Sunday, November 8, 2015

5K #50, Harvest 5K run/walk - the making

In April 2014, I created the goal of running 50 individual 5K races before my 5Oth birthday, Sep 30, 2015. After several races, I realized that I could do something more than just race and donate to some cause I didn't really care for. I wanted my 50th race to be more meaningful, and to help do some good in my own backyard. So I toyed with the thought of organizing my first race and talked to my hubby about this possibility.

In January 2015, hubby and I invited a few friends over for dinner and that night, a race committee was born!

None of us had any experience in organizing a race.  It was a daunting project.

Here is a list of what we thought we needed:
  1. Location 
  2. Date 
  3. Race Name 
  4. Marketing and Promotions 
  5. Online registration 
  6. Shirts 
  7. Awards 
  8. Volunteers 
  9. Food 
  10. Beneficiary

Here's a list of what we actually did:

  1. Location - after identifying the location, we had to complete an application to reserve it and pay $75 to the city of Allentown.
  2. Date - ensured that the date, September 27, was not in conflict with other big events around the area.  We found out that the Pope will be in Philadelphia on this day - an hour away. Conclusion: no conflict. This could actually be a plus.
  3. Race Time - although most races are held in the morning, we couldn't start this before lunch because it was the 1st day of Religious School.  So we opted for an afternoon start.
  4. Race Name - this, I thought, was one of the toughest to complete. We had to find a name that's easy to market. Our choices included:  
    • Shake your Lulav
    • Harvest 5K
    • 50th 5K
  5. Insurance - the city of Allentown Pennsylvania required coverage of at least $300,000 for any possible damages to property and people.
  6. Institutional partner -  we needed the support of the community for credibility and help facilitate many things like insurance requirements, tax exemptions, and more.
    • Presented the idea to Congregation Keneseth Israel of Allentown.
    • Credibility, they were known in the community
    • Administration, making insurance
      requirements easier to get.
  7. Beneficiary 
    • Who should we help?
    • Who's our contact?
    • How can we help?  When we decided to help the students of Central Elementary School, we met with the school's community partners several times to understand their needs better.  
  8. Marketing Brochures
    • Designed by Mark Pinsley
    • Print - we didn't know how many to print and ended with 1000 printed at different times which turned out to be more costly.
    • Disseminate - no mailing, all were handed out through various establishments like the local YMCA, sports centers, bars and restaurants, schools, etc.
  9. Advertising and Promotions
    • Create and distribute press releases (article for the Hakol) - Michele Salomon
    • Compose and send e-mail campaign through Pretzel City Sports (about 33,000 emails x 2 blasts)
    • Send e-mail campaign through Congregation Keneseth Israel (400 emails)
    • Facebook, created event and invited friends and encouraged friends to invite their friends
  10. Official website - decided on URL, purchased and developed site ( 
  11. Online registration - there are many registration sites all of which charge an online fee. I decided to go with because if you are a member, registration fee is waived and you can save at least 10%.  The site needed to be built, like creating another website.
  12. Shirts
    • decide on color/brand/type (short vs long sleeves / vneck vs round, etc)
    • designed by Jon Epstein 
    • find the right supplier
    • order right quantity in time
    • sort shirts into different packets
    • ship shirts to virtual runners
  13. Finishers medal 
    • Designed by Jon Epstein
    • Decide on material: metal, plastic, or wood, etc.
    • Find supplier. We used Elkwood Arts (found them through a Facebook friend, Practically Running)
    • Lanyard color and provider? Elkwood does not provide lanyards but they attached it.
    • Find finishers medals for 1-mile race finishers.  Since this was a free race, we couldn't afford to give them the same customized 5K medals.
  14. Awards 
    • What are the age groups? It's fun to get an award so I decided on offering something for the top 3 males and females of 14 groups even though we may not enough runners to represent all groups.
    • What should we give age group winners considering we don't have money? Luckily, we got a donation of gift certificates and wall clocks. We labeled 84 clocks. 
  15. Race Bibs 
    • lots of providers but the cheapest was through Road ID
    • labeled each bib with runner's info
    • create a list of runners with bib numbers 
  16. Sponsors - approached various businesses and individuals to solicit help. No mass mailing.
  17. Volunteers  
  18. Food
  19. Tents
  20. Packets
    • Find bags
    • Assemble
  21. Bus - to transport participants from the Central Elementary School to and from the race
  22. Signs/directions to location, and arrows to guide runners through the course.
  23. Race Timers - find out requirements, costs, availability, how it works
  24. Customer service - address various questions before and after race including reimbursements, where's my shirt, can I trade my shirt for a smaller size, etc.
I could go on and on.


198 registered runners - wow!
$5,000 raised - awesome!
Witnessing a diverse community working together to promote health and help improve the quality of life - priceless!

I think it was a success! Do you agree?

See more pictures on Facebook Harvest 5K.
Race results are at

Thank you 

I am grateful beyond words to everyone who made this race possible, especially to my dear hubby Eric who endured listening to me talk about this for months, and to our friends and committee members Jon and Iris Epstein, Mark and Nina Pinsley, Michele Salomon and Arnaud Roose. Thank you Congregation Keneseth Israel for believing in me; that we can do this, and make a difference in the community. Thank you for all your support.

When is the next Harvest 5K?

Hmmm, I've learned many things from this experience. First and foremost, that organizing a race is insane! I felt like I was training for a marathon with all the preparations and learning I had to do. Kudos to all organizers. There's probably an easier way.

When we launched this race, I didn't think of it as an annual event. But after seeing the results, witnessing all those happy faces after the race, fully understanding the difference we could make, I'm thinking Sunday, September 25, 2016 will be a good race day.

Are you in?  More info will be available at

What would I do different next time?

  1. Find sponsors before printing brochures so we can advertise the businesses that helped us.
  2. Over order medals and shirts. I only had 150 done and ended with so much more racers. I felt terrible that, we weren't able to give the top 1st 3 any medal, shirts nor clocks.
  3. Make sure we communicate limitations and expectations better such as deadline
  4. When shirts are gone, they're gone. Reordering shirts after the race was too expensive and delayed accounting which delayed handing of the proceeds to the school.
  5. During the race, give away water in sippy cups instead of water bottles.
  6. Prepare more post race food.  We opened the buffet to all including families of runners and ran out of falafel.

Suggestions welcome.

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