The 5 W's of Race Planning

Welcome back everyone for the next edition of A Race Director’s Guide: Taking Strides Towards your Best Race where we give you helpful tips and tricks to propel your next event to the next level! This week we will talk about the 5 W’s you should think about when planning your next race. Yes, the 5 W’s, just like the ones we learned back in 3rd grade. Believe it or not, asking yourself these 5 simple questions in your planning phase can have a great impact on the overall success of your race!


Who is the target audience that you are looking to appeal to? And while it may seem obvious that your demographic is simply “athletes” or “runners,” the first W, “who” goes much deeper below the surface. Taking the time to evaluate who you wish to attract to your race will help you plan what kind of event to put on. As a bit of advice, do a little bit of market research of your surrounding area. If you notice an influx of middle aged to older aged community members, this will help you to plan for that market of runners. This simple evaluation is most important when it comes to your promotional planning and advertising and could save you a lot of work and even money in the long run. By recognizing your “who” early on in the planning process, you won’t have to waste your valuable time and resources advertising to the wrong markets or placing promotions in the wrong places.


Now that you know your “who,” it is time to plan for the “what.” What kind of race has the best opportunity to draw in your target audience? If your race is located in a college town, perhaps a beer run would have great success. However, if your race is located in a suburb with many families and young children, a beer run may not be as prominent. The “what” in your planning process is crucial to your overall success and the success of your event as it can be directly linked to your participation numbers.


Timing is key when planning for an event. Many race directors fall victim to tunnel vision while planning their races and forgetting that they are not the only race directors out there. Don’t make this same mistake by being cognizant of other events taking place in your surroundings. I can’t tell you how many races I have seen suffer in their participation numbers due to the simple fact that it was scheduled on the same date of other events nearby. It isn’t that their race wasn’t great, but runners can only attend one race at a time and numbers were stretched between multiple events rather than one. One way to avoid making this mistake is by looking at the various race calendar websites available to your for the dates and times of other events before setting the date for your own.

Some great race calendar resources at your disposal are:

-          Running in the USA

-          My Race Pal

-          Allow Twitch

-          Tri Find

-          American Trail Running Association

Take a look at these useful race calendar websites and try to find a date where your race can shine without having to compete with other events in the area!


I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “location, location, location!” Location can really make or break an event in many cases. When planning for your race, it is important to weigh all of your options for venues and locations where you can hold your race. After all, your participants will be out on your course for an extended period of time, why not give them some nice scenery while they run the race? Simply running them on an old backroad won’t give your athletes much to remember afterwards. We have timed races in mountains, through the woods, and along rivers, all of which never fail to amaze those who participate in the event. Running a race through new and interesting places is one great way to ensure that your runner will look forward to coming back the following year and years to come! Explore your surroundings and find a place that offers more than only the correct distance for your runners, a place that offers an exciting experience and memories for everyone who takes to the course! (Always make sure you have permission to use any location before moving too far along in the planning process!)


The final “W” is quite possible the most important question to ask yourself while planning a new race. More important than who you are trying to appeal to, or what kind of race you plan to produce. The final “W,” “Why” refers to the meaning behind your race. And this reasoning plays a larger role in race success than any of the other aspects by far. Are you raising money for a specific cause? Or are you trying to raise awareness for an issue in your community? While a majority of the runner population is likely to run in an event regardless of the cause simply for their love of running, having a strong reasoning and cause for people to run for is a great way to draw in even untrained athletes. People love to feel as if they have contributed more than just their time when registering to participate in something. So, in your planning, think about why you are planning your race in the first place. If it is important to you, make that passion clear in your promotions and instill that passion in everyone who hears about your race, making them much more likely to want to be a part of the cause!

That pretty well wraps up our blog for this week! Thank you all for reading and we hope you enjoyed this segment of A Race Director’s Guide: Taking Strides Towards your Best Race but more importantly, we hope you are able to draw some helpful pieces of information that you can implement in your race planning process!

As always, if you have ideas or suggestions for topics you would like to see covered in one of our posts, feel free to let us know at! Thank you again for reading, and happy running!

Justin Kidwell

Timing Manager

Crossroads Events and Timing