Lessons Learned Organizing a 5K – Part Two

Today we will finish discussing the lessons we learned while we organized our Piece by Piece 5K to benefit Team Up! with Autism Speaks.

Swag: We had a lot of fun with this portion of the planning. Originally, we had planned on doing t-shirts. There was a 50 shirt minimum, and costs to use a local printer were still surprisingly high (roughly $7 per t-shirt). Without knowing how many people would be participating we opted to do medals for our pre-registered runners and ordered 25 extra for day of registration. The medals were about half the cost of shirts and were very well received by participants as none of our local races do medals aside from age group winners. We used Crown Awards as our provider and went with one of their stock medals with customizable options (we added the puzzle piece insert and upgraded to a nicer ribbon). For our overall winners we chose to do trophies and medals for the various age group winners.


Crown can do custom medals with your races logo, but there are set up fees and minimum purchases required. We were quoted two days turnaround time so we were able to order the medals closer to race day allowing us to have the pre-registration numbers finalized.

Refreshments: Again, were extremely fortunate to have donations that covered the majority of the food and beverages needed for our race. A local Pepsi distributor has a program called the Finish Line program where they donate water, Gatorade and an inflatable finish line (due to some logistical issues we were unable to use the finish line). Pepsi in total donated roughly $600 worth of product which was fantastic! We had to purchase a few extra cases of water just because of the heat and to have enough for a water stop along the trail. A local bagel shop donated several dozen bagels and we were given two gift cards for different grocery stores that we used to purchase granola bars, bananas, and oranges. The food and drink for a race is easily the biggest cost, so we’d definitely recommend finding as many sponsors as possible to help offset the costs.

Volunteers: Races absolutely cannot be pulled off without a lot of help. You need volunteers for registration, food and beverage tables, for direction on the course, at the finish line…the list could go on and on. This was the biggest lesson we learned. We were still very short on volunteers the day before our race. Thankfully on the morning of a bunch of people showed up but everything still felt very hectic. We did not have enough volunteers!

Everything else: We were very fortunate to receive a significant amount of donations that we in turn used as raffle prizes for our participants. This isn’t something we often see at races but always enjoy. The prizes were mainly gift cards for a variety of local businesses.

In the last few weeks leading up to the race our house was entirely taken over by all of the supplies that we needed. We had race packets, signs, boxes of food products, cases of water, coolers and a million other items. To keep everything organized we made checklists of everything we thought we could possibly need on race day. We probably brought too much with us but we would have much rather be over prepared than under prepared.


In addition to everything else we had to plan we also had to consider quite a bit in terms of logistics. Our event was held at a golf course but we didn’t have access to any of their facilities. We had to provide our own tables, chairs, canopies, coolers, etc. We didn’t have much space on golf course property so we were able to secure another area just off of the trail to use that was owned by the local school district. We set everything up there starting with our registration table followed by food and our DJ. This way our participants weren’t spilling onto the road and everything was in one consolidated area.


Organizing our first race was definitely an eye opening process. We knew that races were very labor intensive, but didn’t have an idea of the extent to which this was true. We have received a lot of positive feedback from our participants and are already looking forward to next years event and have already started to consider the changes we would like to make to help improve the event for everyone involved.

If you’re still reading, congratulations! You deserve a medal for making it this far! We just wanted to share a behind the scenes look at everything we put into making this race a possibility!

What’s something you have come to expect when you participate in a race?

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