How to Organize a 5K for your Community
If you are passionate about running you may have contemplated organizing a 5K for your community. When I had a vision of starting a local race to raise money to fight cancer and memorialize a local young woman who had lost her battle to cancer, I was not sure where to start. I sure wish I had found an easy checklist online to help me organize my thoughts and help me get things going!
Choose a Date
The first step is to choose a date. It is important to look at other events within a 60-mile radius of your potential event. The last thing a race director wants is to decide to host an event on the same day as another wildly popular race.
Choosing a date without conflict and that will work for your race committee are both important steps that will get you started! Don’t have a race committee? That brings step two.
Surround Yourself with Good People
Every race director needs a group of dynamic people to help the vision become reality. This is in addition to race day volunteers! Your committee will be there to bounce ideas off of, help keep you grounded if registration starts out slow, and make decisions along the way. I have learned that prior to advertising, it is helpful to choose a theme and design the shirt to help entice people to sign up for my events.
Theme Events are Popular!
If you are a runner, you are familiar with theme events such as color runs, bubble runs, Zombie runs and mud runs. These things seem to ebb and flow in popularity. There are also seasonal or type themed runs such as a Thanksgiving Turkey Trot or a fall Hot Cider run.
Let’s not forget food theme events, like one of my personal, local favorites: The Seroogy Chocolate Run held in beautiful Green Bay, Wisconsin.
Speaking of food: my daughter and I co-direct a Cupcake run. More on that later.
Design a Shirt for Advertising
Runners expect a shirt upon completion of the race. In my experience, people appreciate a high quality running t-shirt with a cute graphic. For a fall event, nothing beats a long sleeve, dry-fit wicking material shirt. Our Cupcake Run graphics and slogans are popular not only with people who participate in our events but race participants comment that others notice their shirts at local races.
If people like your event shirt enough to wear it to other races, people see it. If people are talking about your event, your participation number increases. Free advertising!
Finding a Venue
There are many things to consider here. Is the municipality going to be helpful? Will you need to close the roads? Is there a large gathering space, either outdoors or indoors? If your event is a winter one, is there warming shelter for before the race? Is it likely the roads will be cleared? Many recreational runners do not own items like yak tracks or other shoe attachments to allow for running on slick snow or ice.
We find a local school is a nice place to start and finish a winter race. If your local school district has recently (or is planning to) passed a referendum, it’s likely they will open their doors to you without cost to your event. This is especially true if your event proceeds profit a charity.
Create a Route
I like to start with an online mapping program such as Map My Run. This allows the route creator to find a route from the comfort of the living room. Of course, you will want to run the route just to be sure there aren’t any surprises. Nothing irritates a serious racer like a short (or long!) course.
Online Registration Website
Although you pay a small fee for online registration, in this day of social media that is absolutely worth it. For the Cupcake Run my daughter and I host, we don’t take any paper registrations prior to the day of. This has streamlined the registration process for us and is so worth the cost. We use Active, but there are others out there.
Advertise, Advertise, Advertise
Some people make fancy posters for larger events, but for a small local event, social media seems to be sufficient. It really depends on how big you want your event to be. My daughter is the queen of social media blasts including registration discount codes to cause people to register in “spurts.”
Sponsorship can come in a multitude of ways. You will want donations of food like bagels and bananas, as well as bottled water for your finishing chute. You will also want a filling station for people who carry their own hydration like water bottles on the course.
Some races put fun samples like fuel gels or sports beans. Your local running store may surprise you with a donation from their back room. I have received everything from running socks to headphones to kinesiology tape in race packets.
It’s Race Week!
Okay so typically ten days out, you need to compile your numbers and place your shirt order. You should be sure you have all the food and beverage donations you need. Also, it’s important to confirm with the race day volunteers. It is good practice to have someone on each corner to be sure people don’t take any wrong turns. Contact your local law enforcement to confirm their assistance with the road closure, if appropriate.
One Day Out!
- Touch base with your committee
- Checklist for advance registration
- Fold and organize shirts by sizes
- Get food/beverages/ etc. ready to roll
- Confirm venue/time doors are open/etc.
- If borrowing items from the venue (like tables) confirm where to find these)
- Volunteer responsibility sheet
- Ready race packets
- Mark your course
- Plan water stop(s)
- Optional items: raffle items, items to sell, etc.
- Extra pens, registration forms, cash box with the change, a large copy of the map to post, small copies of maps for participants
Marking the Course
If it is a spring/summer/fall run, marking the course with spray paint is fairly easy. In winter events, typically small signs or “people” are used to mark the course. I have done both, and both have merits. If it’s a winter run, try to choose an easy route with few turns. This way, you need fewer people on the course to keep participants safe and heading in the right direction
It’s Race Day!
Get your committee there early. Be ready to start greeting guests up to 75 minutes prior to the event start (even if you clearly post 60 minutes prior).
Hints for the day of:
- Send people out to their water stops early but not too early. Especially if it’s cold.
- Make announcements of reminders
- Try to start on time
- Even if the event is not professionally timed, have someone at the finish shouting times
- Smile and encourage people
- As soon as the race starts, pack up shirts and anything you do not need and get ready to greet that first runner
Post Race Wrap Up
- Count registrations
- Pack away unused things
- Send thank-you notes to donors
- Post pictures
- Send a picture of winners to local newspapers and other media
- Update your event social media page
- Thank people for coming!
- Clean your venue up sparkly clean so they invite you back!
- Quick recap meeting to discuss what went well and improvements for next year.
If you have always wondered how to organize your own 5K, as you can see it’s pretty straightforward! Good luck and happy running!