In an ever-changing race environment, new and innovative 5k races are popping up every year. More and more participants are joining in, drawn by the opportunity to have fun with friends, fundraise for a good cause, and meet their personal fitness goals.

5ks are the most popular running event out there, and they’re an effective way to attract people to a relatively shorter race. While it might seem easy to organize, there’s much more to planning a 5k than simply mapping out the course.

A 5k requires the dedication to cross countless tasks off your to-do list, from marketing the race to attracting sponsors. Here’s how to organize your next 5k, from start to finish.

Research and plan your event

Conducting research doesn’t have to be complicated. Start with these steps:

Step 1: Look at other 5ks in your area

You probably already have a rough idea of where your race will take place, so begin by getting to know the competition. Starting as early as possible, research other 5k events in your area. Browse their website and social media, and attend as many as possible.

Step 2: Pick a theme and a name

Is your event charity-focused? Or does a unique element, like costumes or an obstacle course, set it apart? Whatever the focus of your 5k, make sure it’s clear to yourself and your team. Once you’ve established the “why”, you can brainstorm names.

Step 3: Pick your location, date, and time

Find out who you need to speak to within your local government to confirm your location’s availability. You’ll need to determine which permits and street closures your race will require. After you’ve completed the necessary paperwork and it’s approved, you’re ready to solidify your location, date, and race times.

Step 4: Set your goals

How many people do you want to attend your race? If it’s your first time organizing one, or your 5k is completely new to the area, be realistic about how many people will register. Compare your event with similarly sized ones in the area to estimate how yours will do.

Step 5: Order bibs and medals

Not all 5ks offer participants who complete the race a finisher’s medal — some only offer them to the top three in each category — but either way, you’ll need to order bibs for the big day. Make sure to do this in advance to account for potential production mistakes or shipping delays.

Step 6: Plan ahead for a smooth on-site experience

The last thing you want is long lines, grumpy volunteers, or a shortage of bathrooms. Plan for first aid, outline a race schedule, and organize event security. (Consider if your route will need help from the local police.)

Building your team support structure

Step 7: Organize your team

Nobody can organize a 5k on their own. A successful race takes a village of enthusiastic and happy volunteers, each clear about their team role. Determine who will handle publicity, marketing, registration, check-in, traffic management, and first aid early on.

Step 8: Ensure your registration process is smooth

Make it as easy as possible for people interested in your event to register online, by mobile, and in person. The right event management solution can help with this process and answer any questions you might have if you or your team are new to organizing racing events.

Registration and promotional activity

Step 9: Market on social media and via email

If you’re adding another race to a saturated landscape, you need to get creative with your marketing. Use email to promote your race, market it on an event discovery site, and make the most of your social media advertising spend by using Eventbrite Boost.

Step 10: Find sponsors

Sponsors are a great way to offer a post-race experience that helps your event stand out. Partnering with the right businesses, from food to recovery beverages to sports massage or yoga classes, can be a game changer.

Race day preparations

Step 11: Be the first one to show up on race day

It will be a hectic day of last-minute hiccups, volunteer coordinating, and other little details. Make sure you’re ready to go by being the first to arrive on race day. You’re the organizer, after all!

Step 12: Create a participant checklist

Creating a participant checklist lets you send out race day reminders on your website and emails to help everyone have the best experience. Check out the list below for helpful suggestions.

  • Remind participants to eat their last meal 2-4 hours before the start. Event creators want participants to have energy, but eating a few minutes before the race can result in cramps and stomach distress.
  • Prompt people to warm up/down, stretch, etc. Warm-up exercises and stretching loosen muscles and help prevent injuries.
  • Encourage runners to pace themselves throughout the race to avoid fatigue before reaching the finish line.
  • Remind athletes to drink plenty of water/energy drinks. Staying hydrated is crucial for runners’ overall health during a race.
  • Encourage your runners to have fun and organize family and friends to take photos and videos. You want race participants to capture the moment they cross the finish line or reach other milestones.

Post-event considerations

Step 13: Clean up

Breaking down a race can be a challenge. The excitement of setup is gone, the exhaustion of having been up since the crack of dawn is setting in, and you’ve still got three more tents to break down. However, leaving city and venue officials happy and ready to welcome you back next year is all worth it.

Step 14: Send your participants a post-race survey

You’ll only know how to make your race better for next year by sending out a participant survey. Include it as part of your “thank you for joining us” email, which you should send out within 48 hours of the event ending.

Step 15: Report back to sponsors

Your sponsors are your partners and just as vital as your participants. Keep them in the loop by letting them know how the race went, using data from your post-race survey and any relevant demographics they’d find useful.

Step 16: Engage participants for next year

Saying thank you to participants, volunteers, and sponsors (in segmented communications, of course) can help you carry the momentum forward to next year’s event. Why not encourage them to register again with incentives like coupons?

The race to the finish line begins with you

Ready to get started? Sign up for Eventbrite today.