As a beginning runner, it will likely take you some time to build your endurance to the point where you can continuously run 5 kilometers or 3.1 miles. In the meantime, you may wonder, “Can you walk a 5k?” The answer is an unequivocal yes!
Walking during a 5k is not only allowed but also very common. If you’re ready to enter a 5k event but still want or need to do some walking, you are not alone and will still find the race day experience rewarding.
In this article, we’ll answer some questions about walking in a 5k, including:
- Can you walk a 5k running race?
- What’s the cutoff time for a 5k race?
- What’s an average walking pace?
- What’s an average 5k time for your age and gender?
Can You Walk a 5k Running Race?
It is absolutely permissible to walk during a 5k race. Whether you include walking breaks between jogging intervals or decide to walk the entire race, you are still welcome in any 5k event. This is one of the best things about the 5k distance - it’s accessible for everyone, no matter their pace or where they are in their fitness journey.
You'll definitely have company if you include walking in your 5k race! You will find athletes in all sorts of situations who choose to walk 5k, including:
- Beginner runners who are still building up to running 5 kilometers continuously. Most training plans built for beginner runners will start with a run-walk program that, on most training days, alternates walking and running intervals. This strategy works very well for new runners and may last many weeks. But you don’t need to wait to enter a 5k until you can run the distance - run-walk intervals work in races, too!
- Experienced runners whose bodies do better with walk breaks. Many experienced runners find that including short walk breaks during their races allows them to finish the race faster and feel better. Many running coaches suggest walking through the aid stations in any distance race, as the short break is good to bring the heart rate down a bit, allows for a mental reset, and generally helps runners maintain good form for longer.
- Devoted walkers doing a 5k walk. Every 5k race has many participants who choose to walk the entire race. Many of these walkers are experienced racers who simply prefer walking. Some athletes have very fast walking paces and often walk faster than some runners!
The only concern with walking in a 5k race is ensuring that your walking pace is fast enough to complete the race within the stated time cutoff, if there is one. Finishing after the cutoff does not mean you cannot finish the race or will be pulled from the course. It simply means the official race is over, so you may not get an official time or a finisher medal.
What is the Cutoff Time for a 5k Race?
Most 5k races don’t have an official cutoff time as you might see in longer races like marathons. For the few races that have time cutoffs, it tends to be 60 minutes.
For most beginner runners doing a mix of running and walking, an hour should be plenty of time to finish a 5k. Those covering the course by entirely walking may have to keep the pace up but should be able to cover the 5 kilometers within an hour if they walk briskly.
What the time cutoff means, practically, is that the official race will stop at a certain time. At that time, some race organizers will take down the timing equipment and stop handing out finish medals or providing post-race amenities. If the race is on a public road, race officials may ask the remaining racers to move to a sidewalk. However, athletes are rarely asked to stop altogether.
What is an Average Walking Pace?
If you’re planning to walk and wondering how long does it take to walk a 5k or what finish time to expect, we’ve compiled this chart showing the average brisk walking speed for various age groups and the corresponding 5k finish time.
Remember, these numbers represent brisk walking paces, or what some may call “power walking.” Brisk walking will increase your heart rate, is a full-body workout, and will cause some muscular fatigue.
If you’re walking slower or at a more relaxed, typical walking pace, your speed will likely be closer to 3 miles per hour or 20 minutes per mile. Covering the 5k distance at this speed will take close to an hour.
What’s an Average 5k Time for Your Age and Gender?
If you plan to complete a 5k race using a combination of running and walking, predicting your finish time can be trickier. Knowing the average 5k time for your age and gender is a good place to start. For that, we’ve created a calculator that shows average 5k times:
This calculator assumes you’ll run most or all of the 5k without significant walking. If you plan to do a mix of running and walking, your time will likely be somewhere between the average 5k run times from the calculator and the average 5k finish times for brisk walking, shown above. The more you walk, the closer you’ll be to the brisk walking average. Conversely, the less walking you mix in, the closer you’ll be to the 5k run average.
5k races are fun, inclusive events open to runners and walkers of all abilities. If you are still building your running endurance up and including walk intervals, or if you’re a seasoned athlete but prefer to use a run-walk or power walk technique, there’s no reason to delay entering a 5k race.
In this article, we’ve touched upon:
- The rules about walking in a 5k (there are none!)
- Some reasons athletes may choose to walk during a 5k
- Typical cutoff times for 5k races
- Average brisk walking paces
- Average 5k finish times, according to age and gender.
Using a run-walk pattern in a 5k is often a smart approach for a beginner runner. So even if you’re still building up your running endurance, don’t hesitate to enter your first 5k. You can walk as little or as much of the race as you want and still have plenty to celebrate at the finish line.