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This year's Carlsbad 5000 event starts May 22 in Carlsbad Village.
This year's Carlsbad 5000 event starts May 22 in Carlsbad Village. Photo by Shana Thompson
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In the long run, Carlsbad 5000 too iconic to fade away

A onetime North County rite of spring has sprung up again, and boy, have you been missed.

The name and distance sound familiar. Is the legendary Carlsbad 5000 really near the starting line?

“Tell everyone to tie up their shoes and we’ll see them out there,” said Meb Keflezighi, one of world’s most celebrated distance runners.

Keeping up with Meb, an Olympic silver medalist and winner of the New York City and Boston marathons, is always a challenge. The good news is he’ll be more of a greeter than a grinder during the Carlsbad 5K on May 22.

Meb is involved with a company headed by Cardiff’s John and Griff Smith that co-owns the event. They will help present the 36th Carlsbad 5K, which is a gift for athletes and revelers.

Because of COVID-19, the 3.1-mile road race that hugs the coast and cruises above the Pacific Ocean with an exciting downhill finish in downtown Carslbad was 86’d from the schedule. The last one was in 2019, back when a mask was something to wear at Halloween.

Fast-forward to now and wow. The race known for top-shelf athletes setting world records and weekend wannabes setting up shop in the lively beer gardens has a pulse again.

“We’re hoping all those runners that came here in the past will return,” Meb said. “And we welcome all the new people that maybe got into walking and running during the pandemic.”

Meb knows the history that always traipses along with a Carlsbad 5K. It’s part race and part party, with active souls wearing out the soles of their shoes.

Great Britain’s Emilia Gorecka and Sarah Brown, USA, compete in the 2018 Carlsbad 5000 race.
Great Britain’s Emilia Gorecka and Sarah Brown, USA, compete in the 2018 Carlsbad 5000 race. Gorecka edged out Brown by one second to win the “World’s Fastest 5k.” Photo by Shana Thompson

Of course, before the marquee and age-group races is a fun-filled event for kids running, waddling, crawling and lurching through their appropriate distances.

No matter their years or skill, Meb will be around to slap a medal around their necks at the finish line. It carries on a tradition started by Steve Scott, the legendary American miler and co-founder of the event. 

“I might be a marathoner but there is nothing like the Carlsbad 5K,” said Meb, a San Diego High graduate before becoming an NCAA champion at UCLA. “I can’t wait.”

The weight of COVID-19 fell squarely on the Carlsbad 5K. It had to cool its jets while America tried to out-run the virus and it is among the final regular road races to regain its mojo.

“It’s about running but really it’s a celebration of having a healthy, happy lifestyle,” Meb said. “The community of Carlsbad is so behind it and everyone is on the same page. And with it being a 5K, people from 10 years old to 80 years old can run it.”

Count Meb among those with two Carlsbad 5Ks on his resume, originally lured to it as college freshman to see the great Scott in action.

“It’s such an iconic race that I always wanted to do it,” said Meb, who finished in the top seven in his appearances. “I went out fast one time and then I went out slow and was conservative the other time. Yet both times my time was 13:37.”

What’s swell is that the personable Meb always has time for everyone. It’s estimated he’s signed nearly 30,000 autographs while competing around the world, quite a feat considering the length of his last name.

In a city known for Legoland, Meb is anxious to see churning legs once again fill the course that is as quick as it is scenic.

“When the world went on hiatus, it was tough,” he said. “But maybe everyone knows themselves a little bit better.”

Fact is, nearly everyone missed the Carlsbad 5K and they’re ecstatic Meb is helping to run it back.

Contact Jay Paris at [email protected] and follow him @jparis_sports

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