First-Timers FAQs for Trail Races

Is this your first FLRC trail race? Welcome! There’s little we enjoy more than sharing our love of trail running with newcomers of all ages and abilities. We’ve developed this list of answers to frequently asked questions so you can have a sense of what happens at our trail races before you arrive. Also feel free to ask questions of the race director or any volunteer once you’re at the race.


How do I register?

The information on the race’s Web page will include a description, date and time, and location of the race, along with a link to register. In-person same-day registration is available for some but not all FLRC races. If you have special circumstances, contact the race director using the email or phone number provided on the race’s Web page. When registering, read all the information provided, read and sign the waiver, and complete the entry form fully and accurately. You should receive an email confirmation of your registration to the email address you provided while completing the online registration form.

FLRC uses several different race registration systems, including Webscorer (for most of our races), RunSignUp (for the Skunk Cabbage Classic 10K and Half Marathon, the Twilight 5K, and the Ithaca 5 &10), and UltraSignup (for the Finger Lakes 50s, Two Hollows Monster Marathon and Half, and Parallel of Latitude), so the registration experience may vary with the race.

When You Arrive

When should I arrive?

We recommend that you arrive at least 45–60 minutes before the start of the race. You’ll want time to find parking, pick up your bib number, warm up, change for the race, and hit the porta-john one last time (and there are usually lines). Plus, you’ll want to hear the race director’s announcements, which often talk about how the course was marked.

Get Ready for Your Race

What do I do with my bib number?

Use the pins that we provide to put your bib number on the front of your shirt so that it is visible to course marshals and volunteers at checkpoints and to timers as you cross the finish line. Do not trade or share bib numbers with another person because that confuses our results.

What should I do to warm up?

We recommend warming up with a few minutes of jogging or dynamic stretching before your event. If you have a warm-up routine you normally do before a hard run, that’s the best thing to do. Note, however, that most runners do not warm up before an ultra, instead using the beginning of the race to serve that purpose.

Where should I go on the starting line?

Not everyone will get a spot on the starting line, and some people will have to line up further back. The men and women (we give equal space to women) who think they are among the fastest should get a spot on the actual line. Pick a spot that roughly matches how fast you think you are, so if you think you’re a mid-pack runner, line up somewhere in the middle. Walkers/hikers should go to the back.

When in the starting area, listen carefully to the race director’s announcements and remain quiet so others can hear, as well.

Should I study the race course in advance?

We recommend that you have some familiarity with the race course before starting, although volunteers and/or markings will provide directions at major turns. Some race courses follow painted or metal blazes on trees, but it is up to the runner to stay on course by watching for the flags or streamers that indicate the course and its turns. It’s usually safe to follow other runners, but folks ahead of you could go off course, so don’t necessarily rely on them. If it’s a multi-loop course, it’s important to know how many loops you’re doing.

While on the trails, whether it be before, during, or after the race, please do not attempt to remediate issues on your own. Some downed logs are in place for specific reasons, such as to deter illegal vehicular use and for water bars to assist with water drainage. If you see anything amiss (downed trees, damage, etc.), please contact the race director of that race or the entity that oversees the specific forest/park, such as the Finger Lakes Trail Conference (use their contact form or email, DEC, etc.

During your race

How do I pass someone or get passed on a narrow trail?

As you approach someone, shout, “Passing on your left/right.” The slower runner should make an effort to stay to the side of the trail when being passed.

What do I do if I see a fellow competitor who has fallen or gotten injured on the course?

You are not obligated to stay back with an injured runner, although please do so if you feel that the person needs assistance. In nearly all cases, we recommend that you ask if they are okay, get their name and bib number, and then tell the next volunteer you see that someone behind you on the course is injured, providing the name and bib number if you can remember.

What should I expect at aid stations?

The race website will specify the distance between aid stations placed along the course. Shorter races will have fluids (water and sports drinks); longer races, particularly ultras, will also have snacks (e.g., salty, sweet, and/or fatty snacks; fresh fruit; soda).

