The 5K Cheat Sheet

Ashley Lauretta
by Ashley Lauretta
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The 5K Cheat Sheet

The 5K — measuring a distance of 3.1 miles — is pretty much the perfect race for runners of all skill levels. Beginners can reach the distance relatively quickly, while veterans can use the shorter distance as a test of speed to a tune-up for a longer race.

Because the 5K is so accessible, there are hundreds of them across the country at any given point in the year. How do you choose? We rounded up 10 of the best races for any goal, from the hilly to the chilly, to get you from start to finish with a big smile on your face.

CHASE THE SUN WIMBLEDON COMMON 5K

When: July 12, 2017
Where: Wimbledon, London
Why do it: If you are visiting London in the summer, this course offers the perfect flat trail for a PR. Also, because the race starts at 7 p.m., you will be well-rested, hydrated and fueled to get around the course before the sun goes down.

VININGS DOWNHILL 5K

When: August 12, 2017
Where: Vinings, Georgia
Why do it: This race calls itself “the fastest 5K in Atlanta” and its 280-foot net drop has something to do with that. Just across the Chattahoochee River from Atlanta, the course starts at the top of Mt. Wilkinson, runs over a few rolling hills and then drops down toward the finish, with the largest descent coming in the last half of the race.

HOTTEST HALF, 10K AND 5K

When: August 13, 2017
Where: Dallas, Texas
Why do it: It doesn’t get much hotter than Texas in the summer, and this race is one of the few you’ll find taking place in August. The average temperature at that time of year is 97 degrees, meaning you’ll find plenty of water on the course. Get ready to sweat buckets on your way to that hard-earned medal.

HOT CHOCOLATE 15K/5K

When: October 29, 2017
Where: Chicago, Illinois
Why do it: When the theme is hot chocolate, it’s no surprise that 40,000 runners descend upon Grant Park to celebrate a love of chocolate at this race. Out on course, you’ll find sweet stations with marshmallows and candy to hold you over until you get that cup of hot chocolate after crossing the finish line, getting you ready for winter in the Midwest.

ROCK ‘N’ ROLL LAS VEGAS 5K

When: November 11, 2017
Where: Las Vegas, Nevada
Why do it: This is one of only two times per year that the Las Vegas Strip is completely shut down to traffic (the other being New Year’s Eve) giving runners a unique opportunity for a one-of-a-kind Sin City experience. The 5K starts at 6 p.m. so you can sleep in after a long Las Vegas night and still enjoy the lights and sights as you run down Las Vegas Boulevard.

CHICAGO POLAR DASH

When: January, 2018
Where: Chicago, Illinois
Why do it: This race takes place on Lake Michigan in the snowiest month of the year. Runners battle the cold — temperatures are usually in the negatives  — and are rewarded with hot chocolate at the finish line. This 5K lets you prove you can battle the weather year-round and that a little cold never hurt anybody!

CARLSBAD 5000

When: March 24–25, 2018
Where: Carlsbad, California
Why do it: This course is ideal for a PR, which is why so many elites return year after year. Often billed as “the world’s fastest 5K” you’ll get to experience stunning views of the Pacific Ocean as well as cheers from the enormous crowd to help propel you even faster toward the finish line.

THE BIG SUR INTERNATIONAL MARATHON 5K

When: April, 2018
Where: Carmel, California
Why do it: Odds are that you’ve heard of the Big Sur International Marathon — the race is iconic for its views from Highway 1 — which has major hills. The 5K is no different. Beginning and ending at the Marathon Finish Village, this race features a steep climb marathoners will recognize from mile 25, and because the 5K is an out-and-back course, you get to hit it twice.


READ MORE FROM THE CHEAT SHEET SERIES

> Marathon
> Half-Marathon
> 10K


FINISH LINE 500 FESTIVAL 5K

When: May, 2018
Where: Indianapolis, Indiana
Why do it: The 5K takes place before the OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini-Marathon, using the same start and finish line, giving beginner’s a great introduction into racing. The post-race party goes into the afternoon, giving you the chance to celebrate your achievement with friends and family. Because the race is so close to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, you’ll also have the chance to make a weekend out of it and take a tour of the speedway before the Indianapolis 500 events kick off.

NEW RIVER 5K

When: May, 2018
Where: Boone, North Carolina
Why do it: This race takes place on the banks of the New River and is known for its beauty. The out-and-back course is located in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains, meaning you’ll see pastoral views, lush with greenery, along all three miles of the course.


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About the Author

Ashley Lauretta
Ashley Lauretta

Ashley is a journalist based in Austin, Texas. She is the assistant editor at LAVA and her work appears in The Atlantic, ELLE, GOOD Sports, espnW, VICE Sports, Health, Men’s Journal, Women’s Running and more. Find her on Twitter at @ashley_lauretta.

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