How to Run “Any”-a-thon


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Any-a-thons are typically labeled as walk-a-thons, jog-a-thons, fun runs, math-a-thons, spell-a-thons, bike-a-thons or relays. They are a pledge based fundraiser – meaning participants collect pledges from friends, relatives, businesses, etc. who then will give a pledged amount on a per unit of measurement completed. For example, in a fun run, little Suzy would ask her grand-parents to pledge $1 for each mile she ran in the event. At the end of the event, if Suzy had run 3 miles, the grand-parents would give $3 to the fundraiser.


Although there many types of “a-thons”, you’ll want to see which one is best suited for your location. Some are better suited for tracks, some are better suited for long distance routes. Take a look at the information below to see which works best for your environment.

Walk-a-thons – These are conducted on a set course where each person/group/team walks at their own pace. Typically, participants pay a small entrance fee and/or obtain sponsorship to pledge a per-lap, per-mile, or fixed amount.

Fun-Runs – These are basically a race on a designated course where the participants compete with others in their age category. A Fun-Run is intended to be just that – FUN, and should focus less on winning the race and more on finishing the run. Participants are divided into groups according to grade or age and begin the race at varying intervals. For example, grades K-1 begin at 5:30pm, grades 2-3 begin at 5:36pm, and grades 4-5 begin at 5:45pm. Participants pay a small entrance fee to participate (i.e. $5-$10).

Bike-a-thons – Similar to a Walk-a-thons but the participants ride their bikes.

Relays – Very similar to Walk-a-thons, but with a twist. Groups of participants work together to obtain sponsorship to pledge a per-lap, per-mile, or fixed amount. Generally done on a school track, participants take turns walking the track in shifts for a 24-hour period.

Spell or Math-a-thons – The premise is the same, but sponsors pledge for correct answers on a test given. As with any “a-thon”, Sponsors should be given the total number of possible correct answers before asking to pledge. Pledges are then collected based on the number of correct answers the participant achieved on the test.


Some cities & towns have popular walking courses already established that won’t require blocking off streets for your event. Consider a paved walkway away from main streets for your course to protect the safety of the children involved. Perhaps it’s a:

  • paved bike trail
  • paved walkway around a town pond or lake or along a river
  • trails through a local park
  • around the perimeter of a school
  • around an indoor or outdoor school track
  • team up with a local zoo and walk a continuous course through the zoo

It’s best if the course runs in a closed loop so the participants are beginning and finishing the race in close locale to each other. The Conservation Commission and the Recreation Department can help with this. It’s likely that similar events have been planned in the past.

Clearly mark the course with signs and arrows all along the way. Volunteers should also be assigned stations along the course to oversee the runners. Volunteers are needed to ensure participants stay on course or in case any participant needs assistance. Consider giving the volunteers two-way radios (walkie-talkies) in case any medical emergencies arise.


The distance of the walk, run, or relay will be based on three primary factors: the type of event, the location of the course, and the age of the participants. An appropriate course length for a Fun Run for elementary age children (grades K-5) would be 0.5 to 0.8 miles. A Walk-a-thon with the same age participants can be longer at 2 to 3 miles. Your local conservation commission, parks department, or recreation department is likely to be able to inform you of set courses that have been used in the past and their exact distances.


Walk-a-thons and Relays will not require participants to be separated into different categories because it is not a race to finish. People of all ages walk at their own pace. However, with a Fun Run, participants should run the course with others of similar age and skill level. For example, a Fun Run geared toward elementary level children can group grades K-1 (including any younger participants), grades 2-3, grades 4-5, and grades 6 and above. If you anticipate several runners in the grade 6 and above category then divide them into additional groups.

Even though volunteers will be stationed along the course, parents should be encouraged to run along with any very young participants so they are sure to stay on-course or in case they are not able to make the full distance.


Recognition for a job well done goes a long way with children. You don’t need to spend additional money on medals, plaques, and trophies and larger awards can overshadow the efforts of those who did not “win” the run. However, it’s nice to provide finisher ribbons to all participants. We suggest giving the same color ribbon to every child that crosses the finish line (yellow). Then provide blue (1st place), red (2nd place), and white (3rd place) ribbons to the male and female winners in each category.

Once all participants in all age categories have crossed the finish line gather everyone together, announce the winners, and hand out the blue, red, and white ribbons. Yellow finisher ribbons can be handed to the runners as they cross the finish line.


