Race Directing / Technical Writing / Training

5K Race Director’s Checklist

Directing a road race is a brand new thing for me, so when I committed to organizing a 5K for my church next summer, I went straight to the Internet for help. There about half a dozen excellent resources available that were both detailed and organized. Other resources that did not make my “excellent list” were a mess of good ideas, to-dos, best practices that were so hard to read (due to lack of organization and poor formatting*) or make much sense of. And none of the resources I found broke their tasks into smaller lists for different committee members.

So in an attempt to both share my progress on how my 5K organizing is going and to help other race directors out there, here is my 5K checklist. Note that I actually created lists for “team leads” — committee members doing much of the legwork. I have broken down their lists into pre race, race day, and post race tasks

Race Director

  • Pre Race
    • Choose start / finish location
    • Select race route
    • Obtain municipal permits
    • Obtain state permits
    • Obtain USATF sanction
    • Obtain certificates of insurance
    • Prepare briefings for volunteers
    • Plan mandatory volunteer meeting
      • Distribute t-shirts and official identification
  • Race Day
    • Show up
    • Don’t get flustered
    • Smile
  • Post Race
    • Write thank you notes to sponsors, volunteers, contributors, municipalities, facility owners, etc.
    • Post-race evaluation meeting with organizing committee
    • Plan volunteer / officials party
    • Reconcile budget
    • Pay outstanding bills

Design Team Lead

  • Pre Race
    • Design media / sponsor info kit
    • Design registration form
    • Design course mile marker signs and race site
    • Design t-shirts
    • Design race day info sheet
      • Medical / weather information
      • Timing / starting lineup information
      • Course map with mile markers and aid stations
      • Clothing / check in / changing facilities / showers
      • Results posting

Registration Team Lead

  • Pre Race
    • File entry forms in alphabetical order
    • Deposit entry fees
    • Arrange packet pick up
    • Assemble packets
    • Plan race day registration table
  • Race Day
    • Set up pre-registered runners table
      • List of pre-registered runners
      • Number pick up / pins
      • T-shirt / packet pick up
    • Set up race-day-registering runners table
      • Entry forms / pens / pencils / office supplies
      • Race numbers / pins
      • Cash box / change
    • Set up questions / trouble table
  • Post Race
    • Post-race mailing to participants

Publicity / Promotions Team Lead

  • Pre Race
    • Set up race web site
    • Connect with local running organizations for event listing and advertising
    • Distribute race registration forms to running clubs, gyms, sports-related stores, etc.
    • Work with as many local vendors as possible
    • Order t-shirts
    • Book race photographer
      • Provide a shot list
  • Race Day
    • Brief race photographer
    • Set up press area
      • tables / chairs / signage
      • electrical outlets
      • race information printed off
  • Post Race
    • Distribute race stories/photos to press
    • Press release with results

 Sponsors & Donations Team Lead

Note: For our race I have both a Sponsors Team Lead and a Donations Team Lead. The Sponsors TL is getting the big dollar sponsors that will cover our costs for the race, and the Donations TL is getting smaller donations for things like awards and door prizes.

  • Pre Race
    • Draft sponsor / donation letters
    • Draft sponsor levels document with incentives (e.g. $500, $250, $100, etc.)
    • Obtain artwork (sponsor logos) for t-shirts
  • Post Race
    • Write thank you notes to sponsors

 Timing & Scoring Team Lead

  • Pre Race
    • Obtain quotes for timing services, work with race director to sign contract
    • Measure and certify course
    • Mark mile markers on course
    • Order signage for course (mile markers) and race site
    • Prepare signage for course
    • Obtain race numbers and safety pins
    • Prepare course map with mile markers for race packets
  • Race Day
    • Place mile markers and directional arrows
    • Brief start / finish officials
    • Brief official starter
    • Set up starting area
      • Pace / seeding signs
      • Finish line tape
      • Chute materials
      • Digital clock
      • Chronomix times
      • Computer system
      • Recording sheets, clipboards, pencils, other office supplies
      • Tables / chairs
      • Electric power hook up

 Medical Team Lead

  • Pre Race
    • Draft medical plan for race day
    • Notify hospitals / arrange ambulatory services for location
  • Race Day
    • Set up medical area (this list is probably a bit much for our small 5K, but you get the idea)
      • isolated, covered area near finish line
      • supervising MD and qualified nurses and EMTs
      • communications
      • ice, IVs, hot and cold fluids, cots, blankets
      • immediate triage capability

 Aid Stations Team Lead

  • Pre Race
    • Recruit volunteers to man aid stations
    • Determine locations and number of aid stations needed
    • Calculate how many supplies are needed based on the number of participants
  • Race Day
    • Set up aid stations
      • water / sports drink
      • cups
      • pitchers / coolers
      • tables
      • barrels / trash bags
      • rakes (for clean up)
    • Oversee aid station(s) volunteers
    • Oversee aid station(s) clean up

