Running is one of the most popular sports in the world. It has pretty low entry requirements: you just need a pair of shoes (and sometimes not even that!). Around 56 million people in the US went running, jogging, and trail running in 2017, with improving fitness and entering races two of the main motivators.
There were over 30,000 races in the US in 2016, and 17,000 of them were 5k runs. It’s a good target to work towards for both beginners and more experienced runners. So, what is a good time for a 5k run? That depends on a lot of things, such as your skill level, age, height, and gender.
You Are Your Own Competition
Comparing yourself to other people can sometimes be a route to misery. Especially for novices, it can be better to focus on your own performance, rather than stacking up with the competition.
Completing a 5k at all is an impressive feat, whether you walk it or spring to the finish with the fastest of them. When running your first race, try to focus on the experience itself, and the exhilaration that comes with completing it. Most running communities are very supportive, and while being competitive can give you the drive to excel, you’re just as likely to be happy if you’re a part of the pack.
Once you’ve run a timed race or a practice run, you can establish what your personal record is. This will give you a target to beat that is all of your own. You’ll have a positive motivator as you strive to improve your own abilities, and working on improving this time can be a very satisfying process.
Average 5k Pace
While the table below is separated by age and gender, it doesn’t take into account two of the most important factors – experience, and fitness. That said, a few broad understandings can be taken from it: firstly, that younger people are normally faster than older people; and men are usually faster than women.
Of course, these are generalizations. An experienced older woman could well beat the time of an inexperienced younger man.
|1 mile||5k||1 mile||5k|
|0 – 15||11:12:20||37:16:22||12:14:57||40:44:38|
|16 – 19||09:34:42||31:51:36||12:09:50||40:27:37|
|20 – 24||09:30:36||31:37:58||11:44:47||39:04:18|
|25 – 29||10:03:22||33:26:57||11:42:37||38:57:05|
|30 – 34||10:09:33||33:47:32||12:29:29||41:32:59|
|35 – 39||10:53:45||36:14:33||12:03:33||40:06:43|
|40 – 44||10:28:26||34:50:20||12:24:47||41:17:21|
|45 – 49||10:43:19||35:39:51||12:41:48||42:13:57|
|50 – 54||11:08:16||37:02:50||13:20:52||44:23:54|
|55 – 59||12:07:58||40:21:25||14:37:34||48:39:01|
|60 – 64||13:05:47||43:33:44||14:47:48||49:13:04|
|65 – 99||13:52:03||46:07:37||16:12:01||53:53:11|
This table was made by taking the average times of over 10,000 5k race runners over one mile, and then the 5k times were calculated using the following formula: T2 [predicted time] = T1 [original time] x (D2 [new distance]/D1 [original distance]).
You can use this formula yourself to predict how you will perform over 5k by timing yourself by running one mile, and then using 3.1 miles (the mile equivalent of 5 kilometers) as the new distance (D2). It should also be mentioned that the times in the table were adjusted for the distance, so you may find that your calculations will come up with a shorter time. But it is still a good way of working out how fast you will be.
As you may be able to tell from the table, there’s quite a difference between age groups and sexes. If you are hitting somewhere around these times when running a 5k, then you’re already doing well. Even so, you might feel that average isn’t enough. So, what is a good time for a 5k?
Good 5K Finish Times
What is considered ‘good’ is rather subjective, but most experienced runners agree that completing 5k in 20 to 25 minutes is a respectable time for anyone. Here’s a list of roughly what times different skill groups can be looking to achieve:
- First place men: 12 to 15 minutes
- First place women: 16 to 19 minutes
- Experienced runners: 20 to 25 minutes
- Average runners: 30 to 40 minutes
- Walkers: 45 to 60 minutes
Gotta Go Fast
If you’re not satisfied with your time, then you should focus on your training routine, and keep up your practice runs. Run/walk plans, like the “Couch to 5k” plan, can help beginners build the endurance necessary to keep up a steady level of effort over the course of the race. Hill sprints can help to improve your ability to run at top speed, as well as reduce the likelihood of injury after the first few sessions are under your belt.
Improving your running form can also be the difference between average and good. These tips can help to get you moving even quicker:
- Keep your head up and your spine straight, making sure your ears are in line with your shoulders.
- Look to the horizon rather than at your feet.
- Keep your shoulders relaxed.
- Keep your arms at a 90-degree angle to your body. Keep your elbows in, rather than letting your arms cross your body.
- Keep your hands relaxed – making a fist or flexing wastes energy that could be driving you forward.
- Lean slightly forward from your hips as you run.
- Try to ensure that your shin is perpendicular to the floor when your foot lands.
- Land on the ball of your foot rather than the toes or heel.
- When running uphill, shorten your stride, and run more on your toes. Lift your knees higher, and pump your arms more. Aim for a standard level of effort rather than a constant speed.
- When running downhill, lean a bit more from your hips into the run, allowing gravity to help you.
Times Are Relative
What is a good time for a 5k? It depends on you, your age, experience, and level of fitness. An experienced male runner in his 20s should expect to achieve better speed than a woman in her 50s who just started training.
Competing against your personal best can help to keep you motivated rather than disappointed that you’re not as fast as those around you. That said, if you’re managing 20 to 25 minutes, most people would agree that you are making a good pace.