Lessons Learned from Behind the Scenes of a 5K Race 1

As you may know, last year I agreed to be the race director of a 5K event that benefits a local Latino non-profit nearby. And … well… let’s just say I quickly realized I was in over my head and regretted that decision immensely.

I felt awful going back on my word, but I knew it was not “my best yes.” Thankfully it was very early on in the process and they found a much more qualified and perfect leader for the project!

I still remained involved on the committee as the volunteer coordinator, and the big event occurred this past Friday night, with great success!



In analyzing the event for the post-race debriefing meeting to come, I realized there were quite a few life lessons to be shared:


1. Just do it. Nike-cliche or not, sometimes you just have to jump in and get your hands dirty. Now that I’ve been through it once, I know how to improve for next year.

Explaining to 24 volunteers where they would be standing on the race course using a tiny, poorly marked campus map was less than ideal under a race-starts-in-twenty-minutes time crunch. As John Maxwell, says, the key is evaluated experience.  Once you do something, figure out what went well and what didn’t … then improve from there.


2. Clear your path of obvious obstacles. In a running race, or in life, take careful note of your surroundings and do what you can to make it a safe place.

Debris from a fallen limb had been scattered all around the final turn of the course. In considering the safety of the runners, we made extra efforts to clear the chunks and branches. Can we identify the obstacles that are prone to trip us up? And instead of leaving them out there, risking a fall, just remove them from our paths?


3. Perspective is everything. The race course was still open to automobiles (but was very safe because it was a Friday night on a college campus in June). Even so we had police officers helping direct traffic at a couple of the major intersections. I was standing at the last turn before the finish line and (40 minutes into the race!), a police officer showed up – – – and PARKED HIS CAR in the road of the finish straightaway. As a runner, getting to the finish line in the fastest time requires running the shortest distance from point A to point B. Runners needed to turn left to finish the last 100 yards and his car was EXACTLY where they needed to run! I asked him if he understood he was parked in the way, and his response was, “Can’t they just go around?” … and then, “Do you want your runners to get hit by a car?”

Well, no sir, obviously not (which begs the question why you weren’t here 23 minutes ago when the first runner came around this corner) – but clearly his perspective was not at all from that of a competitive runner.

I know, from his perspective, he was just trying to keep people safe. And fortunately the (other) competitive runners who would have cared about the parked car in their path had already crossed the finish line, but still….

Is there something happening in your life that seems completely illogical to you? Maybe try considering it from another perspective and perhaps it will make a little more sense. (Maybe?)


4. Do not mindlessly eat when you’re stressed.  This past week leading up to the race was rather stressful. With an online volunteer sign up page, I kept checking the slots, only to be frustrated by the holes remaining. Knowing that my only job was to recruit and organize volunteers, I felt like a failure. And, I’m not proud to admit this, but I’d mindlessly shake a few chocolate chips into my hand and carry on.

Finally, race day arrived. Only a few volunteer holes were still empty, but so was the entire bag of chocolate chips! Ugh… Lesson learned. No more opened bags of chocolate chips in the pantry! (See #2 above…)


5. Successful completion of a goal is priceless.  For many of the runners at this race, completing a 5K was huge! The overweight elementary school boy. The mom pushing a double jogging stroller. The teenager in casual footwear (not running shoes). Finishing this race meant so much more than an award or a certificate. The smiles on their faces were worth it all!

What’s something in your life you can work towards today? Something that takes effort and work? But something that you know would put such a smile on your face that you’d shine for days…

Set a goal. Dream it. Do it.



Even though I thought all I was trying to do was recruit volunteers for a little fundraiser 5K, look at all these life lessons learned.  I truly believe God is trying to teach us something in every situation – we just need to keep our eyes open.


I’d love to hear if any of these lessons spoke to you in particular! Comment below or share in social media your favorite takeaway. 

One thought on “Lessons Learned from Behind the Scenes of a 5K Race

  • Rebeckah Pace

    Glad to hear that the event was a success (even if there were a few obstacles to get around)! I was planning on participating, but unfortunately could not find the money (college student problems lol!), so I turned to the treadmill instead. Too bad I didn’t realize that I could have helped fill an empty spot and volunteered! If I am still around this time next year, I know what I’m doing. Again, glad all went well! 🙂

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