There are many reasons to adorn a solid pair of trainers and hit the pavement. Whether it's a resolution to start the new year off on the right foot or a long term personal health goal, running is achievable for many.
Once you’ve got your laces tied tightly, you will inevitably start setting goals for yourself with each run.
A question that commonly pops into mind as you aspire to a comfortable 5k distance is
What is a Good 5K Time?
In general, most runners consider a good 5k finish time under 25 minutes, which means maintaining an 8-minute-mile pace. If you're running a 5K for the first time, an 8-minute-mile pace might be rather fast, depending on how long you have trained, as well as your age and gender.
How Long is 5K?
Before worrying about pace or breaking a PR, it is important to fully grasp just what a 5k entails. The km represents kilometers, meaning your target distance is set for 5 kilometers. One kilometer is the same distance as 0.621 miles. The total distance for a 5k in miles is the equivalent of 3.1 miles.
When discussing pace and calculating an ideal running time, many runners use the process of miles per minute, factoring in converting 5k in miles.
A pace chart such as this one can help set a precedent when determining target running times once you have a pace established.
How Important is a Running Time?
Focusing too much on your 5K time can be an easy trap for a runner to fall into. Like with anything health-related, running is a personal journey and the outcome is dependent on factors unique to only you.
This can feel counterproductive if you’re training for a fun run or a race and are highly aware of other people’s 5k times.
Naturally, having a target 5K time is going to help set faster goals. Beating your target and setting new personal bests will help keep you motivated with running, too.
However, there may be more important things about this exercise than just the ticking time associated with it.
According to this article, running can be a form of mindful meditation that can help overcome depression and anxiety.
So even if you feel like you’re not reaching your target 5K time or aren't happy with your race preparation, rest assured that the time you’re putting into each weekly run is time well spent!
- Easy-to use GPS running watch tracks how far, how fast and where you run.Special Feature:Bluetooth.Water Resistant: Yes
- Estimates heart rate at the wrist, all day and night, using Garmin elevate wrist heart rate technology
- Connected features: Smart notifications, automatic uploads to Garmin Connect, live tracking and music controls (when paired with a compatible smartphone)
- All-day activity tracking estimates steps, calories and intensity minutes and reminds you when to move
- Automatically uploads your data to Garmin Connect, our free online fitness community where you can join challenges, receive insights and share your progress as you meet your goals
What is an Average Time to Run a 5k?
Before getting too caught up in the averages, first focus on doing your best 5k. There are many factors that contribute to a “good” or “bad” 5K time.
Some of these factors will be within your control, but many more will be external forces weighing in.
Consider these points to start with:
- Are the weather conditions ideal?
- Are you training on a flat surface or with inclines and hills?
- Do you experience muscle cramps or fatigue?
- Do you have a pre-existing injury?
- Do you know what type of metabolism you have?
Many of those things will be out of your control or you will have limited control on certain days.
Then there are things that you have total control over.
- Have you worked out a stretching program?
- Do you take time to warm up and cool down?
- Do you make sure you are hydrated before a run?
- Have you got a training schedule in place to keep runs regular?
- Do you follow a healthy meal plan?
- Have you invested in quality running shoes to support your feet?
Such practicalities and investments outside your actual session will contribute to you being able to run at the best of your ability, thus reaching an ideal target 5K time.
With these factors taken into account, everyday runners tend to hit a target of 25-37 minutes for a 5k.
As fitness and training increases, sub-25 or sub-20 can be achieved for some. 20 minutes for a 5k is an achievable target, but it will take motivation and dedication to get there!
Now, to the averages. An average 5k miles per minute calculation for men is 31:09 and for women is 36:16 (men and women aged 25-29).
Overall, the best way to improve your target is to compete against yourself. Be aware of the averages out there, but set your own pace and your own goal to beat.
Age and Gender Influences on Your 5K Time
Whilst it is key to focus on running your own race, it is still valuable to be aware of other averages out there from other runners.
Whether you are running competitively or casually, having an understanding of average 5K times and paces can help you to cultivate your own target.
There are certain categories that create averages. These tend to be divided into age and sex. However, your overall fitness level has much more impact on how fast you run than any of these.
Let’s take a closer look at these categories and how they can influence your 5k run.
Typically, runners reach their fastest 5K time between the ages of 18-30, but of course, there are always exceptions to the rule.
According to data collected at Pace Calculator in the United States in 2010, the average mile per minute in a 5km for men aged 20-24 is 9:30.
For women in this age bracket, it is 11:44.
Looking at another age bracket of 35-39, the average for men increases to 10:53 and for women 12:03.
This snapshot of data highlights how the average running pace increases with age for both genders.
Naturally, you will be wondering what is a good 5k time by age?
For someone under 30, you should be aiming for somewhere between 29 - 36 minutes.
Over the age of 30, anything between 31 - 50 minutes is a solid achievement.
Looking at the statistics, 30 minutes is certainly a good 5k time and a target worthy of any runner.
