In Praise Of 5Ks
It's the end of the couch to 5K journey and the start of everything else...
There's a reason we all love to run 5Ks. In fact, there are many reasons but the main one is it's the perfect distance that we can all aspire to, and thanks to parkrun it's freely accessible to all.
Marathons are impressive milestones – ultramarathons are worth even more kudos – but the humble 5000m is where it all begins and is a challenge in its own right if you are pushing for times. runABC coach and writer Alan Newman takes a closer look at the distance...
The world records for 5000m on the track are eye-wateringly fast. Joshua Cheptegei (Uganda, 12:35.36) has held the men's record since August 2020 – that's 4:03 per mile/2:31 per kilometre pace and would equate to running a marathon in 1 hour 46 minutes!
Meanwhile, the women have been busy this year, improving the world record twice. In September, Gudaf Tsegay (Ethiopia, 14:00.21) took five seconds off the mark set by Faith Kipyegon (Kenya, 14:05.20) three months earlier and so nearly became the first woman under 14 minutes. Kipyegon's pace was 4:30 per mile/2:48 per kilometre and that would take her under two hours for the marathon.
The women's world record is now almost 90% of the men's and the gap is closing. Time for the men to pull their socks up and race themselves ahead again. Perhaps a target for the world two miles record holder Jacob Ingebrigsten (7:54.10) next year?
As for us non-elites and the many fitness seekers on the couch to 5K journey with a running group or following the excellent NHS Couch to 5K podcasts the target may well be to complete a local parkrun non-stop. The beauty of that aim is it will set you up for a lifelong parkrun love affair that will result in personal bests (PBs) and an interest in age-grading will soon develop.
Coach Alan explained age-grading in a previous runABC article and it's the only way we can ever truly compare ourselves with world record holders. parkrun has its own specific age grading system, where 100% equates approximately to the world record and 60% is described as 'Local Class Level'. The parkrun world best times are 13:45 by Andrew Butchart (Edinburgh, 2023) and 15:25 by Isobel Batt-Doyle (Adelaide, 2022). Take a look at parkrun's age-grading here. Find your local parkrun here.
Whether it takes you 20 minutes or 50 minutes the 5K is still a testing event. About 93% of the energy needed to run 5K is supplied aerobically but the remaining 7% will still leave you with some oxygen debt to overcome and a strong sense of achievement as you manage those demands.
So whether it's a solo time trial, a brisk workout with friends, a local parkrun, or a race you have discovered via runABC's brilliant race finder tool – give the 5K a go!
Image of York parkrun in January 2023 courtesy parkrun Marketing