 Course Security / Marshals / Communications Team Lead

  • Pre Race
    • Draft a course security plan for race day
    • Arrange police liaison
    • Notify fire department
    • Obtain press / course vehicles
  • Race Day
    • Brief police
    • Brief course officials, marshals
    • Brief press / course vehicle drivers
    • Brief trailsweep vehicle driver
    • Set up communication equipment

Results Posting & Distribution Team Lead

  • Race Day
    • Results area functioning
      • isolated area close to finish line
      • tables/chairs
      • electric power hookup
      • laptop and printer
      • copying machine
      • telephone/ax
      • preprinted awards/results sheets

Awards Team Lead

  • Pre Race
    • Order awards
    • Work with Donations TL to obtain prizes
    • Arrange an MC
  • Race Day
    • Set up awards area
      • tables / chairs
      • podium
      • PA system
      • awards display area with awards arranged in order of distribution
      • results posting board / area

 Refreshments Team Lead

  • Pre Race
    • Connect with local organization or restaurant to provide breakfast
      • Check for what they need: electricity, tents, utensils, etc.
    • Organize volunteers to serve and clean up breakfast
  • Race Day
    • Set up refreshments area
      • tables
      • trays
      • ice
      • knives, forks, spoons (depends on foods available), napkins
      • trash barrels/bags
    • Set up coffee / refreshments in volunteers / officials area

Volunteer / Set Up Team Lead

  • Pre Race
    • Recruit volunteers for all teams
  • Race Day
    • Set up volunteer / official area
    • tables / chairs / signage
    • T-shirt / official identifications
    • Set up start / finish banners
    • Set up PA system
  • Post Race
    • Cleanup accomplished (course, start and finish area, locker rooms, etc.)
As I put the final touches on this list for you, I’m doing my best not to hyperventilate. First, I can’t breathe because I have what feels like the cold of the century. Second, even with most of these team lead positions filled, I’m still not sure how we are going to make this race happen. I feel like none of us know what we are doing. Especially me, and I’m the one sailing this ship!

* I am a technical writer by training. Disorganized writing and poorly formatted text make me twitch.

Have you directed a 5K before? Did I miss any critical details in my checklist? 


12 thoughts on “5K Race Director’s Checklist

  1. Just printed your list! How did it go? Did you run into anything that you had not planned for? Thinking about having a 5k as a fundraiser for a school….any tips that you can give that haven’t been covered in your list above is much appreciated!

  2. Where is a good place to get a director without it costing too much, since this is a fund raiser? I don’t even know where to start. lol I’m a Mary Kay Beauty Consultant and would like to start a MK5K for the Mary Kay Foundation in Milwaukee/Waukesha area

  3. Hi Sarah,
    Your list looks like you put in a lot of effort and work! How did your race go? I’m doing one for my church- your situation is just like mine- I have no experience and I’m searching online for help. Did your list change after the race?

  4. Sara: Just wondering how your event turned out. I have been a Race Director for the Waldwick Chamber of Commerce 5K Run & 1 Mile Walk for the past 6 years. Our first 5K started out with 147 participants. This past year we had over 600 finishers. Our event has not only grown but we made money each year. I love your organizational skills. My Event Coordinator also creates a timeline for race day.
    Two perks which work very well for our event which you left out were a pre -race pickup (Bibs. shirts, goody bags) and of day of race bag check. Our 7th Annual will take place on May 4th 2014. My personal goal is too reach 1,000 runners. Then I tell everyone I will retire. Just kidding. Our 5K Committee is extremely passionate and we receive unbelievable support from our Community. It makes my job both a pleasure and very rewarding.

  5. Love the list.. one item I’ve found very helpful is having a race website, and a FaceBook page. when listing your race on many of the running websites- you have the opportunity to provide a web address. We keep ours updated with current sponsor info, the logos of the sponsors, and specific info about the race.Many websites are free. FB is free, though you can advertise your page and subsequent posts for as little as $5. I try to post a new picture or news every couple days to keep interest high. This is the first year for our race and my first time ever as a race director..Our website is http://www.tealtrackandtrail.weebly.com It has links to the Face Book page. Next year I’ll add twitter and Instagram.
    I also sought out a graphic designer to design a compelling logo to associate with the race.

  6. Hello Race Directors! My name is Jon Canazon and I am the Director of Event Premium Sales at the National Running Center. If you are interested in having affordable and quality technical tee’s or other items please shoot me an email @ jcanazon@nationalrunningcenter.com

    Thanks and I wish everyone the best of luck.

  7. Hello. I’m wondering if anyone is willing to share their budget for a 5k. I know the numbers will be relative, however it would be great to see some costs.

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