The Obsessed Fortysomething Runner: So you want to PR the 5K … where should you race?

Personal record charm by

PR stands for many things, like public relations, but in the running world, it obviously has a special meaning: personal record. (Apparently, PR is an American term; the other English-speaking countries seem to use PB for personal best.) When you first start running, PRs are pretty easy to come by. I think I had a streak of something like seven Uberthons races in a row where each one was faster than the previous one. But eventually, you start to plateau, and the PRs become elusive, requiring everything to go right on race day. You can't control some of those things (weather, bad luck, etc.), but there is something that you can control: selection of a fast 5K course. By fast course, I don't mean the one that attracts the fastest runners, but rather one that seems primed to allow each runner a chance at running his or her best time. I canvassed my fellow Run Oregon bloggers for nominations for the fastest 5K courses, and here they are. If you think we've missed one, please jump into the comments section. Okay, ready? Here we go, in alphabetical order:

Aurora Colony Days 5K (recap of the 2015 race)

Matt’s comments:

It’s a double loop course with minimal turns, allowing runners to hit long stretches of straight. There is a short climb right at the very beginning when runners are fresh, and which is skipped when heading out for the second loop. Additionally, you get to head down it to the finish. There is also a short climb at the far end of the loops, but that evens out and allows runners to cruise on a gradual downhill the second half of loop 1, and then again all the way to the finish. Nike+ on my phone measured it at 3 miles even last year though…

Freedomthon 5K (recap of the 2016 race)

My comments:

The course is about as flat as Kansas, and it’s basically a straight mile, 90 degree turn right, straight half mile, turnaround, straight half mile, 90 degree turn left, and straight mile. I’ve never actually run a PR in three tries, but I’ve had consistently fast times.

Keizer Iris Festival 5K (recap of the 2015 race); Lebanon Strawberry Festival 5K (recap of the 2015 race)

Joe’s comments:

Both races are very flat out-and-back courses along parade routes, with good crowds of spectators. They are well-organized and well-supported small town events. And I ran a high percentage of my sub-16:00 5Ks at these races.

Readers, any other fast races you’d like to discuss?

About Tung Yin (277 Articles)
Law prof by day, runner all the time. Got off the couch in January 2011 and have been obsessed with running ever since.
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