Tying the Knot Trot 5k: Planning a 5k on Your Wedding Day

As runners, Paul and I always knew that running would be a piece of our wedding. I didn’t really want a theme that would prevail over the entire day, but running has been such a huge part of our relationship that we knew it had a place in our big day.

View More: http://ctysonphotography.pass.us/courtney-and-paul-engagement

I’m not sure when we started thinking about a 5k, but it was something that we knew we wanted to do before we even got engaged. And yes, this does mean that we saw each other the morning of the wedding, which goes against tradition. GASP.

We had NO idea how many people would be interested in joining us on the run. Originally the idea started with just us, then our wedding party, and then we decided to open it up to all of our guests and ‘just see what happens’.

We ended up with around 30 people! (We mistakenly took a photo after some people already left)


We did not include the Wedding Day 5k on our formal invitations, though we were tempted. What came it down to was that we simply already had a ton of info to share and we didn’t want to overwhelm our guests.


To communicate the run, we included the details on our wedding website as soon as it launched and then spread word through family and friends. At the rehearsal dinner, I had small flyers printed out with directions and a small map on where to park. These same flyers were also included in the “welcome bag” that was given to anyone who checked in under our room block at our hotel.

My fancy little flyer:

wedding day flyer

Determining where to have the race was a no-brainer to us. We grew up in the suburbs of Chicago and were having the wedding in my hometown. Growing up, my family often went on walks at the nearby forest preserve and we ended up taking our engagement photos there as well.

View More: http://ctysonphotography.pass.us/courtney-and-paul-engagement

View More: http://ctysonphotography.pass.us/courtney-and-paul-engagement

We knew the venue, Graue Mill in Fullersburg County Forest Preserve, had plenty of parking, restrooms, wide and clear trails that a group of runners wouldn’t completely hog, and lots of open areas for us to congregate.

View More: http://ctysonphotography.pass.us/courtney-and-paul-engagement

The very same path the race was on.

Since we originally planned this to just be among friends, we did not organize the event through the forest preserve or historical society. Even as it grew slightly, we decided not to because the event was just too informal. (We also made sure to leave no evidence behind! We brought trash bags and picked up everything that we put down!) It was planned as a race and we used a Garmin to mark out each mile and the turnaround point for the 5k, but we really just encouraged any of our family and friends to come out and spend time with us whether they were trying to win, jogging casually, walking a mile, or just sitting at the starting line and eating some donuts.

(We originally wanted to set up a fund and ask people to donate to the local humane society if they wanted to participate. We later scrapped this idea because we didn’t want to deter anyone from participating and since so many of our guests were from out of town, we knew they were already spending quite a bit to be here.)

The morning of was a breeze because we made sure this event was simple. Remember that you are going to have a TON going on already, so make this easy on yourself and delegate tasks!

The course was mostly a straight-line, but Paul still rode a bike out and marked the trail and turn-around spot with some paper signs. We also brought a cooler filled with bottles of water, some granola bars, and a couple dozen donuts.

View More: http://ctysonphotography.pass.us/courtney-and-paul-wedding

Since our wedding was in August and our church had no air-conditioning, we had planned all along to provide bottled water at the ceremony (we lucked out and the weather ended up being perfect and not too hot!). Since we were buying water anyway, we just got a couple extra packages and I ordered custom waterbottle labels from Oriental Trading Company.

View More: http://ctysonphotography.pass.us/courtney-and-paul-wedding

I know, I know.. The labels weren’t NECESSARY, but I think they turned out really cute and added a neat little touch. I am so thankful for my mother-in-law, Linda, and my sister-in-law, Anne, for purchasing the water and putting on all those labels for us :) :) (After the run, the cooler was brought to the church and the bottles were put on a table for guests to grab as they arrived).

The day of, we all met at 7:30am and around 7:45am we rounded everyone up and Paul shouted ‘GO!’. I ran, but wasn’t gunning for time. I really liked bouncing around from group to group and getting a chance to chat with some family and my friends that I don’t see often enough!


The starting line! We gave our groomsmen in tuxedo shirts.

Paul’s dad was also fantastic and followed the last runner on a bike. He picked up the mile-markers and turnaround sign that Paul had put out that morning, so we didn’t need to collect them after!

We also had one great volunteer who stayed behind at the starting line and watched over our cooler, donuts, and prizes while the rest of the group ran!

