Expectations for Your First 5K

Predicting Your Race Time
Most runners race about 30 seconds per mile faster than they train. This means that if you train at a 10-minute mile, you should be able to finish a 5K in as little as 28:54.

If you've never really been a runner or if it's been decades since your last race, it's important to know exactly what to expect. You might ask: Am I in good enough shape to run a 5K? How hard will I have to train? How fast should I finish the race? The good news is that, since running is an individual sport, the answers to questions like these are really up to you.

Before you can set training and performance goals, make sure you're healthy enough to run a 5K. It's a good idea to consult your doctor before drastically changing your exercise habits, especially if you've ever suffered from conditions like dizziness, shortness of breath, chest pain or pressure, blood clots, joint swelling or hernias. Once you've been given the "all clear," you need to achieve a base level of fitness before beginning a 5K training program. Many of these programs require that you be able to run for 10 minutes. So if you're particularly out of shape, spend a little time exercising before beginning your training in earnest. Most 5K training schedules span five to seven weeks, and involve days with varying amounts of walking, running and rest. If you're able to complete one of these training programs as designed, you'll have no problem finishing your upcoming 5K.

What about the 5K race itself? Though many people worry about running the whole way or finishing at a certain time, experts suggest you shy away from setting such goals for your first race. Simply finishing can be a rewarding outcome for many runners, not to mention the weight loss and healthy body image that results from weeks of training. If nothing else, try to have fun. Then you'll be more likely to race again and maintain a healthy habit in the process.

Ready to get started? Continue to the next page to learn more about training methods.