When Competitor Group Inc. was sold to Ironman in June 2017, then exited San Diego to consolidate with Ironman at its headquarters in Tampa, Florida, you knew the Carlsbad 5000 might be in trouble.
Though it was the event that put Elite Racing, Inc. on the international running map in 1986 and led to the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon series 12 years later, there was no surprise when Carlsbad’s prize purse was slashed in 2018 and only six men ran sub-15:00 on the world’s fastest 5K road course, a layout that has produced 16 world and nine American records. It had become evident that if no one was there to pick it up, the event would have been abandoned. And that would have been a tragedy, both for the San Diego area and the sport worldwide.
Instead, the Carlsbad 5000, the iconic Party-by-the-Sea, world record race that gave birth to the modern road 5K, enters its 34th year with a fresh step and new owners, anxious to reclaim its place among the world’s best road races.
The woman who stepped up to save Carlsbad is former CGI digital marketing executive Ashley Gibson. She and husband Travis invited local Olympic legend Meb Keflezighi to join them, and together, have had four months to put the event back on solid footing.
“In 2018, when the pre-sale registration was not happening and there were no plans for 2019, we all felt it was coming,” said Ms. Gibson. “With the change in ownership, it became clear that Carlsbad didn’t fit the brand and that the passion and appreciation for what running meant wasn’t there.”
Conversations to buy the event kicked off, but ownership wasn’t secured until December. So registration for 2019 wasn’t begun until very late last year.
“There’s a lot of learning to do,” admitted Gibson, “but we feel fortunate we are the ones to keep Carlsbad’s legacy alive and thriving.”
New Carlsbad owner Ashley Gibson (center) with (l->r) Shalane Flanagan, Amy Cragg, Kara Goucher & Sash Gollish (CAN.)