Responses to race feedback in the 2023 Runner Survey (3 of 4)

Part 3…

Race Feedback Responses from Adam

As with our group runs and workouts, many people had kind things to say about our races. Thank you!

General Race Appreciation
  • When I’ve participated, I’ve really enjoyed them!
  • Really well organised, from the one or two that I’ve done!
  • I love the low key, low stress environment.
  • These have been great, inclusive and fun. Again I just need more time available in my life to participate more. Great job to those who have managed the races I have attended!
  • No complaints!
  • Nothing at this time. I feel race are well communicated, organized, and have a friendly and run atmosphere. I enjoy participating in and running FLRC races.
  • The races are the best.
  • Love FLRC races and the warm, welcoming atmosphere
  • Great job with all you do
  • Really enjoyed the Two Hollows trails for Monster, the FLRC Challenge, and the Skunkadelic shirts!
  • I love Skunk Cabbage and run it every year that I am in town. I am looking forward to the new course.
  • Skunk Cabbage 1/2 marathon is a great and affordable race
  • I love them as is! :smiley:
  • They’re always fun and well organized!
  • It is a well oiled machine.
  • I just love them all!
  • Wonderful as is
  • I think they are really great now. I did the 5&10 and thought it was a fun vibe - great way to run with others!
  • I love FLRC races and have no suggestions at this time
  • Winter Chill is the best! So creative and fun.

Onto the more specific questions and responses!

Possibly add a specifically dog friendly race to fundraise for the SPCA

We applaud the positive intentions of the suggestion on the part of our furry friends, but it’s extremely unlikely anything like this would happen for three reasons:

  1. The Road Runners Club of America, which is the organization through which FLRC gets its 501(c)(3) status, strongly recommends that RRCA clubs have a “no pets” policy for races and group runs (apart from service animals).
  2. FLRC already puts on 25 races every year, vastly more than most running clubs, and although we aren’t categorically opposed to new races, they would have to offer something (to runners) that our current races don’t.
  3. With two exceptions, FLRC races don’t directly support external organizations. That’s not a formal policy, but I think the feeling among the board over the years has been that we don’t want to be seen to be playing favorites by supporting some (non-running) organizations and not others. The exceptions are the Fillmore 5K, which the club took over long ago with the understanding that it would continue to act as a fundraiser for the Four Town Ambulance Squad, and Turkey Trot, which former race director Bruce Roebal turned into a fundraiser for Loaves & Fishes first by encouraging a canned food drive and then, when that proved impractical, a way to donate directly.

No way to control the change to the Twilight Run, but I was not available on the rescheduled date.

Sorry about that—it was either reschedule or cancel entirely given the lightning strikes on the original date.

I am curious about the changes for Skunk Cabbage and what prompted them. Always open to changes, but just a little worried about the width and step offs on the East Hill mile section. Both my wife and I have gone down on that mile in easy non-race conditions.

The primary reason for coming up with the new Skunk Cabbage course and starting time change is runner safety. Although they have good shoulders, Route 366 and Ellis Hollow Road are large, heavily trafficked roads where many people drive faster than the posted 45 MPH speed limit. We have been increasingly uncomfortable with those roads over the past few years, and efforts like having a lead police car haven’t reduced those concerns as much as we would have liked.

Once the desire to eliminate those two big roads from the course solidified, many, many alternative courses were batted around, with the eventual winner being the new out-and-back course that crosses 366 at the red-light-controlled Pine Tree intersections, uses the East Hill Rec Way, and continues out Game Farm, Stevenson, Turkey Hill, and Ellis Hollow Creek for the half marathon. Other course possibilities were rejected for requiring too many turnarounds, relying on unpaved trails (at a time of year when mud is likely and ice is possible), not offering 13.1 miles of distance, or using too many Cornell roads for which we couldn’t get permission.

Even still, we wouldn’t have changed the course unless it also promised a better race experience for runners. By trading 366 for the Rec Way and Ellis Hollow for Ellis Hollow Creek, runners will intersect with many fewer cars, which always makes for a better run, and the Rec Way is far more scenic than 366. Also, although some runners prefer a loop to a line, the out-and-back approach ensures that everyone in the race sees and can cheer for everyone else in the race if they wish. Previously, the half marathon was mostly just a run in the countryside by yourself or with a couple of people around you.

