Signing up to train for and race a 5k run is a big commitment, and for a beginner runner, it’s natural to wonder how many miles a week you’ll need to run to be well-prepared. However, there's no one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to weekly mileage for a 5k. Your best mileage will depend on several factors, including your experience and goals.
In this article, we’ll touch on several considerations that you should take into account when determining your weekly mileage, including:
- How often beginner runners need to run to train for a 5k
- The factors you should consider when deciding how much to run
- How to find your training and racing paces
- How to determine how many hours per week to run
- How to calculate the number of miles per week to run
How Much Do I Need to Run to Train for a 5k?
The run training plans on the MOTTIV app have been written by Olympic champions and world-class coaches at Run Free Training. For a 5k race, the plans top out at a maximum of just four runs per week, along with one mobility workout and one strength workout.
You may have heard about professional or elite runners who run up to or more than 100 miles a week as they prepare for races, including 5k and 10k, half marathons, marathons, and beyond. However, these marathoners and other runners have years of experience and have designed their lives to maximize their training and speed.
As a rule, we do not suggest that amateur runners follow similar high mileage programs because age group runners need time to increase their endurance and durability. Most also have very busy lives with major priorities like jobs and families.
As a rule of thumb, you can perform very well in a 5k race with two to four runs per week of just 30 to 75 minutes each.
The 5k training plans on our app are designed to fit around busy schedules and will prepare you to run your fastest without having to sacrifice the other important things in your life.
What Factors Affect How Many Miles I Should Run?
Because every runner is different, there is no definitive answer for how many weekly miles you should run to prepare for a 5k. There are a few factors that should be taken into account in determining how much you should run.
One of the most important rules for a new runner is to start with low mileage and gradually build volume.
Building mileage gradually is essential to avoid injury. Because running is a weight-bearing activity, it is tough on your body’s bones, muscles, and connective tissues. Studies have estimated that 20 to 80 percent of runners will experience lower-limb injuries in a year. There are a few things that increase your injury risk:
- Running more miles than your body is ready for
- Running too many fast miles
- Previous injury history
- Being a novice runner
In light of these factors, your goal mileage for a 5k will depend largely on how much running you have done recently.
If you’re starting from scratch, start at a low running volume that you know your body can handle, such as two runs per week of just 30 minutes. Then, build up the amount you run each week by no more than 8-10%.
A Note for Athletes From Other Sports
Even elite-level athletes coming to running from other non-weight-bearing sports, like swimming, still need to start with low mileage and build very slowly.
While a top-level athlete will quickly adapt to the cardiovascular demands of running, their musculoskeletal system (or their joints, tendons, and ligaments) will take months and even years of training to build up durability to withstand the pounding of running. In other words, the body needs time to catch up to the strong engine.
So, even if you are very fit and accustomed to large training volumes, be careful when adding running miles to your routine.
5k Race Goals
Your goals for the 5k race will also affect your target running miles. For example, below are some sample training weeks for athletes who use our app and just want to finish a 5k, athletes who want to finish a 5k feeling strong, and for athletes who want to compete:
Because a 5k is a relatively short distance, most people can complete the distance safely with a minimal amount of training. If your goal is merely to cross the finish line, you could get away with even just one short run/walk a week for training.
If you want to push your limits and run hard for the entire 5k, two to four runs a week will set you up well for success.
Those wishing to race the 5k and aim for top finishes should build up to four or five runs per week, plus strength training and mobility workouts.
One of the best predictors of running injury is previous injury. In other words, if you’ve experienced knee pain in the past, you’re more likely to experience knee pain again if you’re not careful with your running mileage.
If you have had leg injuries related to sports in the past, it’s wise to start with very low mileage and build your weekly running time very carefully.
How Many Miles Should I Run When Training for a 5k?
Many running coaches, including those who have designed our training plans at MOTTIV, prescribe training plans based on time rather than mileage, so it’s difficult to set a specific mileage goal for 5k runners.
However, if you want to get a sense of how many miles per week you should expect to run when completing one of the 5k training plans available on our app, you can refer to a couple of our calculators to get a ballpark figure.
