Changes are afoot for the thousands of legs set to tackle the World’s Fastest 5K.
The world’s most famous, and fastest, 3.1-mile race won’t be standing still on March 30.
“It’s a spectacular event and has always been a spectacular event,” says Tracy Sundlun, race founder and senior vice president of events at Competitor Group, which now owns the race. “But if you’re not looking for ways to improve it you are going backward.”
That direction is never the goal when leaning toward the finish line—or the epic Pizza Port Beer Garden afterward. So with that in mind, the 29th Carlsbad 5000 will look familiar, but feature some upgrades.
“I am tickled with a bunch of this stuff,” Sundlun says.
The elite runners feeling a burn will be rewarded. There’s always been prize money dedicated to the best of the best, but this year, America’s finest are benefactors, too.
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“We added U.S.-only prize money to what we traditionally presented, to reach out to the U.S. side,” explains Sundlun, of the $15,000 purse for those sporting red, white and blue. “The U.S. distance runners are getting better so how do we support and showcase them? They need an opportunity to make some money.”
Those not dashing for cash will also earn something for their sweat equity.
The top 250 finishers in each category will receive a medal, per tradition, but new to this year’s top-250 hardware, a Carlsbad 5000 legend will be honored on the face of the medal. The first is the iconic Steve Scott. But everyone from No. 251 on will snag a medal as well, so everyone goes home with a medal that doubles as a bottle opener hanging from their neck.
The biggest running bash by the surf hasn’t forgotten the masses with a thirst to quench, either. Pizza Port, the slice of microbrewery heaven in downtown Carlsbad, is doing the impossible: improving its beer garden experience.
“It’ll be an enhanced party by the sea,” Sundlun promises.
Another keen idea is condensing the day. The races will start earlier this year, meaning runners won’t have to hit their best split times in the sprint to the beer garden before last call.
The men’s and women’s 30-39 category will be combined; the elite classes will toe the line some two hours earlier than last year, which should help build the crowd for the premiere runners and provide the foundation for a post-race bash which will start earlier and end—well, that’s up to you.
But it’s clear the Carlsbad 5000 has maintained the traditions which make it among the world’s most successful and innovative races, while at the same time being flexible enough to add excitement to an event that makes it like no other.
That’s why noted American distance runners Bernard Lagat and Brenda Martinez will be in the house.
And that’s why some 9,000 athletes will be rockin’ Carlsbad’s streets with their own brand of racing. From the kids on Saturday, to the elites, the main field and the wheelchair participants on Sunday, the Carlsbad 5000 always produces a gold medal weekend.
“It is the original 5K,” Sundlun says. “It was a 10K world when we started and we proved very quickly that you could go half the distance and have twice the fun.”
Editor’s note: Competitor.com’s parent company, the Competitor Group, also owns the Carlsbad 5000.