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How Long Is a 5k in Miles? 5k Training Guide

Get ready for your first 5k with our running coach.

If you have friends who are advanced runners, you’ve probably heard them talk about running a 5k race, and maybe you’ve wanted to try one yourself.

But, for those that aren’t experienced runners, a common question is: how long is a 5k in miles anyway? 

A 5k is 3.1 miles. 

With some dedication and a bit of training, you can definitely crush that!

Now that we’ve covered how far a 5k is in miles, let’s look at running tips for beginner runners who want to run a 5k race.

How Long Is a 5k in Miles

Why Run a 5k?

So you’ve decided to take the plunge and run a 5k. This is where it all begins. First the 5k, then the 10k, the half marathon, marathon, and some of us just don’t stop until we hit the ultras! But that’s another article altogether. 

For now, the 5k is the big first step on this incredible journey as you enter the big wide world of running.

How many miles in 5k again? 3.1 miles

I’m guessing that if you’re reading this, you don’t need much convincing and have probably already decided that your next big goal is to train and complete a 5k run. But let’s take a quick peek at some of the fantastic health benefits of running in general! 

Training for a 5k can:

  • Jumpstart a healthier lifestyle and get you into an organized fitness routine. 
  • Improve your cardiovascular fitness and muscular strength. 
  • Strengthen your bones and joints. All that launching and landing will toughen you up!
  • Improve your sleep patterns. After all of that training, you’ll need your 8 hours a night, I promise! 
  • Maintain a healthier weight. This will happen naturally when you begin running, and along with a nutritious diet, you’ll be sure to see results.
  • Improve mental health.1Markotić, V., Pokrajčić, V., Babić, M., Radančević, D., Grle, M., Miljko, M., Kosović, V., Jurić, I., & Karlović Vidaković, M. (2020). The Positive Effects of Running on Mental Health. Psychiatria Danubina32(Suppl 2), 233–235. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32970641/
  • Running can help melt your stress away and give you some me-time.
  • Lower your blood pressure, resting heart rate, cholesterol, and sugar levels. Why not lower our chances of diabetes and heart disease?2Lee, D., Pate, R. R., Lavie, C. J., Sui, X., Church, T. S., & Blair, S. N. (2014). Leisure-Time Running Reduces All-Cause and Cardiovascular Mortality Risk. Journal of the American College of Cardiology64(5), 472–481. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jacc.2014.04.058
How Long Is a 5k in Miles

Did I mention that it’s fun too? And that runners are bad-ass and can do anything they put their mind to?

The 5k race distance is perfect for beginner runners who want to join the running community (an amazing group of people of all fitness levels!) and run their first race.

By following a training schedule, you will be able to get to the starting line on race day confident that you will get to cross that finish line of a road race for the first time ever!

What Gear Do I Need to Train for My First 5k?

Not much, to be honest. That’s the beauty of running. You don’t need much fancy equipment, and you can train by just stepping out your front door. 

Here’s the list: 

  • Running shoes that fit. See our fitting guide here
  • Comfortable running clothes.
  • A 5k training plan. How far is a 5k in miles again? 3.1 miles!

How Do I Train for My First 5k Race?

With so many options and so much information, it can be overwhelming for new runners, but I’m here to lead you in the right direction and get you going!

First things first. 

Choose a couch to 5k running plan that’s right for you.

It could be a 4-week plan if you are active with other forms of cardio cross-training workouts or aren’t worried about your race pace or finish time. If you run/walk through the 5k race with a slower running pace, this short plan might work.

However, as an ultramarathon running coach, I will say that a 4-week plan is rushed for someone who is not practicing a sport that includes running or high-impact cardio. I prefer to train my athletes gradually with a slightly longer training plan to reduce the risk of injury and build up their aerobic fitness level. 

The next step up is an 8-9 week training Couch to 5k plan, which leaves time to build up mileage gradually, and maybe allow you to run faster (a faster mile pace or mile time without having to walk as much!).

My personal favorite Couch to 5k plan for non-runners is a 12-week plan. For those who have never run before and lead a sedentary lifestyle, taking it slow couldn’t be more important. You’ll have more rest days and a more gradual progression.

Complete beginners need to focus not only on running but also on everything else that comes with it.

Getting your physical fitness in check is just one piece of the puzzle. Let’s check out some of the other things you’ll need to keep in mind.

