Fall means you can't look at a race calendar without hitting dozens of 5Ks every weekend, which presents runners plenty of opportunities to get race time under their Spi-Belts.
But with so many events, not every race director is going to be a seasoned pro, and slip-ups happen. Here's my advice for directors of small, local 5Ks to make their races the best they can be.
Start the race on time. Unless part of the course has been destroyed, start the race when you said it's supposed to start. Many of us have prerace rituals that are timed to race time: things like stretching, warming up, and going to the bathroom. If a pack of high school students decides to sign up five minutes before race time, tough luck. They can cheer.
The only other possible exception is if you as the organizer do something to delay getting people to the start. I once ran a half-marathon where the organizers didn't factor traffic into their time line, and a busload of people - a bus that they told runners to take - was late getting to the start. If that's the case, hold back the start time, apologize profusely, and make sure the problem's fixed for next year.
Don't force the course over sidewalks. Concrete is one of the hardest running surfaces around, and can put extra strain on a runner's feet and legs. But aside from the injury potential, putting runners on sidewalks often means we're stuck running in single file, which makes it impossible to pass. I ran a 5K last weekend where I had to pop onto the street so I could get by a batch of teenagers who had started the race up front, but were running much slower than me. Set your course on wide roads, which give us more than enough room to move - unless your race is a trail run, in which different rules apply.
Use paper cups at aid stations. Drinking water while running is a skill that requires extreme coordination, which not many of us have (and probably why we're running and not playing a sport that requires contact with a ball). One way we avoid spilling all over ourselves is pinching the cup to give it a spout, which you cannot do with plastic cups. So paper, not plastic, please.
Line the course with volunteers, because people cheat. If your course has any corners that are out of the race organizer's view, put volunteers there so someone isn't tempted to take a shortcut. This is especially important if your race gives out prize money. Last fall, I lost out on a cash age group prize because the woman in front of me cut the course - twice (I didn't fight it because I didn't have any photo proof, and I didn't think it was worth starting a row over $50). Short on volunteers? Offer people the same free shirts you give runners, or, if your race raises money for charity, contact the local high school to see if they have any National Honor Students looking for more service time.
Ocean City New Jersey Half Marathon, 5K & 10-mile noncompetitive walk/run, 9 a.m. Start and finish by the Ocean City Music Pier. Ocean City Recreation. ocnj.us/race-events. Half- marathon, $50 pre, $60 post, 5K, $20 pre, $25 post.
39th Annual Firefighters' Memorial 5K Run and Walk. (Changed from Oct. 6.) Sea Isle City, N.J., on the Promenade at JFK Blvd. Mass at St. Joseph's Church at 9 a.m., followed by walk at 10, run at 11. Registration race-day: $25. IAFF22.org.
Crusader Classic 5K Run, 11th annual, 9 a.m. Father Judge High School. Contact Dennis 215-333-7648. email@example.com
Move4The Memorial Inaugural Run, 10k, 5k. Cape May. Fee: $25. Start: 10k, 8:30 a.m., 5k, 9 a.m. Coast Guard Enlisted Memorial Foundation, cgemf.org
RSVP's Run Wild at the Elmwood Park Zoo 5K, 1-mile walk. 1661 Harding Blvd., Norristown, 9 a.m., registration 7:30 a.m. Free admission to the zoo to all participants and their families following the event. Register runtheday.com.
Michelle's Miles 5k, Kids Fun Run and 1-mile walk, at The Episcopal Academy, Newtown Square. Fun run starts at 9 a.m., 5k at 9:20, walk at 9:25. Fees: 5k $25; walk $20, fun run $10; Registration: michellesmiles.org.
11th Annual Crusaderclassic 5K, Lt. Robert Neary Scholarship Fund, 9 a.m. Fee: $25 preregistration, then $30, $15 for children 18 and under. Father Judge School. friendsoffatherjudge.com.
Treasure Island Sprint Triathlon/Duathlon/AquaBike and Kayak Triathlon and Kids Triathlon Riverfront Park, Point Pleasant N.J. 8:45 start for adults 10:30 for kids, Adults $60-70, kids $25. dqtridu.com/tresit.htm
Parx Octoberfest 5k, Foundation for Breast and Prostate Health, 10 a.m. start, final lap will take place on the racetrack and will be called by track announcer Keith Jones. Fun Mile Walk begins at 9:30. Registration at runtheday.com - $33 adult, $28 under 21 and $25 for walkers. Day of race, additional $5.
Volunteer English Program Family Fun 5K run/2.5 walk, Church and Market Streets, West Chester. Registration: 7:30 a.m., race/walk starts at 8:30, fee: $25. Registration: volunteerenglish.org.
RemembeR Rich 5K Run/Walk. 11 a.m. Starts and finishes at Archbishop Wood High School (655 York Rd., Warminster) Reg. $25 if received by Oct. 12. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Run for the Tech of It 5K/1-mile fun run, Hopewell Crest School Science & Technology Foundation, 9 a.m. Starts at 122 Sewall Rd. Bridgeton, N.J. $20 Preregistration, then $25. 1 Mile Fun Run $15, $20.
Dottie's House End of Season Triathlon / Duathlon / AquaBike at Island Beach Park, Seaside Heights N.J. 8:30 start, $60-$70. dqtridu.com/eos.htm
Armed Forces Freedom Run 5K and 6-hour Relay Team Competition, at the Burlington County Fairgrounds, Rt. 206 & Jacksonville-Jobstown Rd. 8:30 start for 5k, pre-race fee: $20, race-day: $25. armedforcesfreedomrun.com
Mother Matter 5k run/walk. 9 a.m. Washington Lake Park, 626 Hurffville-Cross Keys Rd., Sewell. Fees: Prerace: $20 individual; $50 per family (up to 5). Race day: $25. All proceeds benefit laurenslegacy.org/
Brain Injury Challenge - Race for Recovery, 5k run/ mile fun run/walk. Tyler State Park in Newtown, Pa. 5K starts at 9 a.m., fun run: 9:30. Registration opens at 7:30. Fee: $25. Benefits Drucker Brain Injury Center and the Brain Injury Assoc. of Pennsylvania. biapa.org/BrainInjuryChallenge2013.
8th Annual Browning Ross, Bob Kupcha 5k run and 1 mile Walk, 9 a.m. Start at Hessian and Grove Streets, National Park Firehouse, National Park. Entry fee $20 pre, $25 post. runsignup.com
Run the Bridge 10k run, 2-mile walk. At the Ben Franklin Bridge, Camden side, 8:30 a.m. Fees: 10k: $45, registration closes on Oct. 20 or when cap of 4,500 is reached. No 10k race-day registration. Walk starts at 8:35 a.m, fee: $25. Walk is free for children 10-and-under but must be registered and accompanied by an adult. Walk caps at 1,000. There is no in-person registration at running stores. Kids Event starts at 8:45 a.m. at Campbell's Field, fee: $10, takes place at 8:45 a.m.
New Life Animal Rescue 5k, 1-mile, at Cooper River Park Stadium, Pennsauken, N.J. 9 a.m. start, Fees: $25 prerace, then $30.