© Copyright – 2023 – Athletics Illustrated

It could be argued that a little-known 5K road race near Victoria, BC offers the fastest certified 5K road course in Canada and perhaps North America. Yes, perhaps even faster than the Carlsbad 5000, which claims to provide the fastest 5K event in the world.

The Synergy Health Centre Bazan Bay 5K offers a perfect, near imperceptible, gain going out. There is one, single turn, the 180-degree turnaround at halfway. The first 2.5K going out is a straight shot south along the ocean and then a straight shot back over the same route to return to the finish line. Of course, the race is “on” from the gun, and then “on” all over again after the turnaround, as racers can “feel” the finish and the desire to kick very early.

Pioneer 8k
Geoff Martinson winning the Prairie Inn Harrier’s Pioneer 8K. Photo credit: Christopher Kelsall/Athletics Illustrated

The Carlsbad 5000, located a seaside drive just 36 minutes north of San Diego benefits from being a big race, with all-weekend road closures and full-on civic and corporate support. The event hosts state, national, and world age-group records due to the broad buy-in to the community event. Athletes travel from around the world to take in the event. Carlsbad is both an elite competition and a destination race weekend.

While the population of Carlsbad is 32,000, the city often refers to itself as a village. Local civic leaders fully embrace the annual weekend tradition where many thousands gather to watch, cheer on, or race the event. Carlsbad takes place during the first weekend of April each year and is a major road race on the global road race circuit. It is a bucket-list event, to be sure, and for good reason.

The men’s course record is 12:59.50 by Kenyan Sammy Kipketer from the 2000 edition. Ethiopian Meseret Defar holds the women’s record at 14:46 from 2006. These are world-class athletes seeking a payday and to pad their resume of accomplishments.

Bazan Bay is a short 20-minute drive north of the city of Victoria on Vancouver Island in Sidney “by the sea.” While the race event is embraced by the town of Sidney, support for the road closure is limited to the approximate 30 or so minutes required to hustle all participants through the finish chute. Where tens of thousands gather in Carlsbad, Bazan Bay will have hundreds on the course and 500-800 racing. The race starts at the civilized hour of 11:00 AM and by 1:00 PM, any signs of a race happening on the day are highly unlikely.

In 2014, the race was won in the time of 14:12 by local 1500m runner Geoff Martinson. Although his performance is the course record, Martinson, in breaking his own record of 14:20 from 2012, ran alone for the entire race. There was no prize money to attract a competitive field. Asked if he could have gone sub-14 with competition he said, “yes.”

Matthew Travaglini (14:35) winning the 2022 edition of the Bazan Bay 5K. Photo credit: Joseph Camilleri.

The women’s course record is 15:48 from 2012 by two-time Canadian Olympian (2004, 2021) Malindi Elmore. With a deep field and the offer of prize money, she ran just eight seconds faster in Carlsbad back in 2007. Elmore is noted for her consistency over her 20-year career in distances from the 1500m to the marathon. In fact, her 4:02.64 1500m and 2:24:50 marathon best performances garner the identical World Athletics points score of 1184. Her 5K best scores at an 1187 rating. Elmore broke the Canadian marathon record with that 2:24:50 when she ran the Houston Marathon in 2020, it was 16 years earlier that she accomplished her 1500m best — it is quite the range. The marathon record has since been bettered by Natasha Wodak with her 2:23:12 in Berlin last year.

The question here is, would the most competitive runners in the world break the Carlsbad or the world records of 12:49 and 14:19mx / 14:29wo, respectively at the Bazan Bay 5K? The race organisers are not concerned with elite, world-class international times. Bazan Bay is the finale of the Vancouver Island Race Series — a series under the provincial umbrella, if you will, of the BC Super Series a BC Athletics-sanctioned series of races. All courses are certified accurate for records and standards. But at the end of the day, the race is a club fund-raiser.

Saying that, it would be interesting with the advent of supershoes and with an international field to witness just how fast the race course really is. Carlsbad may claim to offer the “World’s Fastest 5K,” in its name, however, it remains to be seen if the Bazan Bay 5K is just as fast or even better. Elite athletes would need to run for running’s sake and not for money, but at best to pad their resume of accomplishments on the roads.

The 2023 edition of the race takes place conveniently between the big Vancouver Sun Run and the popular TC10K in Victoria going Sundays April 16 and April 30th, respectively. Bazan happens Sunday, April 23.


“Mx” refers to women’s mixed race with men in the field. “Wo” refers to a women’s only race.

*Graph of the elevation profile of the Bazan Bay 5K is embellished. The course is flat with a nearly imperceptible rise on the way out and a drop on the way back to the finish.