The prizes are basically my pride and joy. I am SO happy with how they turned out!

View More: http://ctysonphotography.pass.us/courtney-and-paul-wedding

I ordered them from JustAwardMedals.com and the artwork was created by Paper.Ink.Love. whom I found on Etsy. The design is actually a copy of our Save the Date magnets and when I contacted Melissa about artwork for the medal, she was just so thrilled with the idea that she was able to adjust our original image :)

STD Paul and Courtney

Our Save the Dates: I put the magnets in the brown envelope and then into the green envelope to protect them.

The medals came out to be about $2 each (definitely a splurge), but they are probably my favorite thing about the whole wedding. I ended up ordering 60 because I didn’t want anyone to have to be devastated not to get one and when we had a ton leftover, I just had someone bring the box to the reception and people LOVED bring them home to their kids :)


Cat Tested, Bride Approved.

As a groomsman gift, Paul provided all of his guys with cotton tuxedo shirts. Running is obviously not ideal in a cotton tee, but well, technical tees ended up being way too pricey. I didn’t require the girls to wear anything, but I wore a green shirt (our wedding color) and then a white running skirt with ruffles that I found at lululemon.


After the race was done and the medals were handed out, we took a group picture, and then were able to easily clean-up the trash and I headed home to shower!

Things to consider when planning your own Wedding Day 5k:

  • Timing of the day
    • Have you planned out the rest of your day yet? Do you already have hair appointments scheduled? Know when your photographer is arriving/on the clock? Make sure you know how much time you need for the rest of the day before setting a time for the 5k. Our ceremony was at 3 pm and our hair appointments were at 9:30am. So having the run at 7:30am allowed for me to have plenty of time to run, chat, shower, dry my hair, and THEN make it to the salon.
    • Will it be light enough outside at the time you are planning to run?
    • Is there enough time for guests to shower before any other activities (probably not an issue since the bride needs to get ready anyway too), but make sure you are thinking about timing from EVERYONE’S perspective.
    • Be mindful of where your guests are staying. Are your bridesmaids/groomsmen staying at a hotel or at home? I had one bridesmaid in a tight spot because she didn’t have a hotel room and lived 40 minutes from the venue. It was not practical for her to drive to the 5k, go home, shower, and then drive back to get hair done… just be mindful of where everyone needs to be before and after the race, if you are requiring them to be there.
    • Can you wash your hair before getting it done? Every hair stylist I’ve used has warned me about washing my hair before having it styled. I wash it anyway. My hair gets way to greasy if I don’t wash it and I wasn’t risking that on my wedding day!.. But will you be able to work around it? Do you get red and blotchy when you run? Wear sunscreen. Today is NOT the day to get burned during your run 😉
    • Wear a watch. Know when you absolutely need to leave. Don’t let your whole schedule get behind. We spent a long time chatting afterwards. Whoops. Time flies when you are having fun.
View More: http://ctysonphotography.pass.us/courtney-and-paul-engagement

Yup, took engagement photos in my Brooks #nerd

  • Location:
    • Do you need to prior approval to have an event at your location?
    • Check events calendars and make sure nothing else is going on at your venue that morning.
    • Will the course be crowded during your race? Is your large group going to be a potential inconvenience?
    • Is it open to cars or anything else dangerous that you should alert your group to? Make sure to actually run the route a couple of times on the same day and time you plan on having your race to avoid any kinks or closures.
    • Will out of town guests easily be able to find it? Is there plenty of parking? Places to sit down after the run?
    • Restrooms!!
    • We just used a forest preserve trail, but sometimes schools, rec centers or parks departments have tracks or trails that they will allow you to use for free.
Shower Cake

My bridal shower was running themed :) This was my cake.

  • Communication:
    • Let everyone know of the location and time. We had the information online and on flyers. People will show up late, so give a little buffer room before your starting time.
    • Plan enough time that you won’t have to bail early if someone wants to walk the course. Or designate a time when you want everyone back at to the finish line ahead of time.
    • Will you need to mark the course? How will you collect the mile markers after the run? Don’t litter!
    • Make sure everyone knows where to meet and where to park. Provide a specific address if possible because often trails or parks will have multiple entrances or lots. Out-of-towner’s will probably just google the address. Will that take them to the right place?
    • Is the course paved? Gravel? Can guests bring strollers?
    • Be sure to stress that the event is for EVERYONE (as long as it is). We didn’t care if you ran, walked, or crawled. It was just a fun event.

