FIrst 5K Race - What Should My Pace Be?

first 5k race

I am 51 years old and in fairly good shape (work out at the gym) but I have not run in years. I am running a 5k in November. What would be a good pace to shoot for as I train and prepare for the race?

Answer by Dominique:
Hi there,
Thanks for your question about your first 5k running race.

As I am reading your question I am not sure whether you want to know which pace to train at, or which pace to run during your 5k.

So, we'll cover both as follows:

1. How to train for a 5k race
2. How to determine your 5k race pace

How to Train for a 5k Race

The right running training will see you use different speeds in different workouts:

first 5k race
Easy running
Also known as conversational pace. This is the pace at which you can run and maintain a conversation. It is a relaxed pace and should not feel like you are putting in a massive amount of effort. It should be the staple of your running program. Also see the page about building your base.

Tempo Running
This is a bit faster. Also known as (lactic acid) threshold pace. It's challenging, but you should be able to maintain the pace for extended periods of times. A tempo workout could be something like 4 x 5 minutes tempo pace with 2 minutes easy / recovery running in between. See the tempo running page.

Interval Running
Again a bit faster. This is well over your lactic acid threshold. It is not a comfortable pace. A starting interval workout would be 30 seconds fast / 30 seconds easy for 10 repetitions or so. Expect your legs to get heavy as well as your breathing! See the interval running page for more information.

How to string it all together?
Start off by establishing a consistent running routine. I would recommend starting off with running three times per week. Three times is a good amount to start seeing results.

First start by building your base. Run at an easy pace and just focus on getting comfortable with running and increasing the distance. You want to build a strong aerobic base.

first 5k race
As you are fit, but new to running, I would do only easy running till about the maybe six weeks from the 5k event.

Then start introducing some faster running, one workout per week. One week tempo running, the other week interval running.

The length of the tempos and the intervals will depend on how far you can run, for now, it is just important to introduce some speed.

That covers off a basic, but pretty good approach to getting you ready for your first 5k.

How to Determine Your 5k Race Pace

As you get ready for the race you will probably start to get a handle on your easy pace, your tempo pace and your interval pace.

With that information in hand, you can get a rough idea about your 5k race pace.

first 5k race
Method 1
Your 5k race pace is generally a bit slower than interval pace. But it is faster than tempo pace. It tends to be closer to interval pace than tempo pace, so that should give you a rough estimate.

Method 2
The second method is a bit more complicated. You go to the Running Pace Calculator and do a bit of reverse engineering.

You see, this calculator provides a view on what your training paces should be, given a race result. But you can use it to go into reverse and type in race times until they are reasonably close to your training paces.

Suppose your numbers are as follows:

Easy pace 10:30 min / mile
Tempo pace 8:45 min / mile
Interval pace 8:00 min / mile (5:00 min / km)

Go to the Running Pace Calculator and type in a 5k race time of 30 minutes. You'll see that that matches an easy pace of 12:00 min / mile. So, that's too slow.

Then maybe try a 5k time of 25 minutes. That gives you an easy pace of 10:10 min / mile. So, that's a bit too ambitious.

With a bit of trial and error you will find that a 5k time of 26 minutes, matches your easy, tempo and interval pace pretty well. So, that helps you determine your 5k pace in a more scientific way.

Keep in mind, getting good at running and getting good at racing takes time and practice. So, make sure to not get too hung up on your time goals. For your first 5k it is always a good idea to just go out and try to enjoy the experience. Sure, race it, but don't be too disappointed if you don't make it to your goal. The real joy is in the journey!

Best of luck with the 5k race preparations and the race itself. I hope the training experience is a positive one and you will have an enjoyable race. The first of many!

Kind regards,

5k running tips

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