Step-by-step: races and fun runs

Running is a great way to get supporters to join in a physical activity that will appeal to all fitness levels, by Daniel Etherington

Whether you are organising a fun run or a more competitive race, running events promote physical fitness and provide an opportunity for social interaction. In a race, participants are timed and will focus more on their performance, while in a fun run, they are encouraged to enjoy the experience and have fun. Add costumes, music, food, and other forms of entertainment to make the event more fun.

Step by step

  1. Six months before: Meet with the school to set a date that doesn’t conflict with other activities. Discuss the potential route. Holding the run at the school or a local athletics track may be easier than at the park or in open Investigate permissions (particularly if you are holding the event in a public space) and insurance requirements. Begin the application process or schedule some reminders.
  2. Three months before: Confirm which stalls you will include and the requirement for volunteers and facilities. Decide if runners will ask for sponsorship, if you will charge an entry fee and how people will get this money to Prepare an information pack, including terms and conditions, and information about how to enter. Contact local businesses and other partners for event sponsorship.
  3. Two months before: Firm up your sponsorship arrangements with local businesses. Promote the event through all school and PTA channels and approach the local press. Start recruiting volunteers for key positions.
  4. One month before: Don’t lose momentum! Keep marketing the event and encouraging sign-ups. Ask the headteacher to include a mention in assembly and write to parents. Purchase any certificates, medals or trophies you need. Recruit a first aider.
  5. Two weeks before: Make sure all necessary resources are available and working, including card readers and walkie-talkies. Check you have enough hi-vis jackets.
  6. One week before: Meet with your team to make sure everyone knows what to do on the day. Create signage for the route and any stalls. Double-check the distance and peek at the weather forecast. Put out a call for cakes and snack donations if required.
  7. The day before: Communicate any last-minute changes of plan. Make sure contact lists for volunteers and registration lists of participants are up to date. Collect together all the equipment you need ready for the next day.
  8. On the day: Gather your team together, set up stalls and mark out the route. Distribute card readers, QR codes or cash floats. Open the gates in good time so participants have plenty of time to register.
  9. After the event: Tidy up and debrief the team. Reveal how much you raised and share the PTA’s plans for the funds.

Tips and advice

Contingency: As we all know, the British weather is unpredictable – summer events may just as easily be hit by heavy rain as by a heatwave. Put contingency plans in place for moving stalls indoors, and select a back-up date for if you have to cancel.

Promotion: Find out if there are any talented designers or artists in your school community and persuade them to help with promotional posters and digital assets. Contact local athletics clubs, activity-based after-school clubs and holiday camps to find enthusiastic potential entrants.

Staffing: As well as parent volunteers, decide if you will need any qualified staff. For example, first aiders, such as St John Ambulance.

Feedback: Gather feedback from attendees and runners. What did they enjoy most? Was the course the right length? Did it cater to their running level? What did the children say? Use this information to help you plan next year’s event.

Success stories 

At Pendock Primary School, running is a big part of our culture. Our small school is located in a rural area on the borders of Gloucestershire, Worcestershire and Herefordshire, and there are plenty of local races and parkruns for everyone to participate in. The school is lucky to have a large outside area, and the children are always keen to take part in running activities such as the Virtual London Marathon, local cross-country events and the Daily Mile initiative, where children run or jog for 15 minutes a day.

The Spring Chicken Run started in 2013 as a way to raise funds for the school to install solar panels. The run consists of a 10km and a 5km race as well as a 1km fun run, which is always popular with the children and families of runners participating in the longer races. Former students and their families often take part too. The cost of the 1km run is subsidised by the other races, so we can encourage more children to get involved without money becoming a barrier.

On the Friday before the event, we set up at the school. The following day, we mark out the route. The timing crew arrives early on race day to set up and check the course. Participating runners – often more than 500 – register and collect their numbers in the school hall. We hold the race briefing on the school playground, and the races finish on the school field. The PTA provide a left luggage room for the runners, and sell refreshments. School families, staff and other volunteers help by marshalling, serving refreshments, and setting up and clearing away.

Last year, the Spring Chicken Run raised over £4,000. The funds paid for the children’s pantomime and their Christmas dinner. We put the remainder towards transport for school trips and the renovation of the early years outside area.

Suzanne Massey, chair, Friends of Pendock School, Pendock Primary School (50 pupils)

Every year, our school, St Mary’s in Oxted, holds a whole-school fun run during school hours. Last year, the PTA organised an additional run on a Sunday afternoon so entire families could participate. Pupils normally run around the playing field, but as the forecast was for bad weather, the PTA used the paths around the edges of the playground. Spectators stood in the middle to watch.

Because of the cost of living crisis, we decided not to ask children to get sponsored and opted for a ticketed event. The main focus was to bring the community together rather than raise a large amount of money. We used the proceeds to cover the cost of the medals, and a small amount went to the PTA’s general funds.

To encourage people to join in, we made it into a big competition: who could complete the most laps, adults or children? Every time someone finished a lap, they had to put a ball in either the ‘adult’ box or the ‘child’ box, creating a visual reminder of who was leading. The children won with 486 laps, while the adults only managed 307 laps!

The run took place in truly awful weather. We had to scrap many of our additional outdoor plans and instead made use of a single available room. The fact that so many people turned up just shows how wonderful and supportive our parent community is! We raised £700, making around £400 from ticket sales and £300 from stalls.

Jessica Bush, PTA chair, St Mary’s, Oxted (630 pupils)


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