Planning a 5K race event for any number of people is a daunting task, one that shouldn’t be attempted without a rock-solid road map and support system. That’s why we’ve put everything we’ve learned about organizing 5Ks into a handy guide, so you can confidently move from step 1 to step 100 as you plan your event.
But first, the basics. Every 5K should begin with three, really important steps: the details—like budgets and permits, a solid marketing plan and a strategy to woo potential sponsors.
1. EVERYTHING’S IN THE DETAILS
A great concept or a killer location for a 5K is not step one. For a successful event, you have to start with the details, the little nagging things that aren’t the most fun to think about, but must be dealt with far in advance of your event. Some of the most important deets are:
- The right date: You want to give yourself at least six months to plan, and you also want to make sure you’re not planning for a weekend where people won’t want to come out, like Super Bowl Sunday or a holiday when lots of people in your town go out of town.
- A well-worn race course: If this is your first event, it will save you a little time and headache to pick a path where other 5Ks are hosted, so you don’t have to mark off distances.
- A practical budget: Whether you’re donating profits to a charity, or simply hoping to break even, it’s important that you meticulously plan for all of your expenses, like insurance, portable bathrooms, permits, police presence and merchandise. Now that you know what your race will cost, you can figure out how much money you’ll need each participant to pay to reach your goals.
- Many different permits: Believe it or not, it can take a full six months to receive all the permissions and approvals you’ll need to host your 5K in your designated city. The minute you’ve worked out your budget and race course, contact city officials to find out all the permits that will be required. Most municipalities require road closure and noise permits, along with permission from local police.
2. GET FOCUSED ON CREATING A BUZZ
A strong plan to get the word out about your event could be the difference between a 100-person race and a 1,000-person race. You’ll want to not only think about how to create buzz for your event, but you’ll want to think about what you want to say about your event. In other words, what is your event’s personality? What types of marketing materials can you create to really let people know what they can expect?
Once you’ve worked that out, think about all of the channels you can use to promote your event, like:
- A website: This is super-important as it’s a hub of information about your event, which you can constantly link back to or refer back to. It will also help people find your event as they are searching the Web. (Be sure to use search-engine friendly language.)
- Create social media accounts: With so much of our digital world revolving around social networks like Facebook, it only makes sense to start a few for your event. Think carefully about your demographic before deciding which network, though. Don’t feel pressure to create an account on every network, but select one or two that will really give you the best bang. If you’re trying to get pre-teens and millennials to your event, maybe skip Twitter and go for Snapchat instead. If you’re looking for women in their 20s and 30s, Pinterest might be a better bet than Facebook. Use what you know about social media to make the best decision about where to spend your time (and dollars).
- Post to event directories: Websites like ACTIVE.com have large audiences of fitness enthusiasts who are looking for weekend activities, so make sure your event is listed well in advance. Also, make a list of local newspapers and magazines, and submit to their event directories.
3. OFFSET WITH KEY SPONSORSHIPS
Sponsors are important for your race, not only to help you offset the cost of organizing, but also to help you build buzz through their networks. While sponsorship can come in two forms—cash or goods—your first race will most likely attract a sponsor who’s more willing to give you goods. These could be in the form of snacks and water for participants and volunteers, or t-shirts for registrants, or the like.
For your first 5K, look for locally based businesses rather than corporations, as you’ll have a better success rate and a better chance of leveraging the business’ network.
There are many more steps to organizing your first 5K, so we’ve compiled more tips and advice into “How to Organize a 5K,” a free guide.