Just to let you know- this blog is no longer active. I'll be keeping up my 101 in 1001 list until its completion, but will not be writing new posts. You can read the post below if you want the long version. Thanks for the journey to all my friends in the blogosphere!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

25 Tips for Organizing a 5K

I said before that I was working on a 100 list for if I hit 100 followers, but I decided it would be way too much to stomach if I just had a list of 100 tidbits about me. (Of course, I'm about a month behind, but whatever.)

So, I've decided to break up my 100 list. Because 25 + 25 + 25 + 25 =100, right? 25 Running Tips, 25 Tips for Organizing a 5K, 25 Songs on my Running Playlist, and 25 Random Facts about Me.

I'm starting with 5K organization tips because that's what I'm working on the past month and that's what's on my mind. (Moving on after this for those of you who are sick of hearing about this race.) So without further ado....

25 Tips for Organizing a 5K

1. Form a committee- quick. Try to find people who have done races in your area before so you can steal their tips and avoid their pitfalls. Our committee includes representatives from our farmers market, parks and recreation department, health department, cooperative extension, and the mayor. Yeah, I got lucky.

2. Consider partnering with an established non-profit that already is set up with a bank account and can accept tax-deductible donations. We partner with the local farmers market, which is an obvious choice. It also helps with promotion and public relations.

3. Download this free guide from Adin Lykken. It's really long and detailed, but he thought of a lot of things I never would have thought of otherwise.

4. Use G-Map Pedometer (and your running Garmin, if you have one) to help figure out your route and print off multiple copies when it's final. Run it many times at the time of day you're planning to race to look for problems (traffic, shade/sun, uneven surfaces, etc.) before you make your final route.

5. Find out what permits you need to complete- with the city, police, ambulance/rescue, county, etc. Some need to be turned in very early- like 90 days before the event.

6. Make a website with a short catchy title. I LOVE Weebly and use it for everything- my race website, my class website, school projects, and anything else I need to put up. I pay a small yearly fee for a Pro Account because I use it so much, but you can use almost all the features for free.

7. Make a facebook page for your event, not an facebook event. Just trust me- it's less confusing.

8. Have an artistic friend or graphic designer create a logo that can be used on flyers, website, t-shirt, etc. A publicity company designed ours as an in-kind donation. We listed them as a sponsor and they got a tax deduction. Win-win!

9. Consider just doing online and race day registration. I only had one person who said they didn't have access to register online. When participants enter their information into the online system (instead of filling out a handwritten form) it's legible, accurate, and in Excel format- which will save you a lot of headache later. I just use a Weebly form on the race site.

10. Plan early for t-shirts! I have participants pre-order their sizes and then just order a few extra in each size.

11. With your committee, make decisions about dogs, strollers, headphones, etc. and publish on your website and race materials.

12. Print up flyers with the website and basic logsitics and carry them everywhere. I give them out to businesses, schools, health organizations, etc. Two hundred flyers goes quicker than you think.

13. Type up a sponsor letter explaining your event, the types of donations (monetory and/or prizes) you are seeking, and what the sponsors will get in return (promotion on t-shirt, website, event, t-shirt, etc.). Start hitting up businesses and don't be afraid! This is my very least favorite part, but honestly, most people are nice and more people than you think will want to help. It's also a good time to spread the word about your event and hand out flyers.

14. Order race bibs early. I recommend pull-tag bibs so you'll have that as a back-up system for whatever timing system you use.

15. If you are going to do age group awards, assign letters to each age group and write onto bibs so you can spot winners as they come through the chute. (Example- Female 0-9 is "A," Male 0-9 is "B," Female 10-15 is "C," Male 10-15 is "D," etc.)

16. Decide how you are going to time. Last year, I just started my Garmin Forerunner, hit a lap for each runner as they hit the finish line, collected pull-tags, and prayed it all matched up. It did, but I should have had a back-up, just in case. This year, we used Race Timer, which is relatively cheap and easy software that doesn't require any equipment beyond a laptop. Still used pull-tabs to match up.

17. If you are a long distance runner and have forgotten- remember that a 5K is a really, really long way for a beginning runner or walker. Plan according for water stations. We had 2 along the route and the runners passed 1 twice so they had 3 chances for water.

18. Think about bathrooms. Get portajohns if necessary.

19. Reach out to local volunteer groups for race day help. I had no idea so many of these existed in my community until I started asking around.

20. Assign specific tasks to specific tasks as much as possible. If you're the director, you need to just be there to troubleshoot, answer questions, and direct (hence "director") people around. Get people with race experience to help with bibs, timing, and pull-tags.

21. Have separate tables race morning for Preregistered and Race Day Registration. Use big signs. Have plenty of pens (to fill out forms) and pins (for bibs).

22. Make the race day registration form as simple as possible. All you really need is name, age, gender, signed waiver, and emergency contact with number. Maybe email. Consider having a table just for people to fill out forms and then to bring them to volunteers to turn in and get race bibs.

23. You'll need a megaphone or PA system. Give a brief overview of the route AND finish line procedures before runners start.

24. Carefully set up your finish chute. I put a table at the end of the finish chute with a volunteer to check off age-group winners as they come through. My chute wasn't complete this year and I screwed up the age-group awards (which I was able to sort out later on the computer and post correctly) and it was pretty frustrating to me.

25. Use Excel to help sort age results. You can publish pages as pdfs and post on your website.

And that's 25! This list is in no way all-inclusive, but I think 25 is more than enough rambling.

If you have any further tips to add (either as someone who has planned a race or just ran enough to know what makes a good one), please let us know in the comments!

If you are planning an 5K or other fitness event and want to see my event's website or the forms I use or have further questions, email me at 365runs{at}gmail.com.


  1. I have enjoyed reading your articles. It is well written. It looks like you spend a large amount of time and effort in writing the blog. I am appreciating your effort. You can visit my website.
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  2. Great article. It is a lot more work to make a race than runners realize. Another good place to find tips on creating a race is:

  3. When you ordered your medals did you put the age group on the back of them?

  4. Insightful article there. There is guide you can download at www.activeendurance.com/resources/event-director-guides/how-to-organize-a-5k