I had a few folks ask me about this and I suppose I could have used a little “how to” myself. So here is my version of “How to Organize a 5K.”
First and foremost, choose your location. The Lazy Runner and I found out the hard way that even once you decide on your location, the date for your race is entirely up to the location and it’s availability. The location is usually based on which governmental jurisdiction to work with, either a county or city. We used a local city park with a closed course because it was a whole lot cheaper than closing city roads which then require a lot of off duty officers. And closing roads ain’t cheap.
Our first choice for the date of our race was a whole month before the date we actually got. To be honest, I almost gave up with all of the back and forth we did with the City. LR kept us moving forward, he’s like a rocket ship in this regard. We were anxious to get the permits locked in so we could begin marketing. Obviously, it’s not a good idea to market your race without permits in place.
I’d say the second most important thing in organizing a race is getting sponsors. Sponsors help cut that upfront cost you’ll have to pay for your permits. Get sponsors early and get as many as you can. Sponsors know that if they pick a popular race they’ll get tons of free press and show that they support a worthy cause and a healthy lifestyle. Again, get them soon and get as many as you can.
Once you have your permits you can begin marketing. LR and I hit up every local running group we could find. We had postcards printed up and tagged cars at various races around the area. We used social media to it’s fullest extent and sent out emails to our list of runners. We also had a lot of word of mouth generated by friends and family. It helped that we are both locals and know a lot of people in the area.
While all of the marketing is happening this is when you will be seeing people register, we used active dot com since they are the most popular in our area. They also send the checks from the registrations weekly and that allowed us to purchase race items that we needed in order of importance. Again, sponsors offset a lot of the upfront costs while you are getting people registered.
After the permits, the shirts seemed to be the costliest item on our budget. This is partially because I was a maniac about getting good quality shirts AND getting a cut specifically for the women. You’d be amazed at how quickly the shirt cost can add up and how fast people are to have issues with them. I fully understand wanting a nice race shirt that fits but now I also see it from the other side. This is why registering early is so important. It takes a lot of the guess work out of the ordering process when choosing sizes for shirts. The next time you get a shirt that is either too big or too small, think about when you ordered and when you picked it up. Things gets really crazy really fast the closer it is to race day. That being said, I did my best and will think twice before complaining at any races I sign up for in the future.
Since LR and I are runners we were no way, no how, having a race without chip timing. I’ve run a few small races that use the card method. You know, you write down your time after you cross the finish line and go slap it into an age group card box? That method stinks and I personally like to see my time on the ‘puter and know it’s there for life, especially if it’s a PR. This was the second costliest item. It’s 100% worth it and most of the timing chip companies will set up the start and finish line and our let us rent a few tables and chairs that came in very handy.
The park we used had bathrooms but since we were well over the number of runners we originally planned for we ordered three porta potties just to be on the safe side. I think that after the t-shirts, runners complain the most about potties. I know I do!
Trophies, food, water, and race day stuff was ordered or bought last. Always buy more water and Gatorade or whatever beverages than you think you’ll need. People are thirsty! We had maybe 5 bottles of water left over and no Gatorades. The snacks for after the race don’t need to be big. We had chips, danishes, rice krispy treats, apples, and bananas. Skip the apples and get double bananas. I’ve been eating apples with every meal since Saturday. Heh.
My biggest snafu was the damn safety pins. I was brain dead by the time I went to buy them and definitely didn’t purchase enough. Sonafab! However, most everyone was willing to accept my apology and share some pins on race day. Whew!
Hosting a 5K is a lot of work. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. It may seem small in comparison to the big marathons and triathlons but remember, those are run by hundreds of people. And some of those people, it’s their only job!
It was absolutely one of the most rewarding experiences of my life and I can’t wait to do it again. Please ask any questions you have in the comments. Ever thought of organizing one yourself?
Great post! I helped organize a little fundraising 5K for my kids' elementary school, but I wasn't the director and she did most of the work. It was much smaller than yours, so I can only imagine how much work you did. Good job!
I am so proud of you Race Director Boo! When Spike finally gets around to organizing his first 5k you know we'll be hitting you up for advice.
Awesome. Thank you for this. Your advice just leads to more questions, that I'll probably bother the race people with instead of you. My dream of my sarcastic, anti-neighborhood "Case the Neighborhood" 5K seems a little harder, given the obstacles you named.
Now I'm thinking maybe the best way to build up to that is start a small run group around the neighborhood, and get some other suckers to help first. I'd really like to eventually do what you did, though.
I really think some of the current running groups that exist here don't take full advantage of what off-road beauty we have in the city. They also don't seem to share that youthful, fun-loving attitude that I find so common among the runners. I think there's room for something different.
This is SO helpful! Way to pull all of it off. How long was your process from start to finish?
My ultimate goal for my new organization, Trails and Tails (http://www.facebook.com/#!/TrailsAndTails), is to host a 5k.
So Ill be bookmarking this little tidbit!
You did such an amazing job. If I didn't know any better I would have thought this race had been around for a long time due to how smoothly it flowed and how organized it was. Fantastic Job!
i have been too terrified to make mine official that's why I call the Resolution Run a fun run!! these are great tips
You are such a rockstar! I can't begin to imagine all the work that goes into this. Reading your summary will certainly encourage me to cut race directors/organizers some slack in the future. Sounds like it really went off well though! Very well done for your first shot. Congrats!
I have wanted to organize a race, but this area is pretty thin with local runners. I might try it next year. Amazing job, though. You rock!
Good for you for doing this. I've been on a race committee before and you are right, it is hard work! It made me appreciate all that race directors go through. In fact, I think all runners should help behind the scenes some time just to have an appreciation.
Great tips! I have been trying to help with a local Women's 5k that our running club puts on and I must say the hardest part for us has been the sponsors. people get bombarded this time of year for that stuff.. Doesn't sound like a very big snafu you rocked it!
Congrats on the success! Is this going to be a one time race or will it be returning next year?
Great tips!!! I have thought about starting one before but this gave me a lot of great info!!
Great job on putting together that race!!! When is the next one that you are putting on?
You did a great job! I was really impressed with how smoothly it ran (even though I did no running myself). I appreciated the public restrooms too.
you make it sound so easy. i've volunteered for the race for a cure 5k – had a small piece of the pie – and still found it stressful. i'm glad you and LR kept your cool and succeeded!
thanks for share.
Can I ask-how many volunteers did you have?
Not sure if you'll see this response, Susan, but we had a lot. Mostly friends, family, and co-workers. I'd guess about 25.
Thank you for all the great information. Can you please share with us how much these items cost? I am trying to organize a 5K for the first time and knowing the costs of various things will help us a lot. Thank you
You're welcome! The costs of everything greatly varies from race venue to race venue. You'll have to discuss with your city or county based upon where you have the run. If you contact a race already held in the location you are looking at, they may help you more with the figures.