The width of the East Hill Rec Way shouldn’t be a general problem, since it’s a mile into the race, which leaves plenty of time for the pack to spread out. Plus, it’s wider and safer than running on the shoulder of 366 as we’ve done in the past. It’s possible that the leaders of the half marathon will overtake the back of the 10K on the Rec Way, but one of the jobs of the lead bike will be to alert the 10K runners to the fast-moving half marathoners.

I would love to see promotion of High Noon running at noon again.

See above for a High Noon plug! :grinning: Like so many other things, encouraging people to participate with High Noon is mostly a matter of someone wanting to make it happen enough to do something about it.

Love the trail races. I would love even more of them! I’m shy so any way of encouraging people to meet and say hi to each other at races would be great. I’ve been running the races for a few years now and the faces seem familiar but I haven’t gotten to know people yet.

Many of us have been in your trail shoes at one point or another—it can be overwhelming to be surrounded by people you don’t know. One thing we started doing in 2023 is providing name tags for volunteers and encouraging volunteers to wear bright green FLRC Volunteer T-shirts. You should always feel free to ask one of these volunteers anything. You could also volunteer yourself, which is a great way to hang out with other runners.

Another idea that has been batted around in our Diversity & Inclusion Committee (which you’re invited to join—sensing a trend here?) is figuring out some way to identify certain people as FLRC “ambassadors” who would work to welcome people who are new or shy and help them get to know more people at the races.

While I can’t make any guarantees, my overwhelming experience is that runners are among the nicest people you’ll ever meet, so if you can bring yourself to ask the person next to you in line for bib pickup or at the start if they’ve run the course before, I’ll bet you’ll find yourself in a conversation. One woman from Johnson City came to a trail race in 2022 knowing no one and found FLRC members so welcoming that she promptly joined the club, started running the FLRC Challenge, and participated in a number of club events in 2023.

Finally, I would encourage you to try some of our activities that have an online component. If you participate in things like the Happy Holidays Scavenger Hunt or the FLRC Challenge, you’ll get to know some other people on the forum and can put names with faces if you come to a group run or race.

  • Some kind of holiday run could be fun
  • Our races are the best! I would love to see us offer a 5-mile and 10-mile distance on the roads or rail trails (though I know those distances aren’t super popular, maybe it could be a really low-key event?). I also think it could be cool to have some more prediction runs in addition to Thanksgiving.
  • I think a regular club race could really engage the local community. Is there any possibility of setting up a monthly 5k going into 2024…?
  • Medals, and more races

There’s quite a bit to say here. First, as I mentioned in the survey results, FLRC has two types of races:

  • “Marquee” races that draw a high percentage of their participants from outside the area and are meant to be more notable experiences. They’re much more expensive to put on, need higher entry fees, and require significantly more volunteer effort. We consider three of our races—the Hartshorne Memorial Masters Mile, Skunk Cabbage Classic, and Finger Lakes 50s—to be marquee races.
  • “Community” races that are meant to be low-key, inexpensive races that members of the community can run multiple times throughout the season. FLRC puts on 22 community races throughout the year, once you break out the four Winter Chill 5Ks and three indoor track meets. From mid-May to mid-August, we have 10 races in 13 weeks, which requires real commitment from our race directors and core volunteers.

Second, medals are expensive (as much as $4–$8 each), are often produced in China, and must be ordered 6 weeks or more before the race, when it’s extremely difficult to predict how many people will run. It’s a tough line to walk for a race director because you don’t want to order too few medals so some people go away unhappy, but neither do you want to waste money and resources by ordering too many medals that will sit unused or need to be recycled. We have a lot of extra medals in our storage unit from races over the last decade if you can think of a use for them, such as prizes for elementary school kids—contact me!