Finding Your Training and Race Paces
First, use our pace calculator to get a sense of your training and race paces based on a recent race or your goal 5k time:
For example, a 30-minute 5k runner would have the following training paces:
- Easy running pace: 12:00-13:28 minutes per mile (7:28-8:22 minutes per kilometer)
- Moderate "Tempo" running pace: 10:04-10:34 minutes per mile (6:15-6:35 minutes per kilometer)
- Fast running pace: faster than 10:04 minutes per mile (6:15 minutes per kilometer)
Finding the Number of Hours To Train Per Week
Next, you can use this calculator to determine how many hours per week to train, based on your 5k goals and your athletic background:
Based on this calculator, here are the hourly training goals, per week, for a few example types of runners:
- A runner with no running background, whose goal is to simply finish: 2 to 3 hours of running per week
- A runner with a moderate running background, whose goal is to finish strong: 4 to 5 hours of running per week
- A runner with an elite sports background, whose goal is to compete for a top finish: 5 to 6 hours of running per week
Calculating Weekly Mileage
After determining your general training paces, as well as the hours per week of running that you should aim to achieve, we can make some calculations as to weekly mileage to expect while training a 5k. This takes a few steps.
Most importantly, remember that about 80% of your training time should be spent on easy running, while about 20% of the time you spend running should be fast running.
With that in mind, follow these steps:
- Using the calculators above, determine how many hours per week will be devoted to easy running and how many to fast running.
For example, assume you are a moderately experienced runner whose goal is to finish strong with a time of 30 minutes for the 5k. The calculator told you to aim for 4 hours per week of running. That’s 240 minutes (4 hours x 60 minutes).
80% of the 240 weekly minutes (or 192 minutes, which we can round to 3 hours and 15 minutes) should be devoted to easy running. 20% of your weekly running time (about 45 minutes) should be devoted to fast running.
- Using your training paces, calculate how many easy and fast miles or kilometers you’ll cover in that allotted weekly time.
Using our training paces calculator, for our 30-minute 5k runner, easy runs should be done at around 12:00 per mile or about 7:00 per kilometer. At a 12-minute mile, our runner will cover about 20 miles of easy running per week (240 minutes total divided by 12 minutes per mile). That equals about 32 kilometers (240 minutes total divided by 7.5 minutes per kilometer).
Similarly, if our 30-minute 5k runner runs about 9:00/ mile, or 5:30/ kilometer for her fast pace, she’ll cover about 5 miles of fast running per week (45 minutes divided by 9 minutes per mile). That equals about 8 kilometers (45 minutes divided by 5.5 minutes per kilometer).
- Add the easy and fast running miles for your anticipated weekly mileage.
In this case, our runner can expect to run 25 miles per week (20 miles easy plus 5 miles fast) or 40 kilometers per week (32 kilometers easy plus 8 kilometers fast).
Examples of Weekly Mileage for Different Runners
Using the steps outlined above, here are a couple charts that show anticipated weekly mileage for various runners of different speeds, with different goals for weekly miles:
Remember, these calculations represent the most weekly mileage that you’ll likely run in your build up to a 5k, and are mere suggestions that should be altered based on your personal circumstances. And as always, start slow, and build your mileage gradually.
Below are example 5k training plans modified from our app. Although we provide personalized plans in our app that are made just for your body and your goals, the example below show how we suggest structuring your weekly mileage:
For beginners, see this sample plan. For intermediate athletes, see this sample plan. For advanced athletes, see this sample plan.
When it comes to weekly mileage, every runner is different. While we can provide general guidelines for how many hours per week to run to prepare for a 5k, the actual mileage may depend on several factors, including your background, goals, injury history, and speed.
In this article, we’ve addressed:
- How frequently to expect to run when training for a 5k
- The importance of starting with low mileage and building your running volume gradually
- The factors that influence how many miles you should run per week
- Tips for calculating expected weekly mileage
While many runners track their weekly mileage, the best approach is to listen to your body and only do as much as you know your body can handle. Building your mileage gradually and cautiously makes you much more likely to avoid injury and enjoy training for your 5k.