Thousands of spectators line the oceanfront streets of downtown Carlsbad as “World’s Fastest 5k” roars back from three-year pandemic pause
Carlsbad, CA – May 23, 2022 – Because of COVID protocols, it had been 1,141 days since runners sped along the Southern California coastline at the Carlsbad 5000. One thing didn’t change: Ed Cheserek doesn’t need directions to get around the course.
The 28-year-old Kenyan, who trains in Flagstaff, Ariz., defended his title, winning the 36th edition in 13 minutes, 44 seconds. Cheserek averaged 4:25 per mile to barely hold off San Diegan Reid Buchanan, who finished second, one second back.
Ethiopia’s Biruktayit Degefa, the three-time Houston Marathon champion, made her 5K debut on the road an impressive one, winning in 15:29, a 4:59 per-mile pace. Two-time Olympian Dominique Scott of South Africa placed second in 15:48.
Three years ago, Cheserek tied the then official world record in the road 5K at Carlsbad in 13:29. (The record has been lowered to 12:49.) He won easily that day by 25 seconds.
There was nothing easy about his performance Sunday. For the first two miles, Cheserek and Buchanan were either side by side or on each other’s heels. With two miles to go, in front of Army and Navy Academy on Carlsbad Boulevard, Cheserek made a surge and pulled ahead.
“I’ve raced him a lot since college,” said Buchanan, the 2019 Pam American Games silver medalist in the 10,000. “I know he likes to check over his shoulder and if he thinks he has it, he starts to coast.
“I was going to try to time it right after he looked to give it another sprint. But he had another gear I couldn’t match. He’s no slouch. I think everyone knows that. I wanted to make him work for it.”
Cheserek is a two-time Foot Locker high school cross country champion. He won 17 national titles at the University of Oregon. He finished second in March at the NYC Half. His nickname: “King Ches.”
When Buchanan was on Cheserek’s heels near the 2-mile mark, a spectator yelled, “C’mon Ches. You’re the King.”
Another fan waved a “King Ches” sign at the finish.
Cheserek said he was moved by the thousands of spectators lining the course.
“There were a lot of people shouting out,” he said. “We get more energy from that.”
Cheserek did say he held back a bit, wanting to conserve fuel for next Friday’s track 5,000 at The Prefontaine Classic.
“I got the win,” he said. “That’s most important.”
Degefa, 31, made her 5K road debut an impressive one, winning by 19 seconds. Like Cheserek, she down shifted into another gear at about two miles. Unlike Cheserek, she wasn’t pushed on the 600-meter sprint finish down Carlsbad Village Drive.
“I think I was starting to fade a little bit,” said Scott. “I wasn’t concentrating very well. All of a sudden the break was made and I found myself running for second.”
She finished ahead of fellow South African Carina Viljoen (16:00). Kim Conley was the first American to finish, taking fourth in 16:09.
Sixteen world records have been set at Carlsbad, earning it the nickname “World’s Fastest 5K.” After a three-year wait, more than 6,000 runners and walkers turned out for the renewal.
And like Cheserek, Degefa was moved by the thousands lining the course.
“Because of them, I didn’t feel as tired,” she said. “Especially the last mile.”
For complete results, photos and more, visit Carlsbad5000.com.