In the 5K, seconds matter. The difference of 10 seconds per mile (or approximately 6 seconds per kilometer) makes a significant difference in your finish time – and placement in the race. If you are aiming for a 5K goal time, you need to know the exact paces to hit for your splits. If you are racing by feel, it still helps to know your 5K pace. The 5K pace chart at the bottom of this article gives you the corresponding paces for 5K finish times from 14 to 40 minutes.
Knowing your 5K pace is helpful for training. Generally, you can add 2-3 minutes per mile to your 5K pace to estimate your easy pace range. Your 5K pace provides guidance for how to pace future speed workouts.
How to Set a Goal 5K Pace
You can always enter a 5K race without a goal time and race based on perceived effort. If you want to set a goal time, it’s important to assess your actual fitness during training leading up to the race. You can use various methods (individually or combined) to set a goal 5K pace.
Run a Mile Time Trial
A mile time trial can be easily performed during a training block. If completed 3-5 weeks prior to your 5K race, a mile time trial can help assess your speed. The recovery is quick from a mile time trial, so you can program it as you would any speed workout. After a 15-20 minute warm-up, you run one mile as fast as you can – ideally on a flat and uninterrupted route (such as a track).
You can take your time and plug it into the VDOT calculator to estimate your 5K race pace. Or, you can add approximately 35-40 seconds per mile to get your 5K race pace.
Include 5K-Specific Workouts in Your Training
As with any race, you want to avoid specific workouts too far from your goal race. The rationale is two-fold. First, if you only did 5K-pace workouts, you would neglect important aspects of training that influence 5K performance. These aspects include velocity at VO2max (vVO2max), running economy, and lactate threshold. Second, you want to use these workouts for when you are fittest – which is closest to your race. That way, you can use the 5K workouts to both sharpen for the race and assess a realistic race pace. Take the pace from these workouts and use the 5K pace chart below to determine finish time.
Use a Recent Long-Distance Race
If you have raced anything longer than a 5K within the past 3-4 months, you can use a race equivalency calculator to predict an approximate 5K race time. Popular race equivalency calculators include the VDOT calculator and the Tinman Endurance Running Calculator. These calculators are approximate. Based on your recent training and muscle fiber typology, you may excel more at shorter or longer distances. So, your actual 5K race time may be faster or slower than predicted.
How to Use a 5K Pace Chart
This 5K pace chart features three columns. The first column is 5K finish time, in 30-second increments. The second and third columns are the pace required to finish in that time, in min/mile and min/km, respectively. If your 5K finish time is between two increments (for example, between 20:00 and 20:30), your pace will be within the range for those two finish times (for example, between 6:26/mile and 6:36/mile.)
|5K Finish Time||Pace (Min/mile)||Pace (km/mile)|
For more on 5K training and racing: