September 2019 - Good 5k Time

The Question

September's question was from Harvey in Chiswick, and it's one we get quite regularly:

What's a good 5k time?

- Harvey, Chiswick

Simon - running coach
Simon - Middle-distance runner and athletics coach

“So, this question is really difficult to answer, but variants come up so often that we thought we'd have a go.

The reason it's such a tough question is that it really varies. Among other things it'll depend on your age, sex, weight, sporting history and number of years running.

What if I were to tell you that you'd have to run faster than 14 minutes for your time to be considered good? Most world-class elite male athletes wouldn't be happy with anything much slower. For elite women, it'd be a significant chunk (11 seconds) off the world record. For the rest of us it's unfathomably fast.

OK, that's an extreme example. In reality, we tend to get an idea of what we consider a good time. If a 60-year-old man who hasn't run since school goes out and manages a 22-minute 5k after 6 weeks training we'd probably all agree that was good. If he told us he managed 20 minutes after only 6 weeks of training we'd think we had some serious talent on our hands. If he told us he managed that after 5 years of training we would be less impressed, but still understand it's a good time.

Age gradings are one way to get an idea of where you sit. These at least adjust for age and sex, so can help you compare yourself to a wider range of athletes.

You could consider average finish time. RunRepeat analysed 107.9 million race results from events taking place between 1986 and 2018. Their stats include average 5k finish time per nation.

But, what happens to most runners is that they compare their times with their previous times and with other runners of similar ability, forgetting about those who are much slower or faster. If you're a parkrun regular or you frequent local races then you'll get to know other runners and be able to judge whether or not you've run a good race according to how far in front of, or behind, them you finish.

If it's early in your running career then really don't worry too much about times. They will almost inevitably improve, so the best think to focus on is staying injury-free and enjoying the sport.”

Our Member's Answer

September's member's answer was from Samara. Samara has a simple suggestion:

Samara - keeping it simple

“A good 5k time is faster than last week's 5k time.”

We like it! Thanks, Samara.

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