I detail my journey to the sub-21 minute 5K, in case your curious about beating these averages.
Biologically speaking, there are structural differences that mean men and women run differently.
While men and women can train together and support each other in their running goals, it is important to steer away from comparing 5K times with someone of the opposite gender.
It simply isn’t a fair comparison for some of the following reasons.
- A male heart is, on average, 20-25% larger than a woman’s, meaning they can pump more oxygenated blood, particularly from the left ventricle.
- Testosterone is a man’s primary hormone which stimulates muscle mass.
- Estrogen, a key hormone in women, is a disadvantage for running as the antioxidant qualities fight free radicals around the body.
- Women naturally have the gift of an extra 5-10% body fat for their potential childbearing, which isn’t ideal for a runner.
So, thanks to physiological development, there is a gender gap between how fast a male can run 5K compared to a female.
This doesn’t mean that there aren’t plenty of women running fast to close that gap!
In fact, the fastest recorded 5k for a female is 14 minutes!
Any target between 14 and 35 minutes is a good 5k for a girl. If you finish below 25 minutes you are in great company!
Speed or Endurance: What’s More Important?
Beyond the facts of age and sex, a training program is an important contributor to your 5K time. There are two key elements to a runner’s training schedule which include speed and endurance.
But just which one promises fast results and possibly a PR?
It can be easy to get caught up in reaching the desired distance without thinking about aerobic performance. Many training guides available and recommended by professional trainers or physiotherapists support the idea of sprint training and tempo runs.
These shorter, faster, and more dynamic runs are integral in maintaining tone and conditioning for achieving longer distances or training for a 5k race.
In addition to sprint training and aerobic focus in your schedule, breaking up the distance is also recommended. For instance, instead of running a flat 5k, focus on doing 1000 meters at your desired mile per minute.
Back it up with a recovery run of 200-300 meters. Repeat this cycle 5 times as part of your training.
Evidently, focusing on both speed and endurance in your training program will play a vital role in reaching your personal target.
FREE 5K Training Plans
I have several training plans that might fit your level.
You can view them here. Be sure to choose the right training program that fits your current situation.
Before and After Your 5K
Naturally, it is the run you are focusing on and the target you are trying to improve.
But there is so much preparation work that needs to be put into achieving a good 5K time.
No one runs 5k in 13 minutes without some serious dedication!
So be sure to set a reasonable goal.
With that in mind, whether you’re aiming to hit a faster 15 minute 5k to win a race or want to go from 30 minutes down to 28, here are some things to do before and after you pound the pavement.
- Warm-up and cool-down stretches
- Aerobic fitness training
- Ensure a recovery rest day
- Have proper running shoes
- Wear comfortable running clothes
- Have a nutritious diet
- Stay hydrated throughout the day
- Have a regular sleep routine
7 Tips to Improve Your 5K Time
Once you’ve got a regular routine happening, you will naturally want to start challenging yourself.
Remember, the challenge should be about beating your personal best, not just about getting faster.
Your average will always be different from someone else’s and it is vital to work within your achievable limits.
That being said, it is a great focus to shave off a minute or two from your current running pace. With some of these tips included in your training program, you can continue to improve strength, condition, and endurance to push yourself further while pumping out that 5K in miles per minute.
- Maintain a positive mindset. Your mentality matters just as much as your muscles do when you are running!
- Consider doing yoga, tai chi, or something similar to build flexible and adaptable muscle strength.
- Don’t focus just on distance - do 2km or 3km runs to build speed and muscle mass.
- Set yourself a pacer watch to help reach a target mile per minute.
- Try hill running or step work to get all your legs muscles toned and conditioned for the distance.
- Set yourself a race day goal and see yourself at at the finish line, but remember the bigger picture in terms of your mental and physical health.
#1: Know Your Race Pace
You can't better your race times and paces if you don't have a good grasp of where you currently stand fitness-wise and what target pace you should be aiming for.
If you're already working on improving your 5k, chances are that you've run a few races before and have a certain time in mind that you want to beat.
However, even if you don't have an existing 5k time to improve upon, there are other ways to estimate the pace at which You could potentially complete a 5k race.
There are two options to discover your crucial data: a mile test or 3k test. These tests will not only reveal your 5k race pace but also give you estimates for 10k, half marathon, and marathon paces.
In addition, they establish training zone speeds that you'll use during everyday workouts as prescribed by your running coach. The speeds used each day depend on the workout's objective whether it be speed, endurance, recovery etc.
#2 Include Fast Intervals In Your Training Plan
Properly preparing for a 5k requires you to occasionally pick up the speed, pushing yourself past your estimated race pace. One day of interval or repetitional training is necessary in order to have the utmost success on race day. Most advanced training plans have interval training.
Before each of these workouts, always be sure to do 10 minutes of easy jogging and dynamic stretching exercises. Do not start interval training with cold legs as this will increase your risk for an injury.
#3 Work Your 5k Race Pace
Once you know your race pace, try to increase the time spent in your race pace weeks before the race.