Putting all this together, I hope you can see why we approach adding more races cautiously (much as we know that lots of people would like those 5-mile and 10-mile distances), and why it’s unlikely that more of our races would have finisher medals. In particular, holiday runs can be tricky when it comes to getting race directors and volunteers because many people travel on the holidays. We often have holiday-themed group runs (in part because a lot of people want to run with others but don’t want to race at all), however, like the Halloween Costume and Ugly Sweater group runs. All that said, if you’re interested in proposing and directing a Holiday Five and Dime, get in touch.

Finally, let me encourage anyone who likes to race and commemorate the achievement with a medal to participate in the FLRC Challenge, which can be seen as a series of ten races with a medal for everyone who completes all ten.

Road races: accurate mile markers, for each mile, for pacing purposes.

Mile markers raise an interesting issue. Before GPS watches, mile markers (or even split callers) were essential because people had no other external way of gauging pace during a race. With the advent of GPS watches, however, it’s common for people to argue with course distances and markings when their watches disagree, and no race director likes hearing runners complain that a course was short or long, or that the mile markers weren’t in the right place.

Measuring courses accurately turns out to be quite involved. There are four ways to do so: online mapping service, GPS, measuring wheel, and Jones counter. (A Jones counter is a mechanical device that attaches to a bicycle wheel and is the only measuring device accepted for USATF-certified courses that are eligible for national and world records.) Online mapping services have gotten pretty good, but work best for road courses and need to be checked with a GPS watch. For trail races and situations where accuracy isn’t that important (no one cares if Danby Down & Dirty is exactly 10K or not), measurement usually entails just averaging the results from a few GPS watches. For short races where accuracy matters more, such as Twilight 5K, running or walking the course while pushing a measuring wheel works well. For longer courses like the Skunk 10K and half marathon, and those where accuracy is paramount, a properly calibrated Jones counter is all that’s acceptable.

Regardless of the technique, identifying mile marker positions is a non-trivial amount of work while measuring a course, especially if the course might change or if paint can’t be applied to the road or path. Plus, our mile marker flags, while attractive and highly visible, take time and effort to set up because of their heavy bases and four-part flag poles. We don’t have stakes (which have their own installation problems) but because of that, windy conditions are problematic because the flag bases aren’t heavy enough, and the last thing we want is a mile marker flag blowing down into the course.

To make a long story short, although we like the idea of mile markers, the reality is often more work than it’s worth.

Some races are better organized than others.

Given how many races and volunteer race directors we have, that’s inevitable. Most RDs do a great job most of the time for most aspects of a race, but experience and skill sets vary (not everyone will be able to deliver pithy, amusing pre-race instructions), available time varies (if an RD’s work or personal life is in a busy time, that can cut into their race preparations), and conditions vary (dealing with inclement weather before or during a race can make it seem more or less organized).

  • Start the Winter Chill Series earlier! I’d love to run but with the races taking up the whole middle of the day I really can’t do them with my other family commitments.
  • Late starts (like the PGXC 11 am’s) are very helpful as I live 90 minutes away.

As you can see, we’re walking a fine line here. Most of our races have a 9 AM start time to make it easier on those driving longer distances while still not occupying the entire weekend day.

For Winter Chill, we’ve opted for an 11 AM start to ensure that road crews have had a chance to clear snow from the roads and make it more likely that any icy conditions have had some time to melt off the Cass Park paths, which aren’t maintained. That said, I’ll convey this to the race director, Sarah Drumheller, and she can take it under consideration for next year.

I don’t usually attend Sunday morning races. Prefer Saturdays.

We hear you, and we put effort into having races on various days. Last year, we started splitting the Winter Chill 5Ks between Saturday and Sunday. Here’s the breakdown for 2024:

  • Saturday: 8 (including Hartshorne, which has to match up with a Cornell track meet on Saturday)
  • Sunday: 12 (including three indoor track meets and Skunk, where Sunday is the only option for the use of Barton Hall)
  • Tuesday: 2 (outdoor track and Twilight 5K)
  • Thursday: 2 (Forge the Gorge and Turkey Trot)

Sunday is a bit more used, so when we’re working on the 2025 race calendar, we’ll see if any race directors would be open to switching from Sunday to Saturday.

Maybe promoting, joining, … the Triennial Relay would be good.

The subject has been broached in the past, but any changes would be up to Triennial’s organizers and would have to fit in with the requirements of FLRC’s insurance and other policies.

