5K Training Plan

Are you new to running, or perhaps returning to running after a break from fitness training? Beginner or not, completing a 5K race is a great way to get into running. There are hundreds of 5K events happening all over the UK, which is great news for fundraisers and fitness enthusiasts alike!

Whatever your reason for running a 5K, your best chance of preparing for race day is by following a training plan. Although a 5K is a relatively short distance at 3.1 miles, it is still important to train beforehand, not only to help you improve your running time and fitness levels but also to avoid injuries before you cross the finish line. 

How long does it take to train for a 5K?

In honesty, this will vary from person to person. You’ll need to consider a few factors such as your current fitness level, your goals (whether you’re aiming to beat a certain time or just cross the finish line) and of course, how much time you actually have before race day to train.

Whether you are a beginner or an experienced runner, there are a number of training schedules you can follow to help you build up to your race. The number of weeks covered in a training plan will usually determine how much you can expect your fitness level and running time to improve before your event. For example, if you only have a couple of weeks to train you probably won’t have enough time to transform into the next Usain Bolt!  

A training plan can help to keep your training fun and engaging, as well as increasing your fitness level. Below, we explain some of the different 5K training programme lengths and what you can expect to achieve by following one.

5k Training Plan Beginner – 8 weeks

If you have 8 weeks to spare before you lace up your running shoes on race day, you’ll have a good amount of time to train, especially if you follow a structured plan! An 8 week plan is designed to build you up from slower run walk workouts to comfortably completing a 5K course, even If you are just starting out with fitness and currently don’t run at all.

week by week workouts for 5k training plan beginner
Download our Ultimate 5k Guide at the bottom of this page for the full template

If you are a more experienced runner, you might find the pace and increase in intensity over an 8 week period to be a little slow. Adjust the training plan to be more challenging by varying your pace or adding in intervals where you run at a fast sprint for a few minutes at a time. Doing hill sprints will also have the effect of strength training and make for a more challenging workout.

Pacing chart for a beginner runner

You can use the pace chart below to find out how long you should take to run each km to achieve your desired finish time. For example, if you want to finish the 5k in 40 mins, you should have been running for 24mins at the 3km point. That would mean you are running 8mins per km and are on track to finish the 5k in 40mins.

DistanceFinish in 45 minsFinish in 40 minsFinish in 35 mins
1km9 mins8 mins7 mins
2km18 mins16 mins14 mins
3km27 mins24 mins21 mins
4km36 mins32 mins28 mins
5km45 mins40 mins35 mins

5k Training Plan Intermediate – 6 weeks

If you have 6 weeks to go before your 5K, you have a good amount of time to build up your fitness before you take on that 3.1 mile run. As with most training programmes, a 6 week programme will start out with easier runs, with intervals of running and walking, and build the length of running time and distance over the 6 week course. By the end of the training programme, you should be able to run comfortably for 30 minutes.

5k training plan intermediate with week by week routine
Download our Ultimate 5k Guide at the bottom of this page for the full template

Once you have crossed the finish line of your first 5K you may then want to work on your speed, and maybe even aim to complete the whole 5K run in less than 30 minutes. If you are an intermediate runner, already running several times a week, following a 6 week plan should help you to focus your training, if you feel that you need more of a challenge you could incorporate more uphill runs into the plan.

Pacing chart for an intermediate runner

You can use the pace chart below to find out how long you should take to run each km to achieve your desired finish time. For example, if you want to finish the 5k in 30 mins, you should have been running for 18mins at the 3km point. That would mean you are running 6mins per km and are on track to finish the 5k in 30mins.

DistanceFinish in 35 minsFinish in 30 minsFinish in 25 mins
1km7 mins6 mins5 mins
2km14 mins12 mins10 mins
3km21 mins18 mins15 mins
4km28 mins24 mins20 mins
5km35 mins30 mins25 mins

5k Training Plan Advanced

Being a fairly short amount of time, a 4 week training plan will assume that you can already run for around 5 minutes or more comfortably. The training plan will start you out with 3 training sessions a week of around half an hour, which will consist of a combination of running and walking. The following weeks will focus on incorporating more time focused on running and fewer minutes of walking in between.

a week by week guide for 5k training plan advanced
Download our Ultimate 5k Guide at the bottom of this page for the full template

Pacing chart for an advanced runner

You can use the pace chart below to find out how long you should take to run each km to achieve your desired finish time. For example, if you want to finish the 5k in 20 mins, you should have been running for 12mins at the 3km point. That would mean you are running 4mins per km and are on track to finish the 5k in 20mins.

DistanceFinish in 25 minsFinish in 20 minsFinish in 15 mins
1km5 mins4 mins3 mins
2km10 mins8 mins6 mins
3km15 mins12 mins9 mins
4km20 mins16 mins12 mins
5km25 mins20 mins15 mins

Training for a 5K in 10 weeks

10 weeks is ample time to get yourself up to speed with running a 5K! For a total beginner you have enough time to build up from walking and jogging for short periods of time, to being able to run over 3 miles without stopping. For more experienced runners hoping to achieve a new 5K personal best, 10 weeks will give you plenty of time to work on your pace and shave off those all important seconds.

The initial weeks will focus on building up your running distance with shorter, easier runs with periods of walking, and then build up the distance you cover each week. Towards the end of the 10 week programme you should be able to complete steady runs for at least 30 minutes. You may also be looking at increasing your speed and challenging yourself to lower your average running time by the end of the programme.

Round up

Generally, the earlier you can start training the better – especially if this is your first 5K race. Before you begin any new training plan it is best to seek advice from a qualified medical professional. Once race day comes around, make sure to pace yourself throughout the course and drink plenty of water.

Download our Ultimate 5k Run Guide

We believe that exercise should be for everyone, which is why we’ve put together this handy guide. So, whether you’re running your first 5K or your 50th, you can pick out the best tips and tools to make reaching your next goal that little bit easier.

The ultimate guide covers all of the most asked about 5k run topics to ensure you will be fully prepared for your training;

  • How long is a 5k Run
  • What is the average 5k time?
  • Improving your 5k time
  • How many calories are burnt running a 5k?
  • Top 5k running tips
  • What to eat before a 5k
  • Running Tips
  • Essential running gear
  • Choosing suitable running shoes
  • How to recover from a run
  • Can listening to music make you run faster?
  • Training plans for beginner, intermediate and advanced
  • Running terminology

This e-book is delivered in PDF format to your email inbox.

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