Running A Smaller 5k Can Be Better Than The Big Ones

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Running 5ks that are on the smaller scale allow for a no-frills expereince with less crowds and better chance to place for awards. Running A Smaller 5k Can Be Better Than The Big Ones

Running a 5k is a great way to keep a runner accountable when it comes to being committed to their fitness and reaching their goals. There is something about the atmosphere at a race that is intoxicating for an everyday athlete. The energy can be felt at the starting line as runners bounce and shake the nervous away. The crowd cheers, and immediately goosebumps form on our arms. The gun goes off and our feet spring forward. And this is true no matter how big or small the 5k is. In fact, running a smaller 5k can actually be better than signing up for those bigger ones.

Small 5ks are great for a handful of reasons. First and foremost, it is a great way to support a local town or community depending on the cause of the event. But there are also some downsides that can occur on a case by case basis. This includes things like being understaffed with volunteers or being poorly organized as a whole.

Big Races

There are countless reasons to run a 5k in general. This includes getting fit, competing, stay motivated, and running for a good cause. Plus it is the ideal distance for beginners and those who have a need for speed compared to distances like the marathon.

Participating in a popular 5k has lots of perks. This includes cool swag like sometimes race medals for all finishers. Bigger races draw bigger crowds, which means more cheerleaders rooting runners on from the sidelines. And this can be all it takes to really get the runner pumped up while they sprint to the homestretch. Bigger races are, for the most part, properly organized 5K from parking to packet pick-up to aid stations and post-race refreshments. Chances are at least one other runner the participant knows might be there, whether it’s from work, their running club or social circles.

We aren’t saying don’t register for this big races. What we are saying is don’t overlook the little guy.

Photo by Chanan Greenblatt on Unsplash.

Why Bigger Isn’t Always Better

Popular races tend to be very crowded. That means arriving early to get a good parking spot to then have enough time to stand in line for the runner’s bib and then the bathroom. This often leaves extra time left to stand around and wait for the race to begin. Worse yet, if the runner doesn’t get there in time they might be able to fit in that bathroom run before the run.

Lots of participants also means more competition. The starting line gets packed and running through the chute gets congested. Depending on the course, runners might need to weave in and out around others until breaking away from the pack. This also means competition is tougher when it comes to placing in age groups.

Small Races

Small races—when organized well—can have that humble personality about them that is all about the community. Volunteers are usually neighbors or those who work at local businesses, as it’s great to see a friendly face.

Even if the participant doesn’t live in that town, theses smaller races tend to be less crowded so it’s easier to get a port-a-potty. Less competition means a better chance at placing for an age group award if the runner is looking to do so for the first time. It means fewer people at the starting line and lots of room to run.

Some small races have a no-frills approach which is nice for runners looking for the race atmosphere for a training run or when looking to switch things up without making a big spectacle out of it. The pressure is off here. Other small races go all out. This runner attended a local 5k that included a full on breakfast spread of bagels, fruit, pastries at a hotel, with an awards ceremony held afterward in the ballroom where age place runners received trophies for their win.

Photo Credit: Lauren Keating | RunnerClick

Called the Eatontown Recreation Labor Day 5k, this event was time-chipped by Split Second Racing and was as well put together as any other race. With a 1 mile and 5k option, there were a humble 96 runners in the 5k.

Local police and emergency services were posted up along the course, along with volunteers directing runners. The course took runners through the neighborhood of Eatontown near the Sheraton Hotel’s start and finish line. It felt intimate and great to be part of a pack of people that just wanted to get out there and run to the best they can. There was still enough supporters who clapped and cheered for all finishers.

Why Run “Small”

Running smaller scaled 5ks is a great way to get 5ks under the runner’s belt. It could often more relaxed as not as nerve-racking without seeing a starting line with professional looking runners. It’s a great way to strive to get that PR.

Photo by Robert Calderon on Unsplash.

Running these smaller 5ks mean they are often closer to home or support a community that means something to runner—whether they live or work there. Fewer crowds mean fewer headaches and less of a struggle trying to leave the event.

It’s much easier to strike up a conversation with runners participating pre- and post-run, and many are just coming out to run and have fun. This makes them more approachable than the guys who are looking to win the race.

These races often have cheaper registration fees, same day registration, or may feature nice swag.

Next time your community holds a 5k, don’t forget to run it for yourself for a nice change of pace.


  1. Jeff Galloway, 6 Reasons to Run a 5K, Running Website
  2. Lauren Fleshman, 10 Reasons the 5K is Freaking Awesome, Running Website