Want to improve your 5k time? Or see how your pace compares to the wider population?
A 5K time is one of the benchmarks for many runners. Knowing the average finish time can help you judge where you are on your running journey.
So what is a good time for a 5K?
If we take some very broad baseline fitness levels, a “good 5K time” for an intermediate male runner (30 years old) is 22:31. An average good time for a woman of the same age is around 26:07. However, this time depends heavily on other factors like age, health status, genetics, environment, fitness level, running experience, and nutrition.
Although there are many factors to consider whether you are running a good 5k time, running is also a very personal sport, making comparing difficult. The goal should ultimately be only to use time as a guideline and improve as much as possible on your timings.
After all, not many of us have the underlying pace to set a world record!
- What Is A Good Time For A 5K?
- What Other Factors Influence Good 5K Times?
- How Can You Get A Good 5K Time?
- Our Verdict on Good 5K Times
What Is A Good Time For A 5K?
The 5K is a great distance to run as it is challenging whilst still fitting in to the slim hourly workout block that most of us have in our busy lives.
An average 5k time is usually between 30 and 40 minutes, but there is quite some variation involved. Various factors play a role in a 5k run time. These include gender, age, fitness level, and running experience.
If you were to take an average running club time, it would be a lot faster – certainly under 25 minutes.
Because a running club consists of runners who are objectively more dedicated to running than the average Joe in the street. This skews the numbers considerably.
The reality is that a “good time” is relative to your expectations and training.
Average 5k Run Time Influenced By Age
Age is probably one of the most obvious ways your run times and pace can differ, and that’s why age grading is an important factor if you are comparing times. What may be surprising is that sometimes older runners have better 5k times than younger runners. For instance, in the age category 0 to 15, the average for a 5k is 34:43.
That’s probably not such a surprise if we are including kids!
The time drops quite significantly to about 29 minutes in the age group 16 to 24 years. It increases gradually with a few minutes as age increases, going to 37:33 for ages 55 to 59 years.
It is important to note these running times are men’s averages.
In general, younger athletes tend to have quicker average 5K times. Running pace seems to gradually decrease with increasing age, with older experienced individuals still running in their 70s. However, a more senior, more experienced runner can definitely outpace them – although they will tend to fare better over longer distances that don’t involve as much speed as the 5K (like a half marathon).
You can use an age graded calculator to compare relative average 5k race times across different age groups.
At a recreational level, dedication and training will trump both age and gender in a foot race.
5K Run Time Influenced By Gender
The following chart of national average statistics shows some 5k times per gender with various age groups (taken from a wide range of skill levels).
Average 5K Times By Gender
|Age of Runner||Male Average 5K Times||Female Average 5K Times|
You can see that the times for women are slower than for men in all age groups. The difference between men and women in running times is believed to be due to physical differences, like heart size, hormone levels, blood volume, muscle mass and muscle fiber type.
Experts suggest the main reason for the difference in performance between men and women is circulating testosterone levels. This positively affects muscle strength, mass, and blood volume levels required for a quicker run and faster pace.
Research indicates that women tend to close the gap during longer races like ultramarathons where the pace is slower. However, it is interesting that the time does not increase as drastically for women as it does for men from ages 25-29 to 35-39.
Your Overall Fitness And Ability Influences A Good 5K Time
Running ability can be divided into beginner, novice, intermediate, advanced, and elite. There is great variety in 5k running times between these different fitness levels. For example, a 30 year old man as a beginner may run an average 5K time of 31:29, but the same-age man at the intermediate level may run an average 5K time of 22:31.
Advanced runners may not be happy unless they’ve broken the magic sub-20 5K time.
It all depends.
In our experience, beginners and intermediate runners have radically different perceptions of what is a good race time. But the truth is you can only focus on running the best race that your training and natural fitness permits.
Run More To Run Faster 5Ks
Running ability increases over time and experience. You can’t expect to be setting course records if you’ve only just graduated from the Couch to 5K!
A beginner runs faster than 5% of runners and has probably been running for about a month. An intermediate runner is about 50% faster than others and has running experience of at least two years.
A very advanced athlete can do a 5k in less than 20 minutes. That’s considered an excellent time and the barrier to entry to “club level pace” – but it’s not a good comparison for the average runner. Even more extreme, professional athletes that compete for world records have run a 5k in 12:35 (male) and 14:06 (female).
Trust us, Joshua Cheptegei isn’t Googling from the finish line: “Is my 12:35 a good 5K time?”
He’s got the medals and world record to sleep confidently at night!
A runner’s training plan of choice can play a significant role in their 5k run time. An intensive schedule will only help build strength and stamina, resulting in quicker times. If you are someone who only runs for fun and doesn’t take it too seriously, then you can expect an average or slower 5k.
A good leading indicator of ‘race pace’ is your VO2 Max. The higher the score, the faster you will run a 5K (with a few exceptions).
