How To Effectively Communicate With Your 5K Racers

My two passions are leadership and running 5K races that benefit nonprofit organizations. I'm halfway through my goal to run 30 5K's this year. Feeling good about that, I thought I would combine my two passions and list below best practices for what to communicate to 5K racers.

So, if you are:
  • Organizing a 5K race
  • Leading your 5K event communications and marketing teams
  • Hiring a race director to operate your 5K race
  • Wondering what 5K racers want to know before they commit to a race
...then hopefully, these two lists in this post will help you. 

At a minimum include these event details, typically called Race Info, on your promotional pieces and on your website. This is the key information most potential runners will want to know before they decide to sign-up for your event. These are in alpha order, but you'll want to organize them in the order or importance.
  • Awards (indicate if awards will be given and include age groupings/brackets for awards, and mention if masters awards will be given out)
  • Cause (explain how revenue generated by the event helps your nonprofit's mission)
  • Chip Timed (indicate if the race will be chip timed)
  • Contact (list the name, email address and phone number of the person to contact with any questions about the race)
  • Course Description (describe the start and end locations, if the course is flat, hilly or USATF certified)
  • Date (race date)
  • Distance (list race distance (i.e. 5K) and included the mile equivalent)
  • Fees (list entry fee and any early registration and day-of-race fees)
  • Finisher's Medals (state whether all participants will receive a finisher's medal)
  • Food & Beverage (mention general type of post-race food that will be provided for free to event participants)
  • Kid's Run (if applicable, list start time, age brackets and if medals will be given out)
  • Location (including street address so participants can GPS the address)
  • Name (official event/race name)
  • Packet Pickup (date, time and street address)
  • Prizes (if applicable, list type of prizes and who will get them (i.e. top finishers))
  • Rain (state your rain or shine policy)
  • Registration (list URL for online registration. Indicate how to mail in a registration and if there will be day-of-race registration and the timing of that on-site registration)
  • Refunds (explain your refund or no-refund policy)
  • Results (list URL where results will be posted online after the race)
  • Social Media (list ways participants can connect with the race via the Internet, including your Facebook page, event hashtag and Twitter handle)
  • Sponsors (include event sponsor names or logos)
  • Time (race start time)
  • T-shirts (mention T-shirt type/style given to runners and if there is a registration deadline to be guaranteed a T-shirt)
  • Unique Attributes (describe how your race is different from other 5K events in your area)
  • Updates (list where online (i.e. website, social media) runners should check for event updates)
  • Waiver (include any required waiver language)
  • Walker Friendly (indicate if the event is walker-friendly, suitable for strollers, etc.)
  • Wheelchairs (indicate if wheelchairs are allowed on the course)

Next, create a FAQ Section on your event's website to address these additional questions racers and potential participants will want to know about. List these either in alpha order. Or, organize them in ranking order by listing first the most commonly asked questions with their accompanying answers.

Aid Stations (describe where they will be located on the race course)
Awards Ceremony (list the time for the awards ceremony or how awards can be picked up if there won't be a formal ceremony)
Bag Check/Gear Check) (state whether there will be a bag check and how it will work)
Bathrooms (consider describing what type of bathroom facilities will be available)
Course Map (show a map of the course and include elevation details if hilly)
Expo (indicate if there will be any type of expo or group of vendors at the race displaying their goods and services)
Finish Time Limit (explain if there is a time limit by which a participant must finish the race)
Fundraising (list ways participants can, if applicable, help you fund raise online)
Headphones (state whether headphones will be allowed on the race course)
Packet Pickup (explain if racers can pick up their packets on race day and by what time they must do that. State whether a person other than the runner can pick up that other person's packet. Describe what, if anything, participants must show to pick up their packet)
Parking (describe location and options, and if parking is free)
Pictures (state if pictures are being taken at the race, how and when they can be accessed after the race and if they will be free to download)
Registration Transfers (state if registrations can/can't be transferred to someone else)
Results/Timing Receipts (state whether results timing receipts will be printed on site for participants)
Virtual Race Participation (if applicable, explain how someone can participate virtually -- the fee, how it works, what they get, etc.)
Volunteers (describe how a person can volunteer at the race and how to sign-up to volunteer)
Water Stations (indicate where along the race course water will be available)
Wrong Name, Age, Etc. (explain what a racer should do if their personal information is incorrect on their race registration confirmation or running big.)

The two lists in this post should serve you well if you are also organizing a 10K race. If you're planning a half-marathon or marathon event, your FAQ Section will need to include additional categories and content.

So much of what I've learned about how to best communicate with race participants is by observing the well-organized races operated by KC Running Company, the largest race event management and timing company in the Kansas City metro.

Finally, after the race, email all race participants to:
  • Thank them for participating
  • Point them to the URL for final results
  • Point them to the URL for race photos
  • Explain how the race's success helped your organization
  • Describe how to connect with your organization throughout the year via social media, YouTube, etc.
  • Remind them about next year's race date and location

Fellow racers, what have I missed that needs to be added to the lists?


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