well as Bolivia, Canada, Great Britain, Iceland, Macedonia, Russia and Saudi Arabia.

The next webinar in the RD Master Class series presented by Marathon Printing is titled: Why you need to be at this year’s US Trail Running Conference, and takes place on Tuesday, July 23, 2024, from 10.00 a.m. to 11.00 a.m. MST.Panelists for this session are Dale Garland, Shalini Bhajjan, Katie Wallace, Aimee Kohler, and Corinne Shalvoy..

Who is this for? Race directors and event organizers who are interested in learning more about the exciting plans under way for this year’s US Trail Running Conference.

Registration is free – see https://ustrailrunningconference.com/webinar-series/ for more details.

More info:

For details on the US Trail Running Conference and the webinar series, go to https://ustrailrunningconference.com/webinar-series/

Contact Event Director, Terry Chiplin for further information, terry@ustrailrunningconference.com, or + 33 06 79 76 31 53

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