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What’s a good time for your first 5K?

You're getting ready for your first race. Here are some things to consider


If you’re one of the many new runners taking on their first 5K race this spring, chances are you’ve wondered how your finishing time will stack up against your competitors. Even if your goal is to make it to the finish line feeling happy and fulfilled (this in itself is great goal!), it’s natural to wonder, “what’s a good 5K time?”

group of racers

The world records for the 5K distance are held by Kenya’s Beatrice Chebet (14:13) and Ethiopia’s Berihu Aregawi (12:49).

New runners may find it more useful to reframe this question to reflect their own individual potential. As everyone’s training, physical attributes and fitness backgrounds are different, there isn’t a certain time that dictates a successful first 5K attempt.

The best 5K time for you is whatever time it takes you to get to the finish line feeling like you worked hard, had fun and didn’t injure yourself. There are so many variables affecting race times; the nature of the course, the terrain and weather are just a few examples. Factor in lifestyle stressors (let’s face it, as recreational athletes, life gets in the way of the perfect taper or race build-up), and you can’t always predict how you’ll feel on race day.

Runners should have a good idea of the pace they can hold comfortably for 5K leading into the race and aim to work off that number on race day. Negative splitting is a good strategy to ensure you finish strong, but listening to how your body feels is arguably more important.

Finally, it’s important to recognize that signing up for a first race is a worthy milestone in your running life, but it’s not everything. Celebrating little wins in training, learning about yourself through the experience and feeling a sense of accomplishment may be more important to you than your finishing time–and that’s OK!


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