Meb Keflezighi can now add “race owner” to his list of remarkable accomplishments. This week, Keflezighi teamed up with San Diego-based Groundwork Endurance to purchase The Carlsbad 5000 race from Ironman for an undisclosed amount.
Groundwork Endurance was founded by San Diego trail runner Ashley Gibson with the aim of returning Carlsbad 5000’s race ownership to local runners. Since its founding in 1986, the race has attracted top talent to the coastal roads of Carlsbad, less than an hour north of San Diego. In fact, the so-called “World’s Fastest 5K” hosted the standing world records for both men and women in the event. Sammy Kipketer of Kenya posted a 13:00 WR in 2000, and Meseret Defar of Ethiopia set the women’s record of 14:46 in 2006. Fourteen additional world records and eight U.S. records have been set there, among other records.
At 43 years old, Keflezighi has deep roots in the region and an enthusiasm for the sport that make him a natural fit for the leadership team. The Olympic medalist (2004) and former Boston (2014) and New York City (2009) Marathon champion, lives in San Diego with his family. Even in retirement, he remains a fan favorite—running races with a smile and high-fives to spare—around the world. He recalls watching the Carlsbad 5000 as a young runner before racing it as a professional.
The first time Keflezighi attended the Carlsbad 5000 was in high school, when he went to watch Steve Scott race, the then-holder of the American Record for the mile. Later, he chased the 5K American record there as a pro. In 2001, he took it out on the heels of Kipketer (who ran 3:59 for the first mile). Keflezighi recalls thinking during his 4:08 first mile split, “Oh no, what have I done?” but held on to finish in 13:34. In 2002, his pacer ran too slowly through the first mile, so Keflezighi hammered the next 2.1 miles to finish in 13:34. Again.
But come 2019, he’s not sure whether he’ll be on the starting line or amongst the spectators. “The beauty of the 5K is that you can do both. Most races now I just go and give high-fives or surprise [racers] at the mile mark. Or to go to the start and set them off,” says Keflezighi. “There are so many ways to interact…And, obviously, putting medals around their necks is always a great honor.”
As co-owner, he wants to get more people involved, from elites to age groupers. “It’s an iconic race and I want to be able to help push and help others accomplish their goals. It’s a distance that’s doable for many,” he says. “You can get a great sense of accomplishment.” The event also features the Junior Carlsbad, with races from 25 meters up to the mile, which Keflezighi’s three daughters plan to race.
That’s not to say he and Gibson will abandon the world-class racers. “A world record is very tough to do,” he says. “But we’d love to have the front of the pack, the elite, as well as the middle and back of the pack, have a good experience, too. It’s about having a good field, a supportive field.”
The 34th annual race is slated for April 7, 2019. Registration will open in two weeks on Carlsbad5000.com.