Certain factors can influence 5K running times, such as age, sex, and level of ability and experience.
A person’s 5K running time is the time that it takes them to run 5 kilometers, which is equivalent to 3.1 miles.
In this article, we look at the average 5K times based on age and sex, as well as the times for beginners and more experienced runners. We also discuss training tips and methods that people can use to help improve their running time.
Experience level, age, natal sex, genetics, and diet are all among the factors that can influence a person’s 5K time.
A person’s environment also seems to play a role, with experts believing that living and training at high altitudes may benefit running performance.
A 2018 study suggests that people’s running pace gradually declines with age, up to the late 70s. It suggests that by the age of 90 years, a person is slightly less than half as fast as they were during their peak performance stage.
According to a 2018 article in Endocrine Reviews, differences between the athletic performance of males and females are largely due to circulating testosterone levels, which affect muscle mass, strength, and hemoglobin levels.
Other factors that affect athletic performance may include:
- genetic potential
- duration and quality of sleep
- daily nutrition and hydration
- injury or health conditions
- level of training
- social life
- working with a coach and the quality of the relationship
The terrain on which people run may also affect their running times. For those who run outdoors, weather conditions can also be a factor to consider.
According to the American Council on Exercise, a beginner may complete their first 5K run in 30 minutes if they follow a training plan lasting 8–10 weeks.
However, anecdotal sources online give slower times for beginners. They suggest that females run, on average, at a pace of 13 minutes per mile with a finish time of about 42 minutes and that males run about 11 minutes per mile with a finish time of close to 35 minutes.
For more experienced runners, running blogs and websites suggest an average 8-minute-per-mile pace, resulting in a finish time of about 26 minutes.
Very advanced runners may be able to complete a 5K in less than 20 minutes.
For professional runners, the 2020 world records for running an outdoor 5K are currently 12 minutes (mins) and 51 seconds (secs) for males and 14 mins 44 secs for females.
It is difficult to define an average time to run a 5K race as so many factors — including age, sex, fitness level, running experience, and running conditions — can affect the race time. However, one source provides average winning 5K times for males and females in different age categories.
The data, which appear below, come from 1,283 5K races that took place in the United States. The analyst reports the times using 10-year age groupings for runners aged 20 years and over.
The below results are the median winning times for small, medium, large, and very large races. As these are median winning times, they are faster than what people would consider average. A person able to run a 5K race in the relevant time below would likely win or finish highly in their age group.
|Age group||Time (minutes and seconds)|
|Age group||Time (minutes and seconds)|
According to the American Council on Exercise, people may be able to improve their running time and reduce their risk of injury by combining different workouts.
They suggest that a person include strength training, endurance runs, speed runs, and high intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts in their training plan. Allowing days for rest and recovery is also important.
The type of running shoes that people use may affect their running times. Minimalist shoes are those that interfere the least with the natural movement and flexibility of the foot.
Other researchers have proposed that listening to music might improve running performance. According to the study, motivational music with a strong, consistent beat that matches a runner’s cadence — the number of steps that they take per minute — may help them run harder and more efficiently.
Some research indicates that drinking coffee may improve running times, although the evidence for this is mixed.
A 2018 study of 13 male trained runners looked at the effects of caffeinated coffee on running performance. An hour after ingesting caffeinated coffee, runners improved their running performance in a 1-mile race by 1.9% compared with runners who took a placebo and 1.3% compared with those who consumed decaffeinated coffee.
However, contrasting research has found that caffeine has no effect on a person’s running time. In a 2018 study, researchers asked 12 amateur male runners to complete an 800-meter time trial run after fasting overnight.
The study found no significant improvement in running performance in those who drank caffeinated coffee compared with those who drank decaffeinated coffee. However, this study had a small sample size.
Scientists need to do more research to investigate the effects of caffeine and coffee consumption on running times.
The American Council on Exercise recommend that beginners train for a 5K run by:
- following a training program that requires them to exercise for at least 30 minutes between three and five times a week
- considering starting with an 8-day walking program before progressing to running
- setting an attainable goal and avoiding pushing themselves beyond their limits
- aiming to enjoy the run above anything else
Some people may find it helpful to use an app such as Couch to 5K, which coaches complete beginners looking to run their first 5K.
Please note: Medical News Today do not imply warranty of fitness for a particular purpose or endorse this application. Medical News Today have not evaluated this app for medical accuracy. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have not approved it unless otherwise indicated.
Various factors can affect the time that it takes people to complete a 5K run. Age, experience, and natal sex can all play a part.
Running shoes, existing health conditions or injuries, and quality of training may also affect running performance.
Following a training plan may help people safely train and complete a 5K.