After the Fun Run, runners will need to re-hydrate so it’s a good idea to set up a table and hand out water and sliced fruit (watermelon or oranges). Schedule volunteers to work these tables and monitor supplies and trash disposal. Ensure that adequate trash receptacles are available in the area ahead of time. Obtain sponsorship from local companies to alleviate the cost of the water and fruit. Post sponsor signs on the refreshment table recognizing their donation.


For a Fun Run, set up a registration table in the vicinity of the starting line. Have 2 to 4 volunteers working this table and registering participants as they arrive. Each participant should complete an application. The Conservation Commission, Mayor’s office, or the organization primarily responsible for providing approval to run the event may require your application to include some legal clauses regarding safety and parents assuming any risk for their children participating in the event. Check with the appropriate professionals regarding this. Document the names and ages of each entrant and collect the entrance fee at the Check-in table. Have a preprinted sign-in sheet, clipboards, pens, and cash box with change.

Registration/Pledge forms for a Walk-a-thon, Bike-a-thon, Dog-Walk-a-thon, or Relay are distributed prior to the day of the event so participants have adequate time to collect sponsor commitments. Begin distributing pledge forms 4-6 weeks prior to the event. Participants should bring their registration/pledge form to the event with them and register at the registration/check-in table. Volunteers at this table should keep a copy of the name, contact information, and sponsor commitment amount. Again, check with the appropriate professionals regarding any legal information that may need to appear on the registration/pledge forms.


At the end of the event, all participants check out. Volunteers at the check-out table should record the name of each person as they finish the run, walk, or relay. You will want to confirm that all participants finished the event. For walk-a-thons, relays, and similar events where sponsors generally pay a per-mile or per-lap amount, the distance should be recorded on the participants sponsor sheets by an event volunteer and stamped with an official event stamp.

For a walk-a-thon that is several miles long, set up check-in points along the way. We suggest two or more volunteers at each check-in table at each mile checkpoint along the walk. Stamp the participants sponsor sheets as they complete each mile (i.e. Mile 1-Completed, Mile 2-Completed, etc.).

If your walk-a-thon does not run in a continuous loop, be prepared to provide transportation assistance at each mile checkpoint to those who cannot complete the entire walk. Check with your city/town or other essential professional regarding insurance liability issues.


For an event where sponsor commitments are obtained for the distance completed, participants will need to go back to their sponsors and now collect the money. Provide instructions to each participant at the Check-out table to who all checks should be made (i.e. school PTO), as to where to return their monetary donations after the event, and a date when this needs to be done. If they are returning the donations to the school office, for example, arrange with the school to have a secure drop off box. Collect the donations from the box daily and record that you have received them. For any donations not returned by the deadline date, volunteers should contact the participants and remind them to return the forms and donations.


Show participants how easy it is to collect pledges and how every little bit helps you reach your fundraising goal. Some ways for participants to raise money include:

Sponsor yourself: $20

Ask two relatives for $20 each: $40

Ask three friends for $10 each: $30

Ask five coworkers for $10 each: $50

Ask a local merchant: $25


You just raised $165!!!



Display sponsor signs naming the sponsors. These can be placed at the registration tables, check-out tables, or along the route. Obtain prior approval to place signs along the course and be sure to collect all signs at the end of the event.


Many municipalities require that an application be filed to hold these types of events. Approval, and in many cases a permit, from the city/town in which the event will take place will need to be obtained. A good place to start is your City/Town Hall, particularly the Mayor or Town Manager’s office. They should be able to direct you to the appropriate offices. In most cases these will be:

  • Conservation Commission: If the event course is located along conservation land (pond, lake, wildlife sanctuary, etc.) the Conservation Commission will likely require an application and a deposit in case damage is done to the property.
  • Recreation Department: The Recreation Department maintains municipal parks and fields.
  • Department of Public Works: The DPW oversees all municipal property including schools.
  • Police Department: The Chief of Police should be notified of any major event in town that may affect traffic.
  • Fire Department: The Fire Chief should be notified of any major event in town.
  • School: If your event is at a school, contact the head of the school.

Generally, the contact information for each of these departments can be found on the city/town webpage. As you are speaking to one department, it’s always a good idea to ask them if there is any other department they think you may need to contact regarding the event.


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