How long until you can run a 5k?

By | January 13, 2016

How long will it take ME to be able to run a 5k?

Most sites will tell you that there is no real answer for this question.  Other sites will tell you it depends on a bunch of different variables and each person is unique.  These sites are correct but you did not search for the answer to this question only to have some ambiguous article tell you nothing in the end!

running your first 5k

The key to running your first 5k is to get started!


We can’t give you a perfect answer but nothing is wrong with giving an educated ballpark estimate.  By the end of this article we are going to give you the approximate time it will take for you to complete a 5k run in about 25-40 minutes.  To do this we will be dividing people into 3 groups.

  • Active – Exercise a few times a week but not much cardio practice.
  • Moderate  – Exercise a few times a week.
  • Couch potato or extreme beginner- Rarely exercise and have no interest but someone tricked you into signing up for a stupid 5km race and you don’t want to look like a fool.

To help give the most accurate result, we are not taking age into account and assuming that everyone is neither underweight nor obese.  Remember that it takes an overweight person more energy to travel 5km than it does an average person.  Also your peak physical age should be in between 18-23.  After this point you start to decline, which does not mean you cannot do a 5 kilometer race at all but just means you most likely will not be in the top 1% without putting in a lot more work than an 18 year old.

The Beginner

Running 5 kilometers can seem quite daunting to any beginner and add in the stigma of an upcoming race and the potential to embarass yourself in front of hundreds or even thousands of people does not help.  But fear not good people, it is very doable.  Within about 2 weeks you can push yourself to finish a 5k run but that is the bare minimum.  The real time to do a 5k in between 25-40 minutes will take you about 6-8 weeks.

To give you all some hope, my first 5k race clocked in at 34 minutes about 5 weeks after I started running AND did I mention the day I started running was also my smoking quit date?  I was a couch potato, beginner, not overweight (about 195 standing 6 foot 1) but smoked about a pack a day for almost a decade!  My first day running after quitting smoking led me to throw up after about 1 kilometer!

I was in the top 10% of unhealthy people in my age group and just kept at it 5 times a week for 5 weeks and voila!  I completed a the race in a respectable time and didn’t embarrass myself.

To run your first 5k race you need to get out there everyday

Even if you really don’t want to run, the weather is bad or whatever just get out there for at least 5 minutes. If you cant continue after 5 minute turn back and call it a day but at least you know you tried.

It’s been about a year since my first race and my times, stamina and comfortably with 5k and 10k races have greatly improved and I am still smoke free but the main thing which got me from 0-5k in 5 weeks was practice.  I know its obvious but you really need to just get out there and start.

There were a few things that really helped me.  First, when I was throwing up and embarrassing myself after just 1 kilometer of running I decided to either go running very early in the morning or very late at night so I don’t have everyone looking at me.  Second, I never set a course but rather chose a new route every time.  This helped me focus on the road, obsticals and other stuff rather than the excruciating fatigue I was experiencing and third was to download running apps!

At first I started downloading apps to procrastinate my evening run, but these apps quickly became an integral part of my routine.  I chose Runkeeper at first on my Android phone.  It’s free firstly and it tracks your run with a map, distance, average time, time per km and pretty much every other metric you could want.  Remember that you don’t need internet to use these apps on your run.  Just turn them on and they are powered by g.p.s.

I also downloaded Nike Running which is a great app, but they have a few deals in place with apple so at the moment being at least, certain features will not work on Android phones.  Regardless I still to this day use both of them in conjunction with one another on every run, hike or even extended walk.

Choose a workout plan on one of these apps.  They have running plans which help you get to your goal quickly and they are free so if you have a smartphone, make use of these apps!  When you see yourself progressing even a little bit you will be motivated to keep going and getting better.  Remember that you start slow but the more you run, the quicker you progress in a short period of time.

Bottom line here – For a beginner with no experience it should take you 4-5 weeks to reach a respectable 25-40 minute 5k race time.  Practice 5 days a week for about 30 minutes a day to start and progress from there.



This is the person who exercise a few times a week, is not out of shape nor spectacularly in shape.  Running is new to you but you have gym experience so you will be able to “play through the pain” of the first week or two of your training.

The same with a beginner, I recommend downloading Runkeeper or Nike Running.  They are both free and will help you see your progress and know where you stand.  They will also create free training programs and give you the structure you need to get started.

A really important feature will be post run chart which will show your average speed during your entire run.  This will help you to “level out” your speed.  When I first started running I used to burn all my energy in the first kilometer and would barely be able to continue after the second kilometer.  When I saw these charts I realized where all my energy was being used and adjusted to a more balanced method after.

Since you are a moderately healthy person with a foundation of exercise, completing a 5 km run at a respectable time of 25-40 minutes will be a breeze!  You will just need to work hard through the initial 2 week hump so get out there 5 days a week, run as much as you can or as your program dictates and that alone will be enough to give you the endurance needed to complete a 5k run.

Anything else over that 2 week mark will be to improve your time.

5k at first is hard but keep on going

5k can be hard at first but after the initial hump it becomes a habit that you love.

Bottom line here – For a moderately healthy person with gym experience it should take about 3-4 weeks to be able to complete a 5km race in 25-40 minutes. Practice 5 days a week for about 30 minutes a day to start and progress from there.


An Active Lifestyle


This is the person who is at the gym all the time.  Constantly pumping iron, doing push-ups and getting those big muscles.  The beach is that away, so lets run to it!

This person will most likely have the easiest time reaching 5k simply because of the fact that they are healthier.  The chances are they eat healthy, are a proper weight, all their body systems function at baseline or above because of the constant gym routine.

As always, we recommend downloading some running apps to help you train, get data and progress but a person this familiar with the gym will also be able to create his or her own training plan easily and stick to it.  Depending on how fit you are from all that exercise it is safe to say that you will have no problem running a 5k race with just a little bit of training compared to the other groups.

Bottom line here – For the active lifestyle athlete all you will need to do is condition your body for this new excersise.  This will feel similar to excersising with a new machine at the gym for the first time.  Give it 2 weeks of hard work and training 45 minutes a day and you will be able to finish a 5k in under 35 minutes.  Every additional week you spend will start to decrease your average time per kilometer drastically so get out there and get going!



Have your own tips, stories or questions?  Let us know in the comments below! 


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