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The Best 5K Cities in America


Punxsutawney Phil wasn’t playing around when he predicted six more weeks of winter. After the longest six weeks of our lives, the warm temps are finally creeping in, the flowers are starting to bloom, and America is lacing up for 5K season. Thank you, Mother Nature! (Seriously, thank you. We couldn’t take anymore winter.)

5Ks, 3.1 mile races, really take off this time of year—some larger cities even have multiple races per weekend! According to Google Trends, 5Ks picked up some serious speed over the last decade and there’s no wonder why…there’s a 5K for everyone. From color runs, to charity races, to jogs with pit stops for beer, Americans have fallen in love with the 5K.

5Ks have appeal for runners of all skill levels, too, from experienced runners to the littlest family members. So, what’s the best place to run in the United States? Custom Ink gathered the data and ranked the most 5K-friendly cities.

map of top 5K race cities in the US

Before we could dig into the five defining features of a 5K-friendly city, we had to narrow down the cities most interested in these runs. Google Trends helped us refine our list by checking city searches against a large variety of 5K-related terms. Once we had a solid list of top 5K cities, we took five things into consideration when ranking cities on their 5K friendliness:

5K-Friendly Features

  1. 5K frequency (how many 5Ks took place in each city in 2017?)
  2. Climate (hotter temperatures were rated more harshly)
  3. Breweries per capita (5K runners are known to enjoy a cold brew)
  4. Landscape (each city’s park score)
  5. Safety (how cautious are drivers in the area?)

After crunching the numbers it was nearly a tie, but Chicago inched into first place with just a half point over New York City. Philadelphia, Washington D.C., and Boston round out the top five.

Texas may not have made the top five cities, but they’re definitely the most 5K-friendly state with six cities in the top 25! Who knew the Lone Star State was so great for running?

Top 5K-Friendly States

  1. Texas — six cities
  2. California — four cities
  3. North Carolina — two cities

list of 5K races that give out the most shirts

Here at Custom Ink, we couldn’t resist seeing how these 5Ks stack up when it comes to t-shirt giveaways. While we love a t-shirt, we didn’t want to factor it in for the overall 5K friendliness score. Instead, we looked at the biggest races, some of which have over 20,000 participants to cross the finish line, to determine who gave away the most shirts. The Hot Chocolate 5K in Chicago, Illinois gives out nearly 20k t-shirts—WOW that’s a ton of tees!

 Custom Ink charity 5K race shirts

After learning how many t-shirts 5Ks around the country give away, we looked at our own data. In 2017, we helped create over 15,000 shirts for races. 12,000 shirts, over 76%, were made specifically for 5Ks! What could be cooler than that to a bunch of t-shirt lovers? Turns out, 9 out of every 10 5K shirts ordered in 2017 benefited a charity—that’s a stat we’re pretty proud of!

charity impact of 5K races

What did we find over and over again when we looked into the reasons behind the 5Ks? Charities. We pulled together the top causes behind the top 25 and were pretty inspired by the results! 25 of the top 50 5Ks benefit children’s programs—that means 50% of the surveyed 5Ks donated to programs dedicated to helping America’s youth. 36% benefited medical needs, and 30% donated to wellness and community benefits. Not only is America getting out there and bettering their health, they’re bettering the world around them.

We love that 5K runs have super fun elements, like glow paint and ice cream, but that they also benefit amazing causes like helping children and the community. How’d your state do on the list? Let us know how you feel about the results in the comments section below.


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