According to Running USA’s latest data, there are more than 15,000 5K races in the United States, and more than 8.3 million 5K finishers. That’s a lot of events and a lot of runners. Still, a few 5K road races stand out from the pack. Whether it’s scenery, tradition, the attention of elite runners or the sheer size, these 5Ks offer something a little more, ensuring an unforgettable race-day experience.
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The springtime race runs mostly along the coastline overlooking the vast Pacific Ocean in Carlsbad, Calif., north of San Diego. It is known for being fast—both its flat course and the elite runners who participate contribute to the reputation. The race is typically in late March or early April.
Hot Chocolate 5K Chicago
If you’re a people person, the Hot Chocolate 5K in Chicago is probably your perfect race. According to Running USA, no 5K in the United States is larger—in 2014, there were 29,300 participants for the 5K alone (and another 16,000 for the 15K on the same day). The course takes runners through downtown Chicago with the finish line in Grant Park (where a post-race party with lots of hot chocolate awaits).
If you want to race in the center of the running universe (but aren’t quite Boston Marathon fast!), the B.A.A. 5K is a great race that takes place Boston Marathon weekend when the entire running world is in town. The race starts and finishes in Boston Common and passes the Boston Marathon finish line, Newbury Street and the Boston Public Garden. (Photo: PhotoRun.net)
Rock 'n' Roll Las Vegas 5K
Come for the party, stay for the running. The Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas 5K is truly unique—a Saturday night race on the Las Vegas Strip, featuring celebrities like Meb Keflezighi and a finish line adjacent to the erupting volcano of the Mirage. You’ll never run another 5K quite like this one. Race weekend is in November.
Freihofer's Run for Women
This is an all-female road race in Albany, N.Y., that’s in its 37th year. Close to 5,000 women participate annually, including regulars like running icon Joan Benoit Samuelson. The race has served as the USA 5K Championships several times, and with a prize purse exceeding $20,000, it remains a high-profile 5K race to this day.
This summertime 5K in Beaverton, Ore., has a lot to like about it. It’s an early evening race put on by the Bowerman Track Club, and it is one of the few opportunities for runners to explore inside the gates of Nike's world headquarters. (Photo: Shane Kucera)
CVS Health Downtown 5K
Due to it doubling as the USA 5K Championships in recent years, this race in Providence, R.I. has been full of running's biggest names—Shalane Flanagan, Molly Huddle, Ben True, Diego Estrada and Matt Tegenkamp have all won in the last seven years. For age-groupers, the race is a charming run through downtown Providence, passing the Rhode Island State House among other landmarks. (Photo: Kevin Morris)