One part of the Girls on the Run Curriculum is hosting a mock 5K for your team. I absolutely loved this event. My first year coaching we had 5 girls on the team. For the Mock 5K we had 100% participation. We also invited their parents and families to participate. The next year our team grew to over 20. We had a large turn out for the mock 5K and we opened up the event to the STRIDE team from our school. The third year we had an even bigger group and had over 70 people attend our mock 5k event.
Below I detail how I planned the event, step-by-step. I give suggestions and things to consider. Feel free to share and leave a comment if you have any questions.
1- Pick a Park
It is wise to choose an area close to where your team meets for practice. I chose a metro-park that was within 5 miles of the school I coached at. The metro-park had nice bike paths that would keep my team away from traffic. If there is a park shortage in your area consider hosting the mock 5K at a school. Even if the area is small a 1 mile loop, repeated 3 times, would be sufficient.
Things to Consider:
- Parking- Is there enough parking available?
- Paid Parking- Does it cost money to get into the park?
- Traffic- Is this a high traffic area? Will my team be safe?
- Location- How far is this from where my team lives? Will they be willing to drive here? Is the park hard to find?
2- Create a Route
Once your have a tentative park you need to create a route. I use mapmyrun.com to create race courses. With the website or app you can share the course on social media or email. I prefer an out and back course. Out 1.5 miles, back 1.6 miles. I have a parent stay at the starting area and move the finish cones back 0.1 mile so the team can complete a true 5K. When you have a large group of girls that your are responsible for, you want to limit the possibility of anyone getting lost or confused.
Things to Consider:
- Terrain- What type of terrain is the course? Is my team use to running on this type of terrain? (grass vs payment)
- Restrooms- Is the starting/ending line located close to restrooms and drinking fountains?
- Map- Is this course easy enough for a 3rd-5th grader to figure out?
- Starting Location- Is the starting location located to ample parking? Does your team start and end in the same location?
- Safety- Will runners be safe on the route? Does the route cross any streets?
3- Pick a Date
The GOTR curriculum suggest having a Mock 5k about halfway through the season. I waited a few weeks later to make sure my girls were well prepared. Make sure you give your families plenty of warning so they can plan to attend. I found that a Saturday worked best for me, my team and other coaches.
Things to Consider:
- Timing- Is this event too close to the actually 5K? Is this event too close to the start of the season?
- Other events- Are there any other community or school events going on this weekend that would prevent runners and families from attending?
4- Obtain Permission
It is important to get permission with the park or school where you plan on meeting. There may be rules or regulation you need to be aware of . It is a good idea to give management a heads up before you bring a large group into an area. Park management might want to know the date and time of the event, how many people you expect, where you plan on meeting as well as the course you will run.
You should also check in with your GOTR council and let them know you are planning this event.
5- Create a Flyer
I created a GOTR Practice 5K flyer to pass out to my team. I also emailed the flyer to my parents and gave lots of reminders about the event. We invited families, our principals and teachers to attend.
What to Include:
- Time of event
- Location of event
- Parking information
- Map to meeting location (especially if you are meeting in a large park)
- Contact Information (I always had parents call the day of the event for directions)
- Course Map
6- Get Volunteers
I have found that GOTR and STRIDE parents love to volunteer. Any time I needed something they were there to help. For the mock 5K, I wanted the team to get a real feel for what it is like running a 5k race. Water stations can be very exciting to elementary school students.
- Have one or two adults stay at the starting location. They will ‘hold down the fort’. They will also be responsible for moving the starting line back 0.1 miles.
- Have one or two adults take the lead. This can be where your super experience runner parents will come in handy. You can also have someone lead the way on a bike. Having an adult in the front of the group is for the safety of your team.
- Have one or two adults stay in the back of the pack. Again for the safety of your team.
- Water station- Half-way through the course, create a water station. Have a table with cups of water available for your runners. Get volunteers to set up and run the water station. Make sure to clean up any trash.
- Materials- A few weeks before, get donations of cups, gallon jugs of water and borrow a small table. Last year I asked for 5 gallons of water and I received 20!
7- Create Motivation
Using good old fashion posters and markers I created mile markers and motivation for each 1/2 Mile. On race day I got there early and set up the posters using tape and wooden stakes. I also used sidewalk chalk to write a few more motivations and arrows on the ground.
- Start- Let’s Do This!
- 1/2 Mile- Looking Good!
- 1 Mile- Wow! Look at that stride!
- 1 1/5 Miles- Time to Turn Around. Half Way There.
- 2 Miles- Almost there, Keep it up!
- 3 Miles- SPRINT!
- Finish- Congratulations 5K!
I bought dollar store trophies and created a small sticker that included the date and the name of our team. When runners passed the finish line they received their trophie along with a little goody bag.
MOCK 5K- RACE DAY
On the day of the mock 5K I arrived about an hour early to get set up. I stopped at the dollar store and bought balloons to tie to the entrance of where we were meeting. I drove the length of the course and put the motivational signs in place.
As parents and runners arrived I checked in with each volunteer and assigned any last tasks to those willing.
When we started to get a pretty good group I led everyone in stretches and reminded the girls to use the restroom. I also made sure each girl had a buddy to run with and an adult.
It is rewarding to see the girls finish the race and complete a goal. It is also motivating to watch families run together and spend quality time with each other. Seeing a daughter and father finish a 3.1 mile race together with smiles on their faces and high-fiving each-other is worth it all!