Related: What’s A Good 5k Time? Average Times To Run A 5k By Age + Sex

How Long Is a 5k in Miles
  • Running form: From foot placement to avoiding oscillation, there is a boatload of details that need to be learned and then practiced throughout the entire training cycle. There are endless things to focus on such as your arm movement, posture, and leaning just to name a few.
  • Running Cadence: Not only do you need to work on your posture and form, but also on how many steps you take per minute

The ideal number varies, but a good average is around 180 steps per minute. This is not an easy thing to master. Even Olympic and elite runners vying for world records have trouble reaching this number of steps per minute. 

Don’t worry about how fast you are running though.

  • Nutrition and Hydration: Pre-run snacks are not easy for everyone to get used to. Some of us can’t imagine eating or drinking something before going out to train, but this part of running you will need to learn. Later on, you will need to master eating and drinking while running! 
How Long Is a 5k in Miles

What Is the Couch to 5k Training Method?

Before you get worried, you won’t have to run a ton right off the bat!

When I work with my Couch to 5k groups for beginners, I always use a run/walk training method.

It is literally interval training switching it up between a walk and a light jog, gradually increasing jogging time and decreasing walking time. 

How Long Is a 5k in Miles

At the start of the C25k program, some new runners often feel as though the plan is too easy. If this happens to you, be patient and wait a few weeks.

Believe me, those running intervals change pretty quickly, and before you know if you’ll be wishing, you were back on week two all over again!

Little by little, you will work your way up to the 5k, or 3.1-mile distance and be race-ready! 

4 Pro Tips For Running Your First 5k

#1: Choose a 5k Goal Race

Choose your goal race right away.

Don’t just decide which one you will run, but sign up and pay for it right away. That way, you’ll be much less likely to back out. Once you receive your confirmation email, it’s set in stone as far as I see it.

And if you’re searching for that 5k race but all races seem to be in miles, remember how many miles in 5k!

5k in miles is 3.1 miles!

#2: Run With a Friend

If you want this to be a personal goal, so be it, but wouldn’t it be so much more fun with a friend at your side?

Get someone else to take this 5k journey along with you; the motivation will be priceless.

How Long Is a 5k in Miles

If no one is up for the challenge, join a couch to 5k running group and meet a whole bunch of new people who are on the same track as you are.

#3: Compliment Your Running With Strength Training

Remember when I said running wasn’t only running?

Weight training is another essential piece to add to the list.

While training for a 5k, especially as a beginner, strengthening muscles to protect your joints and the new impact on your body couldn’t be more critical. 

I always include a 2-day strength training program with my Couch to 5k training plans to do just that for my athletes. You don’t even need any gym equipment. Everything is bodyweight-based to make it easy and accessible for everyone. 

Once you continue running, you may think about picking up some dumbbells and a TRX down the line, but for now, bodyweight exercises are all you need. 

This program includes squats, lunges, glute bridges, and planks.

#4: Warm-Up and Cool Down

Don’t skip the before and after training session activities either.

Do a dynamic warm-up before beginning your training sessions and cool down with some static stretching. You can check out some great examples in our articles on both of those topics.

How Long Is a 5k in Miles

Have I convinced you to do it yet? I hope I have. Crossing that first finish line is an unforgettable experience. And it sure doesn’t end there. You’ll see what I mean when you get there. 

Take a peek at this next article on even more tips for your Couch to 5k training plan! 

Have fun!

References

  • 1
    Markotić, V., Pokrajčić, V., Babić, M., Radančević, D., Grle, M., Miljko, M., Kosović, V., Jurić, I., & Karlović Vidaković, M. (2020). The Positive Effects of Running on Mental Health. Psychiatria Danubina32(Suppl 2), 233–235. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32970641/
  • 2
    Lee, D., Pate, R. R., Lavie, C. J., Sui, X., Church, T. S., & Blair, S. N. (2014). Leisure-Time Running Reduces All-Cause and Cardiovascular Mortality Risk. Journal of the American College of Cardiology64(5), 472–481. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jacc.2014.04.058
Photo of author
Katelyn is an experienced ultra-marathoner and outdoor enthusiast with a passion for the trails. In the running community, she is known for her ear-to-ear smile, even under the toughest racing conditions. She is a UESCA-certified running coach and loves sharing her knowledge and experience to help people reach their goals and become the best runners they can be. Her biggest passion is to motivate others to hit the trails or road alongside her, have a blast, and run for fun!

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