How to pace a perfect 5k

Brooks Shoe Finder

Great Run is proud to partner with Runna – your personalised running coach app. As the official training partner of the AJ Bell Great Run Series, Runna is supporting our runners with comprehensive, expert-approved training content. No matter your experience or ability level, Runna’s tips and hints can help you unlock your full potential and be your greatest on race day.

A 5k is often the first distance we aim for when getting into running. It is a big distance marker to hit for someone that is new to running. As we get more experienced, a 5k is one of those distances where we like to lay down as fast a time as possible. The 5k starts to feel like a long sprint! It is also a very accessible distance, given we can head to ParkRun every Saturday for a competitive runout. The 5k is short enough to take more of a risky approach and see what happens, but we would still advise a pacing plan to pace a 5k, so you can get the best out of yourself.

Goal Time

First, set yourself a finish time goal. Balance optimism with realism – so, if you’ve previously run a 5k in 25:30, then aiming to hit under 25 minutes is a great goal. The faster your time, the less time you should aim to shave off. For a 24:59 5k, you’ll be aiming to run at least 4:59 per km (Check out the Runna pace calculator here).

For longer distances (+10k), it’s a good idea to aim for a pace range. However, with the 5k, aim for your target pace from the get-go. Why? Because it’s a short race – you simply don’t have as much time to play with.

First 2k

Try to hit your target pace right on the nose. 1-2 seconds quicker? That’s ok but try not to lose any seconds at this stage. Your first 1km may be a bit faster than anticipated as the excitement and adrenaline hit, but try not to go over 3s quicker than your target pace (under 4:55/km might be a bit too punchy at this stage) If you feel like you’re really working, you’re doing fine – that’s exactly how it should be.

From halfway

Let’s speak honestly for a moment here – things are going to bite in the next kilometre or so. But stay calm and mentally focused – after all, that’s exactly what the 5k is designed to do. Remind yourself that you’re getting closer to the finish line with each step, sign deep, and push harder – then harder. Go as fast as you feel it’s possible to go and – with a mere 1km to go – empty the tank. It’s time to give it everything you’ve got and head for the finish line.

A note on conditions and terrain

Of course, if you’re facing tough conditions – rain, wind, extreme heat, and so on – or a trickier terrain – hills or trails – getting a PB will be more difficult. That said, you can adjust your pace around weather or surfaces. And if you’re seriously aiming for an improved time, pick your face accordingly – a fast, flat route on a good day should bring success!

Find out more about pacing a 5k and the Runna app at Already training for an AJ Bell Great Run Series event? You can access your FREE two week Runna trial via the Great Run Rewards page.

Get More Great Tips & Advice

Want more like this? Sign up to get the latest training articles filled with our best tips delivered straight to your inbox.

We’ll treat your information with the utmost care and you can unsubscribe at any time. View our privacy policy here.

Add a Little Greatness
To Your Inbox

We’ll send you useful running information and guidance, special offers, training advice, top tips, and exclusive event updates. You’ll be inspired to take your place on a Great Run start line, and when you do – we’ll support you all the way to the finish.

  • We’ll treat your information with the utmost care and you can unsubscribe at any time. View our privacy policy here.

Thank you for signing up