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Unexpected Things to Know About Planning a 5k


January 26, 2021

5ks can be a great way to engage a group and make some money either for a charity, organization, or benefit, and even just for fun! But if it’s your first time planning a 5k, you’re in for some unexpected encounters. Planning a 5k is not just about picking a location and setting a date. There are several things to know about planning a 5k that will help you avoid last minute problems on race day–you may be surprised at all the work and planning that goes into the final product!

Here are some planning tips and unexpected things to know about organizing a 5k:

Common Considerations

Freedom Run 5k start

Let’s start with the basics. 

When organizing a 5k, the most important thing to keep in mind is the purpose of the race. What is your end goal? Who do you expect to sign up, and how will you encourage them to? Make sure that everything you do supports the main purpose of setting it up in the first place.

The next step is to set a date that will give you enough time to set your race up for success. This date may also hinge on the availability of your chosen location, the season (winter runs can be subject to weather!), and competition from other races on the same day (it’s hard to go against an established race if yours is the first of its kind).

The last step as far as basic considerations for planning a 5k revolves around picking a location. For your first 5k, try to choose a venue that’s familiar to participants. The more easily accessible, the better. If you’re in an urban area, try to find a place that’s easy to get to via public transportation, or at least has available/affordable parking options.

What You Didn’t Know About Planning a 5k

Everything that’s been mentioned so far is more or less common knowledge when it comes to planning a 5k. But here’s where details matter. A failure to give any of the following the attention they deserve could result in unhappy runners, fines, and legal liabilities.

Race Course

yeungling 5k course mapGiving your participants the location for start and finish line is usually not enough. Provide a race course map on some easily accessible online entity: your website, Facebook page, or participant emails. Serious competitors won’t come to your race without this critical piece.

Race Sponsorship

5k race sponsors t-shirt

It can be hard to get all the resources you need if you’re on your own. From a financial standpoint, it makes sense to try and secure a sponsorship–especially if you’re organizing a charity/fundraising event. You can also create 5k shirts for the event, and entice sponsors with free advertising on the shirt backs. For tips relating to securing a race sponsorship, check out our recent article on the Rush Order Tees blog!

Race Permits

It is important to check with your local governing body to understand what type of permits you’ll need for the race you’re planning. Another important consideration is providing insurance coverage for your event, as this will likely be required to get the permit you need.

Event Safety

5k water station

At any large scale event, it’s important to put safety first. Coordinate with police and security to create a safe atmosphere for your race. Team up with your local police to help you make sure that traffic safety and crowd control materials are properly placed if needed. You’ll also need to make sure to set up a first aid and hydration station for runners. A good rule of thumb is to have water available at the beginning of the race, around the two-mile marker, and again at the end of the race.


One of the most unexpected things to know about planning a 5k is making sure that there are restrooms at your venue. If the event is completely outside, you may need to rent portable restrooms. Place them at the start and finish line (if they differ), and make sure to have enough so that participants don’t spend their whole day in line!

Traffic on the Course

5k police safety

When planning a 5k, it’s especially important to understand the course and if it puts runners in traffic. If so, you’ll need to plan accordingly with road barriers (approved through the permitting process) and/or volunteers that help guide runners and handle traffic. Again, it’s important to provide a race map ahead of time so people can understand where the course is taking them, and where potential traffic problems may arise.

There are many unexpected things to know about planning a 5k event, but the most important thing that you should consider above all is the safety of your participants. Create an event that provides a lot of fun and excitement, without potential for harm.

If you’ve done it before, what were some of the unexpected things to know about planning a 5k? Share your expertise in the comments for those that are just getting started!

Do you need custom running t-shirts? We can help you design the best gear for your team. Visit us at RushOrderTees.com or call (800) 620-1233.

Maddy Osman creates engaging content with SEO best practices for marketing thought leaders and agencies that have their hands full with clients and projects. Learn more about her process and experience on her website, www.The-Blogsmith.com and read her latest articles on Twitter: @MaddyOsman.


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