The granddaddy of all marathons is less than three weeks away in Boston, but the progenitor of the modern road race is up this weekend in Carlsbad, California.  Entering its 27th year, the suntanned Carlsbad 5000 began buff and has never lost its P-90X shape. Sixteen world road records have been set on the glittering sea-side course north of San Diego.  Add to that innumerable national records and Carlsbad’s reputation as the “World’s Fastest 5K” is more than secure. Not that that was the original goal.

In 1986 American mile legend Steve Scott and New Zealand Olympic 1500 meter champion John Walker re-designed the original inland layout that race founder Tim Murphy had plotted.  Scott and Walker remapped the course into its current T-shaped seaside configuration.  Then Steve won the first three editions of the race, establishing 5K road records in two of those years.

Three-time CBAD champ Steve Scott

“John and I weren’t thinking in terms of a fast course,” said Scott, who will miss his first Carlsbad 5000 ever, as he takes his Cal State San Marcos team out of town all weekend for the Cal-Nevada Championships. “We were thinking of the visuals along the beach for ABC Wide World of Sports and news photographers.  Then the two world records in the first three years established it as a world-record course.  Like in Oslo (home of the Bislett Games), people had a mind-set that they were going to run fast. So they did.”

It is all legend now, but less we forget, before Carlsbad the 10K was the most popular road distance, and nobody thought people would even sign up for a race as short as the 5K.  How wrong they were. Today, the 5K is the #1 U.S. road race distance – or, should we say “Road Event” distance, due to the mega Race for the Cure series.

“The 5K is still handily the road race “King of the Hill” with nearly 4.7 million finishers (yes, another record in 2010),” explained Running USA stats and press guru Ryan Lamppa. “It had 36% of all race finishers in 2010; the universal 3.1 mile distance has been #1 in the U.S. since 1994 when it surpassed the 10K.” (See Table 1 at: Continue reading