Fastest 5K races


By Jack McDermott

In my idle time as a government-worker (your tax dollars at work!), I conducted a study of local 5Ks to determine which one is the best to set a PR. I studied the 1999 race results of 20 men and 10 women, and featured the fastest 11 5K races in this article. In a nutshell, it studied how runner’s times in the individual race differed from their 1999 median time in all races. If you would like to know more, or have any feedback, please e-mail me at (But please … positive feedback only … I have low self-esteem!)

# 1 Reservation Run (October) — This course is fast, downhill, and dodging those fading fraternity/seriority students who went out too fast may make you feel like you are doing the summer version of the Olympic Slalom. However, in 1999 this was the best course in Tallahassee to set a PR – so make your “reservations” early.

# 2 Palace Saloon (April) — This is a “Jack Certified” beer at the finish-line race. The “Hug-a-Mug” slogan was cute. Some ideas for next year include “Dash to get Smashed”, “I thunk I was drunk”, the “Ralph Run” and the “Vomit Venture” co-sponsored by the Hash House Harriers and Pepto-Bismal. Although I didn’t win any prize money, I did the best I could to drink enough beer to cover my race-entry fee. And here’s a good race tip … remember to drink the beer AFTER the race.

# 3 Women’s Distance Festival (October) — There is something strangely primeval about this race. It features a separate start for women five-minutes ahead of the men. Many runners believe that this directly causes fast race-times. Basically men are attracted to the women in the track club which makes them run faster in order to catch the girls. Conversely, women in the club are frightened by the men (rightfully so!) which motivates them to run faster to stay ahead of the boys.

The ugly truth is that this course is short**, and the two starts do present a potential problem for cheating. If a man accidentally starts with the women, he could get a five-minute head-start. So next year if you see a rather large, unattractive woman in a wig and a size 42-AA SportsBra … please pretend you don’t recognize me. [**At the time this article was written, the remark that the Women’s Distance Festival was short was a theory based on calculated race times, and made me very unpopular with those who had set PRs. It later re-measured and determined to be roughly 100 yards short. The distance was fixed beginning in 2000.]

# 4 Bellvue Middle School (May) – This has so many turns that you may get dizzy — so bring your Dramamine, but it is a PR course. I am a little bitter about this race, because for the second-year in a row no one wanted me on their team. (My falling tears are beginning to smudge my writing). Therefore, my recommendation is to change from “age-adjusted” times to “weight-adjusted” so chubby young runners like myself will be in greater demand.

# 5 Humanatee (May) – You might as well call this race “Hu-Midity” as it may be your first taste of those looming Tallahassee conditions. With the warm summer months approaching this race may make you feel like that lethargic “sea cow” that is on your race T-Shirt. However, it is a fast-course as witnessed by Ryan Deak who set the American 5K record for 13-year olds (16:27) last year. Incidentally, do you know that another Tallahassee rsident holds and American age record? (I’ll give you a hint: It’s not me!) Herb Wills holds the American marathon record for 22-year olds [2:13:18, Houston Marathon, January 16, 1983].

# 6 Sickle Cell (September) – A good race, a good cause, and one good hill will greet you at this race. Although the inspirational phrases written in chalk on the street leave a little to be desired. With about a half-mile to go one of them said, “pull-the-plug.” Maybe next year we can make a point to loan them Craig Hasty’s motivational signs.

# 7 Rails-to-Trails (March) — I did not see a rail or a trail (maybe a few snails) … it’s all on pavement. There is a tight turn-around marked by one of the infamous orange pylons. Yet, do not be deceived, one could set a PR on this course. I personally think a lot of people were dogging this race to prep for Springtime.

# 8 Bainbridge Art-Fest 5K (May) – In an interview, world-record holder Johnny Walker said that running was an art-form as beautiful as paintings by Picasso and Monet. Obviously, he never saw me run! My running style is more like “modern art” — it’s weird, offensive, nobody really understands it, and it doesn’t take as much talent. This run coincides with the city’s art festival. Personally, I didn’t see a lot of art in Bainbridge – mostly vendors selling burritos. However, it is a good race and one of the few that features more trophies than runners.

# 9 Firecracker (July) – What better way to celebrate our national independence than to collapse in a 5K race? However, I have to wonder if this race was organized by a bunch of Canadians. No one called mile split times and the only markers written in the street were in that blasted metric system. I spent the entire race trying to calculate how my 6:40 mile-pace translates into my optimal 2K split time. (I still don’t know the answer). Yet, the post-race feast is definitely worth the trip to Greensboro.

# 10 Deerlake 5K (March) – I am a little confused as there were actually two Deerlake races in the survey (the one in October ranked # 12). This was either a shameless attempt to raise more money, or the Deerlake race directors have stumbled upon a brilliant marketing scheme. (Maybe if this works we can have another Springtime Tallahassee in October… but could we find a race sponsor?)

# 11 The Melon Run (June) – If we were really using our “melons” we would not have become addicted to running in the first-place. I may not have won the race, but I probably won the post-race watermelon seed-spitting contest. Here’s a tip … aim for people that beat you in the race. (Revenge is sweet). A good course, a good hill, but it was the 95% humidity that left an impression in my racing journal.

Next month we will feature the slowest 5Ks in the Tallahassee. And may we never forget … It’s not whether you win or lose … it’s whether they have beer at the finish line.