View More: http://ctysonphotography.pass.us/courtney-and-paul-wedding

  • Expectations
    • Expectations are the hardest part about planning a wedding in general. Who do you EXPECT to be there? Tell them this.
    • Do you want your photographer there?
    • Are you and your future-spouse running together or separate? Don’t start the day out with a fight, ha! We ran separate because I knew there wasn’t a chance in heck that Paul wasn’t planning on winning his own race :)
    • Are you going to have a winner? Do you need someone at the finish line to track who finishes and when? We did not do any sort of timing, this was simply a fun run.
  • Necessary Items:
    • Water! Do you think you need to provide water at the halfway point? Or 1 mile in? We did not, but make sure guests know they won’t have any support out there.
    • Mile Markers/Turnaround Point (and stakes or something to hang them up with!)
    • Trash bags
    • Camera!
    • A watch! Keep track of time so that you aren’t behind for the rest of your day!
    • A volunteer at the starting line to watch over your things/track finishers.

We had such a blast doing this! And we were so blown away by how many people showed up! It was a great way to run off some day-of jitters!

View More: http://ctysonphotography.pass.us/courtney-and-paul-engagement

Another shot from our engagement shoot.

Married Folk: Did you see your spouse before the wedding?

Have you ever hosted your own fitness event? Anything I should add?

Subscribe to Redefining Athlete by Email

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

P.S. Most of these photos were taken by our AMAZING photographer, C. Tyson Photography. I can’t recommend him enough!

8 thoughts on “Tying the Knot Trot 5k: Planning a 5k on Your Wedding Day

  1. Paul

    You totally left out the part about how I wanted to do an Oly Tri that morning and you said no!!!! :(

    We’re still fighting about that.

    1. calquist@gmail.com Post author

      There is no way you could have raced and then made the 2 hour drive from MILWAUKEE that morning #destroyingmyhusband’sdreamsfromday1
      Plus I was nice and left out the part where you fell and almost DIED while riding that bike to put up the mile markers. And by died, I mean I would have killed you if you got yourself hurt. 😛

  2. Ashley @ Saving Money in your Twenties

    this is like the CUTEST idea ever! so perfect for you guys :) I think I remember you mentioning that you did this but for some reason I just assumed it was part of another 5k race that was taking place– I didn’t quite think that YOU hosted it! haha that’s amazing! you guys did a great job, I’m sure your guests loved it!!!

  3. chelsea @ the new wifestyle

    oh my GOODNESS! I’M FREAKING OUT OVER HERE! this is just too cool. at first i was overly excited about just how cute your invitations were (LOVE me some trees and the feel of it is so great). then i got excited that you organized a run with your friends and family before the wedding. then i got excited about the water bottle labels (totally a need). THEN you blew it out of the park with MEDALS?!?

    you are the coolest ever. what an amazingly fun and unique thing to do!

    1. calquist@gmail.com Post author

      haha thank you!! There was more squealing involved in wedding planning than any other time in my life. I was absolutely thrilled with how our invitations, save the dates and medals turned out :) Turns out if you look through about 500000 options, you finally find something you like :) :)

  4. Karen

    I LOVE THIS and am 100% putting this idea in my pocket. I’ve heard of other brides & grooms running together the morning of the wedding, but it’s so neat that you turned it into a 5k for the guides & wedding party to do to!! so cool!!

  5. Ashley @ A Lady Goes West

    Oh my gosh, Courtney! This is too cute! I’ve heard of some unique wedding themes and activities, but never a 5K run in the morning of the big day. I love it! How wonderful that many of your guests got involved. Love it! I bet others will follow in your footsteps after reading this! Have a great weekend! :)

  6. Kristen @ Glitter and Dust

    This might be the best idea EVER!!! How have I never heard of anyone doing this before!?!? Where were you with this idea two years ago when I got married? I would have LOVED to have done something like this. Darn. And I can’t really say next time. 😉 Maybe for an anniversary celebration or some milestone event (birthday). You should start a little side business and organize this for couples. I would totally help if you needed a sidekick. :)

    I love all of your engagement photos. You are so beautiful and you and your hubby-to-be are SO CUTE together. I’m excited for you. Getting married is one of the best things ever. I recommend wearing your running shoes under your dress. I did this and my feet were smiling all night. Plus, it made for some great pictures.

Comments are closed.