Lessons Learned Organizing a 5K – Part One

The Piece By Piece 5k was our first venture into race planning and we learned many lessons along the way. We thought we would share some of those lessons in case you ever decide to organize a race. As we’ve mentioned before, this race was a fundraising effort for Team Up! with Autism Speaks. We run many local 5k races and tried to put together the things we enjoy and look for in a race while keeping our expenses low so that as much of the proceeds as possible would go to the charity.

We had four months of planning time from when we got the idea and booked our site until race day. Ideally, we would have given ourselves a little more time but the idea to hold a race as a fundraiser was a spur of the moment idea.

Location: Thankfully, our location didn’t require any road closures. It was held on a city owned trail run by a local golf course so all we had to do was reserve our date. I would imagine an event requiring road closures and possible police presence to enforce any closures would need more time for approval, so definitely keep that in mind. The only other thing that was required for use of the trail were signed waivers by all participants. We were able to obtain a template online that we tailored to our event.

Advertising/Registration: This was the most important aspect. We decided to do a flat price regardless of when someone registered. Many local and national races do staggered pricing depending on when you register. We needed to find the best way to get the word out about our race and after research we opted to use Eventbrite (an online event planning website) for all of our pre-registration. This way our participants were able to use credit cards to pay for the event and we would receive all of the proceeds in one lump sum at the end of the registration period. We were able to set up custom registration forms with the specific registration information we needed from each participant, then, we were able to create a spreadsheet from those registrations which we used on race day for check in. Keep in mind that using an online service will require about a week to receive any funds from registrations after your deadline has passed.

Once the Eventbrite page was created we made an event on Facebook and invited anyone and everyone. The people we invited also invited their friends and this ended up being not only a good way to get the word out about our event but served as a great way to communicate event details with participants as well. We also hung fliers up all over our town anywhere that would allow us to.

The one thing we wished we had done was create an actual registration form for day of registrations. We ended up filling out participant information on separate spreadsheets we had printed. Having pre-made registration forms would have definitely sped up the entire process. Also, consider having two separate lines for registration: one for pre-registered and one for day of registrations.

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Sponsors: If you are looking for donations of any kind for your race I would recommend starting as early as possible. Many business have set budgets for donations and they give them out on a first come first serve basis. Most will also require a letter of some kind explaining what the donation is for. We were very fortunate to have the majority of our race sponsored and as a thank you to the many businesses who helped us out we offered them as much advertising as possible. If they were willing to give us an image to use we posted it on Facebook, used it on our fliers and on signage at the event. Many of them also gave promotional materials that we included in the packets when participants picked up their bibs.

Stay tuned tomorrow for the rest of our lessons.

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