How to Host Your Own 5k
Last February my (now) husband and I sat across from each other at our dining room table trying to decide what to do about our wedding rehearsal dinner. We weren’t going to have bridesmaids or groomsmen in our wedding, so an intimate wedding party event didn’t make sense. However, many of our guests were traveling from out of town, so we wanted an event for everyone to attend. Money, of course, was also a factor. Frustrated and ready to give up, my husband’s eyes lit up and asked, “what if we have a 5k?”
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My husband, for all intents and purposes, is not a runner. I once convinced him to run the Twin Cities Marathon, and afterwards I was pretty sure he’d never run again. So yes, I am fully aware that him suggesting a 5k means that he loves me. A lot.
Off we set out to organize our own 5k with a casual dinner afterwards for all guests to enjoy. The idea seemed simple enough, but where would we run? What supplies would we need? How do we get one of those big clocks? These were questions we needed to figure out, and ones you’ll have, too, if you want to host your own 5k.
Why Would you want to Host Your own 5K?
The 5k is the perfect distance, just ask Lauren Fleshman! While there certainly is no shortage of 5k races around the world, sometimes, you just want to have your own. Need a fun activity for a family reunion? Host a 5k. Looking to include some competition at the company picnic? Host a 5k. Really, really want an event that features superhero costumes, caffeinated water stops, and roller skates? I mean, not my ideal race, but host a 5k!
Hosting your own 5k isn’t necessarily easy, but it’s definitely rewarding. Here are a few things you’ll need:
All great events have a good race route! Pick a route that measures your desired distance, mark it out with easily visible chalk, flags or cones, and be sure to include something scenic or pretty along the way! (If you’re interested in closing off streets, contact your local police department.)
For our Rehearsal Dinner 5k, we chose to map the route in our immediate Minneapolis neighborhood (Powderhorn) and nearby Powderhorn Park. We drew directional arrows on the sidewalk with sidewalk chalk to be sure participants knew the course, and wrote encouraging messages along the way. If you happened to be running in Powderhorn Park on May 22, 2015, you may have seen the words “THERE’S PIZZA AT THE FINISH” written along the paths; you’re welcome!
Choose a start and end time for your event, organize your timeline, and communicate clearly to all participants. Does your race route follow a popular path or run around a lake? Be sure to do your research and check to see if other events are taking place on the same day. Adjust times if necessary.
We chose to host our event in the evening to correspond with the dinner part of our event. This worked out great for our purposes, and could be a great option if your chosen route is crowded or in use during the day.
Are your participants seasoned runners? Walkers? Or perhaps they are 5k newbies? Be sure to communicate the event guidelines to all participants so everyone can have fun. Consider banning headphones on busy streets, allowing strollers, or setting finish time limits.
We knew not all of our family and friends were interested in running a 5k, so we made the event friendly to those who wanted to walk, bike, or bring their dog. We even had one brave soul rollerblade while pushing a baby stroller!
Hosting a 5k event sounds simple enough, all you need are runners, right? Sort of. Here are a few things to consider purchasing for your event:
- Bibs & safety pins – What separates an informal 5k event from a big group run? Official race bibs, of course!
We purchased bibs and pins from Rainbow Racing, but there are many places to find similar materials. Having actual race bibs made our event feel much more official and fun.
- Display clock/timing mats – Have a competitive group and want to keep track of time? Believe it or not, you can buy a large digital display clock and timing equipment. If that sounds too expensive or unnecessary for one-time use, you can rent clocks, banners, mile markers, and more from the good people at MDRA.
We opted not to use clocks or timers due to the fun, non-competitive nature of our event, but that doesn’t mean we didn’t explore the option!
- Water – Don’t rely on participants to bring their own water, unless of course you request that they do in your event guidelines. Consider asking neighbors or recruiting volunteers for a water stop along your route, especially if the weather is hot. If you don’t have neighbors or volunteers, don’t worry, a water stop isn’t necessary for a 5k. People will however be thirsty before and after the event, so have water or other beverages near the start/finish.
A couple of friendly neighbors set up a water stop for our event with a table and paper cups. We also borrowed a large beverage jug and filled it with water for the start/finish line.
- T-shirts/medals – People love race swag, especially for fun-run events. Even a small token of completion will go a long way to your participants, many of whom may have trained for the event. Consider ordering t-shirts, race medals, or both.
We asked a friend to design a finisher T-shirt for our event, and then had them printed from an online discount retailer. While we don’t think any of our friends or family ran for the T-shirt, they were a nice incentive to participate and a fun way to commemorate the event.
- Post-race refreshments – Participants will expect some type of food or beverage at the finish, even if it’s just water and bananas. Give the people what they want! Consider making a special order from your neighborhood co-op or grocer, many offer discounts on bulk products.
Because our 5k doubled as a casual rehearsal dinner, we chose to have pizza and beer at the finish. This entailed purchasing a lot of six-packs of Old Style from Chicago Lake Liquor, and ordering 20 (yes, 20!) pizzas from Hello Pizza. Totally worth it!
At the end of the day, your event should be about having fun. Create a quirky theme, give out prizes, invite dogs, and let your imagination run wild! Remember, this is your very own 5k, do whatever makes you smile!
Have you ever hosted a 5k? What was the event and how did it go?