- Keep in mind that 5K races need to be completed faster than your Threshold pace, so don't expect it to feel easy; just try and make the challenge more bearable! Below is a long-run race pace progression you can use while training for your 5k. Every week, increase the intervals of 5K Race Pace by 30 seconds:
- 60 minutes at Easy Pace with 10 x 30 at your of 5K Race Pace
- 60 minutes at Easy Pace with 10 x 1 minute at your 5K Race Pace
- 60 minutes at an Easy Pace with 10 x 1:30 min stretches of 5K RacePace
#4 Improve Your Cadence
If you're looking to maximize your running efficiency, it's long been said that maintaining a stride rate of 180 steps per minute is ideal. In reality however, anything over 170 should do the trick!
To practice this tempo regularly and stay on track, try using a metronome or music with exactly 180 beats per minute: each beat can represent one foot hitting the pavement. With continuous focus on your turnover in this way, you'll soon be running like an absolute pro!
Exercise caution when constructing playlists, as some are labeled 180 BPM yet can be unreliable. Utilize this BPM counter app to test individual songs for accuracy.
Integrate brief intervals of cadence work into your leisurely runs - only a few minutes at time will suffice! Maintaining rhythm is fatiguing since you'll unknowingly accelerate, so add it sparingly throughout each session.
#5 Lift Weights
If you're a runner looking to get the most out of your fitness routine, then weightlifting is definitely worth considering. You'll benefit from an array of advantages such as increased power and speed, greater balance and agility, heightened strength and mobility—the list goes on!
Not only will it make you a better runner in every way possible but it even reduces the odds of experiencing injuries too.
Cross-training exercises like yoga or cycling are great activities for overall well being, yet if you want what's best for running performance specifically then weights should be included in your program.
All you need to do is to add two short strength training sessions a week into your training program, and you don't even need to go to the gym.
With minimal equipment, or even just your own bodyweight, you can easily do running-specific functional training right in the comfort of your home. But if you want to take it up a notch and accessorize with items such as kettlebells, dumbbells, suspension devices - then be prepared to marvel at how far you can go!
- For runners who want to build strength, there are several exercises they should include in their training regimen.
- These range from simple bodyweight movements like lunges, squats and glute bridges; calf raises with or without dumbbells
- For added resistance; deadlifts using kettlebells or with weighted dumbells for more intensity; various planks such as full plank, elbow plank and side plank to name a few.
Additionally, push-ups pull ups rows pulls apart shoulder presses and chest presses all make excellent additions too. Implementing these exercises can help improve running form while also increasing overall fitness levels!
#6 Add Plyometrics To Your Strength Training
Supplement your training routine with plyometrics to reap multiple benefits including heightened stability, coordination, and muscle/joint strength. On top of these physical perks, you'll also improve your cardiovascular conditioning, gain an edge in speed and endurance at higher speeds while optimizing your power output!
Not only can plyometrics help you improve your running economy, but adding a quick circuit of these exercises at the end of your strength training sessions will provide an excellent metabolic finish to any workout.
Plus, when carried out correctly and regularly, explosive movements like jumping make for tremendous results!
- Improve your endurance and agility with these top plyometric exercises! Jumping jacks, scissor jumps, skaters, box jumps (single-leg and double leg variants), lateral hops or long jumps - they're all here.
- Plus frog leaps, jump rope intervals, squat jacks to help you activate even more muscle groups; plank jacks for total body workout combined with burpees and high knees for improved cardio performance.
- Don't forget about bounding drills as well as tuck and star jumps to get you moving in no time!
After adding these to your workout, you'll feel yourself getting more and more powerful, which will translate to improvements in your fast running.
#7 Improve Running Form
With the right running form, you can make your runs faster and more efficient with less effort. Although there are many aspects to proper running technique that can be overwhelming if poor habits have already been formed, it's best to start improving one element at a time for better results.
To help get you started on this journey of improvement, here is an outline of some critical details when it comes to perfecting your run:
- Start off with a strong posture, keeping your head up, looking ahead and shoulders relaxed.
- Have a light, relaxed footstrike that lands on the midfoot or forefoot.
- Ensure arms are at 90 degrees and swing them close to the body from front to back in order to maintain balance.
- Use the arms and legs in a fluid, coordinated motion.
- Don't overstride or lift the knees too high, which wastes energy.
- Keep your cadence consistent and aim to run on the ball of your foot.
- When breathing, relax your jaw and focus on deep inhalations through your nose and exhalations through your mouth.
By incorporating these running form tips into your routine, you will be able to make significant improvements in your speed and efficiency. With a better technique, you'll also find that the muscles used for running become stronger and more resistant to injury. Good luck smashing your 5K time and setting a new PR!
Hi, Jeremy Here,
I am the the guy behind Train for a 5K. On this site, I share everything that learned along my running journey. The content I create is the running training I wish I had before we started this journey. About Me.
Last update on 2023-05-24 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API