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How many miles is a 5k? Your essential guide to running a 5k

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Whether you’re new to running or you’re a seasoned pro, the first step in your running journey will probably be or will have been a 5k.

In my opinion, the 5k is the perfect running distance as it offers a good mix of endurance, speed and stamina.

There are some common questions when it comes to running a 5k:

  • How many miles is a 5k?
  • How to train for a 5k?
  • What time should I be aiming for my first 5k?

In this guide we’ll explore:

  • How many miles is a 5k?
  • What is the average pace for a 5k?
  • What is a good 5k time by age?
  • How to train for and run a 5k
  • How to prepare for a 5k
  • How to warm up before a 5k
  • Where to run a 5k

how many miles is a 5k

How many miles is a 5k?

A 5k is 3.1 miles.

The 5k has become one of the most popular running distances in the world, with over 9 million people running a 5k in the USA alone in 2019.

Unlike a half marathon or marathon, it’s not a race that you have to train weeks and weeks for, but you have to have a good base level of fitness before attempting.

Many runners choose it as their first race distance and go on to complete 10k, half marathon and marathon race distances.

Related: How to run your first 5k

What is the average pace for a 5k?

According to Run Repeat, the average male pace for a 5k run is 7:04 minutes per mile, and the average female pace is 8:18 minutes per mile.

The average pace for a 5k run tends to be slower than the 10k and half marathon because this the 5k is the entry distance for a lot of new runners.

It’s worth noting however that how fast you run completely depends on your running experience, fitness levels and your race goals.

To run a sub-30 minute 5k, for example, you will need to be able to run at a pace of 9:40 minutes per mile for the full 5k/3.1 mile distance.

To work out how fast you should be running to achieve an even faster time, I suggest you use a running pace calculator.

This will allow you to determine your pace per mile for a given distance based on at least two variables, such as pace, time or distance.

Related: How to pace your run

What is a good 5k time by age?

Your age, gender, fitness levels and running experience can all impact your race time. Even factors like the weather, terrain and how you feel on the day can affect your time.

Here are the average race times by age and gender:

Age group Men Women
0 to 15 34:43 37:55
16 to 19 29:39 37:39
20 to 24 29:27 36:22
25 to 29 31:09 36:16
30 to 34 31:27 38:41
35 to 39 33:44 37:21
40 to 44 32:36 38:26
45 to 49 33:13 39:19
50 to 54 34:30 41:20
55 to 59 37:33 45:18
60 to 64 40:33 45:49
65 to 69 42:59 50:13

Related: Run a faster 5k: What is the average time to run a 5k?

How to train for a 5k

If you’re a beginner runner, the Couch to 5k programme is a really great way to slowly ease you into running. This programme combines running and walking and normally lasts between 9 to 12 weeks depending on the training plan you go for.

By the end of the programme, you should be able to run for 30 minutes at a comfortable pace without stopping. This is a great place from which to grow and then go onto run your first 5k.

If you’re an intermediate to advanced runner and want to shave some valuable seconds of your PB, there are many ways to increase your speed.

A well-rounded training plan that includes speed workouts, hill workouts and interval training, for example, is a good place to start.

These types of workouts are designed to make you a faster and stronger runner, and when combined with your weekly runs, they have the potential to reduce your race times substantially.

Related: 3 hill running workouts that increase your power and speed

how many miles is a 5k

How to run a 5k

The best place to start when you decide to run a 5k is a 5k training plan.

Depending on your running experience and fitness levels, you can choose to go with a beginner, intermediate or advanced 5k training plan.

Make sure you pick a training plan that is aligned with your running goals. For example, if you’ve never run a 5k before, it will be wise to choose a beginner-friendly training plan.

Here are some sample training plans to get you started:

How to prepare for a 5k

Running a 5k is exciting and nerve-wracking all at the same time, especially if it’s your first race. All your hard work and training will prepare you for race day, but it’s natural to get pre-race jitters.

The best you can do is get a good night’s sleep and try and rest your legs in the 48 hours leading up to your race.

Eat well, stay hydrated and plan your morning before hand so you’re not running around like a headless chicken on the morning of the race.

If you’ve chosen Parkrun as your first 5k, then check out my post on what to expect at your first Parkrun.

how many miles is a 5k

How to warm up before a 5k

A warm up is essential for any race, whether it be a 5k, 10k, half marathon or marathon. You need to get your heart racing and blood pumping before the race to prevent injury and loosen your muscles.

For a 5k, a 5-15 minute warm up should be fine. In the warm up, make sure you jog it out and include some dynamic stretches and running drills to get your body ready for exercise.

Here are some example dynamic stretches and running drills to include in your warm up:

Dynamic stretches

  • Leg swings
  • Hamstring sweeps
  • Side shuffles
  • High skips
  • Fast feet

Running drills

  • Butt kicks
  • High knees
  • A-skips and B-skips
  • Carioca drill
  • Straight leg bounds

Check out my post on how to warm up properly before a 5k race for more information and tips.

Where to run a 5k

There are plenty of ways to run your first 5k.

  • Parkrun is a great way to experience your first 5k. Held every Saturday morning at 9am across the country, you’re bound to find one that suits your needs. Even better, they’re free and there’s no pressure to run fast so it’s a great event for beginner runners.
  • Race for Life holds 5k and 10k races throughout the year. You can find an up to date list of their races on their website.
  • Find A Race allows you to check the 5k races near you.
  • Active.com also offers a directory of 5k, 10k, half marathon and marathon races.

If you’d prefer to go it alone and find a local running route, then there are lots of ideas online and you can typically find suggested routes on apps like MapMyRun and Strava.

how many miles is a 5k

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