To remain competitive—or ahead of time cut-offs—be efficient in aid stations: evaluate upon approach what you’ll be needing, take a quick look at the options, grab what you need, and thank the volunteers.

For example, check the fullness of your hydration bladder while entering the aid station and think of what you want to eat; remove the bladder from the hydration vest and tell the volunteer what you want it filled with; grab a few pretzels and a piece of banana; and remember to thank the volunteers for spending their day helping you.

Will I need to carry a water bottle, wear a hydration vest, or something similar?

The answer to this question depends on the length of the race, the distance between aid stations, the conditions of the day, your pace, and your personal preference. In shorter races, particularly in cooler weather, most people don’t carry their own water and food. However, there are good reasons to do so:

  • If it’s hot or if you’re a relatively slow runner, you may well need fluids or snacks between aid stations, making a bottle or vest an important piece of gear.
  • If you’re racing for a fast time, you might wish to carry your own gear to save time at aid stations, although the extra weight may also slow you down.
  • If you have highly individualized nutritional needs, you’ll want to carry your own provisions with you.
  • Hydration vests are also very useful for stashing extra (or discarded) clothing, phones, keys, and other items.

As with all gear, it is important to practice with a bottle or vest during training before using it during a race, particularly a long race.

What if I need to use or change a menstrual product during the race?

For races of the half-marathon distance and longer, FLRC provides menstrual products and sanitary disposal bags at aid stations.

What do I do with garbage between aid stations?

Carry it with you and dispose of it in the trash or compost bins at the next aid station. Never toss garbage into the woods, not even things like banana peels or watermelon rinds. Leave no trace.

What if I have to relieve myself during the race?

The start/finish area will have at least one Porta-John, but if you can’t wait until you get back there, step off the trail and perhaps behind a tree to pee. If there’s more in you that needs to go, move a good distance from the trail, kick a sizable hole in the dirt, do your business, grab leaves (not poison ivy or any with deer ticks on them!) to finish up, then fully bury it all before returning to the trail where you had left it. If you have hand sanitizer in your pack, now’s the time to use it.

I know this is a race, but what if I have to walk part of it?

Many trail races include sections of trail that are very steep, rocky, rooty, muddy, flooded, or otherwise tough to navigate—after all, you signed up for a trail race! Don’t expect to be able to hold a steady minutes-per-mile pace on a trail. In fact, most participants, including some front runners, end up hiking on occasion. A good rule of thumb is to try to maintain consistent perceived effort (until approaching the finish line, when you can give it all you’ve got). However, it is very poor form to pass another runner only to switch to walking immediately thereafter.

Are headphones allowed?

The race information will specify, but even if headphones are allowed always keep your volume low and one ear free from earbuds. It is crucial to be aware of what is around you, whether runners wishing to pass you (or calling you back if you’ve gone off course!), cars at road crossings, race volunteers giving you instructions, or birds serenading you on your journey through nature.

What’s a drop bag and can I use one?

In long and/or multiloop races, runners like to leave a bag or cooler in the start/finish area with special snacks, a change of shoes/socks/shirt, and so forth. Doing so is at the discretion of each runner, noting that these will not be monitored for security by race personnel. Our only race that permits drop bags at aid stations other than the start/finish is the Finger Lakes 50s; see that event’s instructions for details.

After the Race

What should I do after I finish?

Particularly if it’s cool weather, it’s worth putting some extra clothes on so you don’t get cold. You won’t be cold at first, but it’s easy to get chilled quickly after significant exertion, and putting on some warm clothes before you get cold will help.

Is there an award ceremony?

Yes, all races will have an award ceremony after everyone has finished. Stick around to see if you’ve won an award and to cheer for others who have. Generally speaking, awards are only given to people who are present to collect them.

Where can I learn how fast I ran or where I finished?

At some races, we post interim results during the race. We also post all the results on the FLRC website, usually within a day or two.