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5 things to make your 5K a success

Manheim PA Race Timing Race Management Services Applied Race Management

If you’ve thought about planning a race, especially a 5K, there’s a ton of planning involved. Here are five things to think about to help make your race a successful one.


The course

Let’s face it: A race is all about the course, and there is a multitude of things to consider as you plan where runners are going to run. In fact, it might be best to put yourself in a runner’s Asics before settling on a final course. Some runners want something that is flat and fast so they can get a PR. Others like the challenge of hills. But what kind? Rolling? Or downright intimidating? In the Elizabethtown Rotary Club’s Mother’s Day Run, the course went up Commandary Road on the grounds of Masonic Village. It’s a brutal hill that winds its way to a steep incline in the last 100 meters. On the other hand, at the top of the hill it’s a scenic view, which many runners, especially those who aren’t blazing fast, enjoy.

Other things to consider for a course are the roads themselves and what kind of traffic runners will encounter. Will the course be closed to traffic or open so runners have to run against traffic and beware if they run the tangents?


Be organized, especially at early registration

Nothing can frustrate runners more than a race that is disorganized. And early registration can set the tone for that. If you expect people to pick up their race packets early, do the following:

  • If you have bags of giveaways, spend the time to stuff bags ahead of time. It helps to streamline the registration process if you can find a runner’s name on the list, cross it out when she registers and hand her a bag.
  • Put names in alphabetical order so race bibs are easy to find. Break the alphabet into four or five sections and have someone assigned to that section.
  • Have enough people to handle different responsibilities at the registration table: finding bibs, handing out bags, finding the right size T-shirt.
  • For heaven’s sake, make sure you bring enough T-shirts and other materials to early registration for everyone who comes. Yes, rain checks work, but it can be terribly frustrating for runners if you haven’t planned ahead.

Have lots of volunteers

Many organizations that hold 5Ks are nonprofits that rely on volunteers, so they have a built-in network to help on race day. If you have a big race with several hundred runners, it’s critical to have a streamlined registration process with multiple people distributing bibs and race packets and at least one person taking day-of registrations. Last December, ARMS timed the Jingle Bell Runs in Lancaster and Mechanicsburg for the Arthritis Foundation. At both races, we had nearly 100 people register the day of the runs.

In addition, volunteers serve as marshals on the race course. For runners, especially those in the lead, making turns at intersections can be confusing. Marshals point the runners in the right direction. At the finish line, volunteers can help collect electronic timing chips if they aren’t disposable, work the refreshment table.


Make it unique

With 5K races planned for nearly every weekend of the year, it takes some effort to make yours stand out from the crowd. Maybe you want to raise money for a good cause, and that alone will generate interest. Color runs have become immensely popular in recent years, attracting throngs of new runners for the experience of getting blasted with clouds of color. On Saturday night, ARMS will time the Manheim Glow Run held at 9 p.m. with runners lighting the way with head lamps and glow sticks. Media reports say last year’s glow run attracted 2,000 runners!


Fast results

Regardless of the race, runners want results quickly. We’re always amazed how many runners gather around as we post the first couple pages of results. If you’re doing awards for various age groups and overall race winners, runners expect to have a presentation soon after the race. A typical 5K will be over in about an hour. Some race directors start their presentation before walkers finish.