If you want to run faster, spend your training days improving your VO2 Max and you will rapidly build speed leading to a faster average 5K time.
What Other Factors Influence Good 5K Times?
If you are the type of athlete who is constantly comparing Strava times with other runners in a cat-and-mouse game of “Who can run it faster?” — take note: not every 5K time should be classed the same.
There are several factors that make it hard to judge whether a 5K time is truly good, average or bad. We can’t just go by pace.
A runner’s environment can have a big effect on their run times. Living in, and especially training in, high altitudes can affect a runner’s performance. Therefore, it is important to consider your living setting when making a 5k run goal time.
Choosing a flat race course and nice weather conditions is the way to go for most runners looking to post a personal best. Your average speed will be affected by the terrain, so you can improve your time in a 5K race by picking a course that avoids steep inclines, hills, grass, or other natural impediments to speed and pace.
Try to avoid going for a personal best on a windy day, too! Unless it’s a tail-wind all the way down to the finish line… 😉
Genetic Disposition To Fast Running Times
As much as we hate to say it, genetics can also play a role in 5km times. Some people are predisposed to be able to run at a higher performance level.
This is due to the fact that some people have genes that enable them to have more endurance, or a greater resistance to fatigue.
While it may seem like genetics are an unfair advantage in running, there are also several factors that can negate their effects. For example, training and conditioning can help runners optimize their performance by improving their breathing techniques, running economy, and pacing strategies.
Injuries, Fatigue and Health Issues
Even if you take gender, age grading and overall fitness in to account, there’s no getting around the fact that injuries will slow you down.
Underlying health conditions can also affect your average 5K time, and the targets that you should be setting.
One of the cardinal sins as a runner, particular as an older runner, is to try to maintain pace with previous ‘best efforts’ when you are suffering from injuries, soreness or fatigue.
In these scenarios, a good 5K time doesn’t have to be as fast as the one you ran last year. It’s what your body can manage without breaking down.
How Can You Get A Good 5K Time?
There’s a simple answer to this: by adopting a suitable training plan.
If your training program consists of only running, you may want to consider doing different kinds of workouts and cross training in between runs. Other exercises can include strength training, interval training, HIIT workouts, and dividing your runs into speed and endurance sessions.
Consider some low impact exercises or elliptical training on your rest days. These are a cheat code for upping your pace when you get to race day, but they are too often ignored by new runners.
Experienced runners know that cross training is a secret weapon for running faster, whether you’re tackling a 5K, 10K or half marathon.
5K Training Program for Advanced Runners
If you are an intermediate or advanced runner and want to improve your 5K time, there are a few key things that you should focus on in order to improve pace.
A beginner has the advantage that he merely needs to commit to running to see improvements. For the rest of us, continued improvements requires a commitment of time and planning.
First, you need to make sure that you are getting adequate sleep between workouts and recovery time in between runs. This is important so that your muscles can repair themselves after each workout and reduce your risk of injury. It’s important to be fresh at the starting line.
Second, it is crucial to have a well-rounded training program that includes strength training, interval training, HIIT workouts, as well as speed and endurance running sessions during the week. These different types of workouts can help build strength, speed, pace and endurance for 5K races.
Any running coach worth his salt will tell you that diet is just as important as exercise for experienced athletes looking to find marginal gains. If you don’t believe this, just try a few weeks of healthy eating before your next 5K race!
Gaining the right kind of nutrition before and after your runs can make all the difference in your performance and recovery time.
Optimise Your Running Gear (Advanced Runners Only)
Another factor that affects average 5K times is gear, specifically shoes. A good pair of running shoes can really help improve running economy by being light and specifically designed for running fast.
Investing in expensive gear is not going to make you an elite runner from the first race. But for more experienced runners, we have to look at every possible avenue where we can extract some extra seconds off that personal best. Footwear is certainly one of them!
Other runners will micro-manage their race day gear right down to the choice of shorts and phone holder!
Funny how such a physical sport can turn so mental…
Simple Steps To Improve Your Finish Time
Overall, having a healthy diet, staying hydrated, resting enough, and allowing for recovery will also enable your 5K time to improve. Endurance and strength take time to build up, so patience and dedication are key to seeing results.
A complete beginner will see rapid improvements over the course of a few weeks. But as we know, running times are exponentially harder to improve as you work your way through the ranks. The best runners have to sustain rigorously high standards just to maintain their 5K times, let alone improve them!
See our guide: how long does it take to improve a 5K time?
Our Verdict on Good 5K Times
At an intermediate level, a good 5k time for men is around 22 or 23 minutes. For women, it is slightly higher, with an average of 26 minutes.
Several factors like age, gender, fitness, genetics, and nutrition play a role in what a good 5k run time would be for an individual.
Ultimate, a good 5K time is one that is slightly better than your last.
Incremental progress is the goal of any athlete – not staring up at the latest world record. It doesn’t matter where you stand in the sea of average 5K times, only that you’re taking your own times in the right direction.