Hold all races when I’m not injured or on vacation :grinning:

I’m sorry, but you’ll just have to stay healthy and convince your family and friends to visit you (and run our races). :grinning:

In an age where so many races sell out the day registration opens and there are wait lists I love that FLRC races are open for registration for much longer periods of time allowing me to see what event fit into my schedule on short term without having to plan months or years in advance.

We hear you. As you saw in the survey, we’re trying to balance letting people make the decision to run shortly before the race with the added work it creates for race directors and the Food Team. We’ll keep thinking and working on this, and any suggestions you have would be welcome. You’re also welcome to help volunteer to make this easier on RDs.

Please bring back the beautiful pottery mug age group prizes for the Twilight 5K

Those were nice, weren’t they? Choosing awards can be tough for race directors, since we want to make sure anything we give out will be appreciated and used and not just stuffed in a closet, donated, or thrown out. And of course, the cost of the awards plays into the decision.

After parties

I hesitate to suggest this to race directors because they’re generally exhausted by the time all the runners have finished, but if you’d like to start and manage a Party Team…

Please make sure there is plenty of 'volunteer swag" for volunteers to wear/borrow at races. I like to stand out like a sore thumb when I volunteer, plus it’s helpful for racers who need assistance.

Yes! Long ago, we ordered a ton of those bright yellow-green FLRC Volunteer shirts, and we’ve been handing them out to volunteers ever since, encouraging people to keep them and wear them to future volunteer efforts. However, we’re out of all but the largest sizes (if you need an L, XL, or 2XL, let me know), so we’re working our way up to another order.

If anyone has seen other ways of identifying volunteers at other races that would work better than the brightly colored shirts, I’m all ears.

Can we find ways to make FLRC races more visible, both at Cornell and nearby universities (e.g. Colgate)? No suggestions for now, but it took me (wasted) years to find you, and the runners around me are aware of Utica races, but not Ithaca ones (and would be happy to come down).

That’s a perennial task for our Communications Team, but one without an easy and obvious solution. We’ll keep talking about and trying new things.


One thing I have noticed becoming more common with the finishers medals, or much of the other swag, is the ability to accept or decline them when registering. Then they just mark your bib in some way that flags the finish line attendants on who gets something. I really have no use for medals, and my wife scowls at me every time I bring home a new race themed pint glass, koozie, or coffee mug. Half my wardrobe is now shirts that were compulsory with registration. Primary problem is that I participate in way too many races, but I like participating in too many races. At least for me personally, less is more and I’d rather see the funds going back into the club or keeping the entry fees low. FLRC races are easily the lowest cost around to the extent that I would like to think that the registration fee is rarely a factor in someone choosing to sign up.

The community focused races are chill, low-key, and informal. There are no blaring radios at the finish line. It is light on theatrics and heavy on just being about getting together and running. They feel like slightly more competitive group runs, only with bibs and course marking. This vibe is what gives them their charm. I wouldn’t change a thing.


Yeah, we know that medals are popular with people who race only infrequently and for whom completing a race is a significant accomplishment, and that’s partly why we still have them for our marquee races. But I agree about those who race frequently—just too much stuff!

With Skunk Cabbage this year, I added the option to opt out of the medal. Last I checked, about 30% of people didn’t want one, which is significant when multiplied across the numbers for a big race.

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That said, it was a pleasant surprise when finishing the Monster last year and being rewarded with a bottle of Steven’s hot sauce and Nancy’s knitted medals.

I don’t know if Steven is going to do another batch this year, but I’m inclined to run it again in 2024 just in case he does.

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I’m busy knitting up this summer’s finisher medals now. This time they’re gonna be spicy and can double as tree ornaments, too, if that’s your thing. It’s not too early to sign up now for the Sep 1 full or half trail marathon.

FLRC has cut way back on shirts at their races. Most club races that offer shirts these days, with the exception of FL50s, are road races. I used to be in Damian’s shoes and ran a lot of races each year, but now only a few. Regardless, it’s been several years since getting a shirt at a race and I’m running low on shirts as my old shirts are getting pretty munged up from years of abuse on the trails.