Around almost any holiday or at other times of the year, you may have heard about or witnessed a local 5k event and had some basic questions, like:
- What is a 5k?
- How long is a 5k?
- How many miles is a 5k?
- Can I, as a beginner runner, complete a 5k?
The short answer to that last question is yes, you absolutely can finish a 5k even if you've never run a race before.
The 5k race is the most popular running distance, and 5k races often coincide with a community’s special events or support charities, making them even more meaningful. The 5k is a reasonable distance for a beginner runner and an excellent place to start a running journey.
If you think you may want to run a 5k, this article will provide all the background information you need to begin your journey toward the finish line.
In this article, you will learn:
- How long is a 5k?
- What’s the average finish time for a 5k?
- What’s a fast 5k time?
- How long does it take to train for a 5k?
- How many laps is a 5k on the track?
- What does a 5k training plan look like?
How Long is a 5k?
Before you start training for a 5k race, having a handle on the race distance is a good idea. You can look at a 5k running race from a few different standpoints as far as distances go:
- A 5k is 5 kilometers
- 5 kilometers is 5000 meters
- 5k in miles is 3.1 miles
- If you’re running this race on a 400-meter track, 5000 meters is 12.5 laps.
A 5k running race is a great place to start if you’re new to the sport because it's a nice, manageable distance for a beginner. Let’s answer the question, how long will it take you to run this distance?
What is the Average Finish Time for a 5k Running Race?
Amongst all runners of every age and sex, the average 5k time is between 25 minutes and 28 minutes.
It’s a popular distance, largely because you can do a 5k at almost any speed, whether walking, jogging, running, or sprinting, and still be done in a short time. In other words, you can finish a 5k, catch your breath, and get to breakfast within a few hours. This means you’ll find runners of all ages and abilities completing 5k running races.
To find out the average 5k run times for your age and gender, you can use the following calculator:
What’s a Fast 5k Time?
5k events often have many beginner runners aiming to reach the finish line for the first time. At the front of the race, however, you can always find a handful of speedsters aiming to reach the finish line as quickly as possible.
Very fast male runners may complete a 5k race in a finish time of 15 to 17 minutes or even faster.
Elite female runners might be able to do it in 18 to 21 minutes. Some may even go faster than that.
To give a sense of the fastest 5k runners, the world record finish times for the 5k distance are:
- 12 minutes and 35 seconds for men, set on August 14, 2020, by Joshua Cheptegei of Uganda at a race in Monaco
- 14 minutes and 6 seconds for women, set on October 7, 2020, by Letesenbet Gidney of Ethiopia at a race in Valencia, Spain
How Long Does it Take to Train for a 5k?
Once you’ve decided to begin training for a 5k, it’s time to set a training schedule and determine how many weeks you’ll need to be ready to cross the finish line. The number of weeks you need to train for a 5k run depends on multiple things, including:
- Your background in endurance sports: for example, if you’ve been an elite swimmer in the past, it’ll take fewer weeks to train than if you’ve never done an endurance event in your life
- Your current level of activity: if you’ve already been running or walking regularly, it will take you less time to train for a 5k than if you are just getting started with an exercise routine
- Your goals for race day: generally, if your goal is to finish without worrying about your speed or time, the training required to meet your goal will be less than if you were trying to race for the win or a personal record.
Generally, most beginning runners will need between four and twelve weeks to train for a 5k.
To determine how long you should devote to training for a 5k, you can use this calculator, which takes into account your background and goals:
How Many Laps is a 5k on the Track?
When training for a 5k, your local running track is ideal for building mileage and practicing running faster.
Most modern outdoor tracks are 400 meters per lap or ¼ of a mile. To run a 5k on an outdoor track, you’d need to complete 12.5 laps.
Indoor tracks at gyms and colleges can vary in distance. Tracks at colleges or universities used for track and field competitions are likely 200 meters. Doing 5 kilometers on a 200-meter track would take 25 laps.
However, indoor tracks at recreation centers or gyms are not standardized and can be almost any distance. In this case, getting clarification from the facility’s manager is best.
Running on a track can be a very good idea for a beginner runner. Some unique benefits of doing some of your training on a track include:
- Softer surface: rubberized tracks are softer and more forgiving for the legs than harder surfaces like sidewalks, paved paths, or roads
- No elevation: you can build your running endurance without worrying about hills
- Easy to keep track of your distance: to calculate the distance you’ve run, you only need to count the number of laps you’ve run.
- Access to fluids: it’s always a good idea to plan to drink water or sports drink when training for a 5k. You can place a water bottle on the ground at a track and access it every few minutes.
- Perfect for intervals: beginner runners usually start by training with a mixture of running and walking. Similarly, more advanced runners will mix fast and slow running intervals into their workouts. A track is perfect for these sorts of training sessions.
What Does a 5k Training Plan Look Like?
If you’re ready to get started, a good training plan will help you to prepare to reach the finish line. We have designed 5k training plans to help beginner runners (at any fitness level) comfortably finish a 5k and even reach the finish line in a faster time.
You can look at an example training plan below or get a personalized 5k training plan for free, which is personalized to your body, with our run training app.
Or, you can click here to see samples of a Couch To 5 K Training plan, click here to see a sample Beginner 5K Training Plan, click here to see a sample Intermediate 5K Training Plan, or click here to see a sample Advanced 5K Training Plan.
If running a 5k piques your curiosity, you’re not alone. Training for and completing a 5k run is a wonderful way to challenge yourself physically and mentally. Often, first-time 5k runners enjoy their experience so much that they decide to run more and more 5ks or even build up to longer distances.
This article has introduced you to the basics of the 5k, including:
- The distance of a 5k
- The time it takes to run a 5k
- How long it takes to train for a 5k
- How you can train for a 5k on the track
- What a training plan for a 5k looks like.
Now, it’s time to take your next steps. Lace up your shoes, find a training plan, get running, and before you know it, you’ll be celebrating at the finish line.