One of the best ways to train yourself to run faster is by doing speed work. Speed work, whether you do fartleks on the road, high-intensity interval training, or repeats on the track, demands that you run at a challenging pace. Effort-wise, you can aim for a hard pace, but how do you know if you are actually pushing yourself hard enough to improve without going too hard and ending up injured?
This is why many speed workouts suggest running at 5K pace, or at least 5K effort. The pace at which you run a 5K is gut-wrenching and demanding without being all-out, which makes it an ideal pace for speedwork. Additionally, many traditional track workouts—12 x 400 meters, 6 x 800 meters, 3 x 1 mile—add up to three miles of near maximum effort, which is right about the same distance covered at a 5K (3.1 miles). 5K pace also gives all of us numbers-obsessed runners a goal to aim for in each workout and a yardstick against which to measure our progress in training.
Want to know how to determine your 5K pace?
While running a 5K race is the best way to determine your 5K pace, it’s not always the most feasible way. 5K races are usually popular enough for you to find one nearby, but the race may not fit your schedule or budget. So how else can you determine your 5K pace without actually running a 5K race? Try one of these 5K pace calculator workouts!
5K Pace Calculator Workouts
5K Time Trial
The most obvious way to determine your 5K pace is to run a 5K on your own. To get the most accurate time, find a loop or path without many traffic lights or intersections. Frequent stops for traffic will cause too many disruptions to your pace either allowing you to catch your breath or lose your rhythm. Whether you run it on the roads or a track, your perceived effort should be very hard. You should struggle to say more than a few words at once, and be breathing in about a 1:2 (one count for breathing in, two counts for breathing out) pattern. However, it can be difficult for some people to push themselves so hard for so long without the motivation of a race atmosphere.
4 x 1 mile
Mile repeats are another way to get a fairly accurate estimate of your 5K pace. Since you are taking rest between each repeat, you want to run 4 instead of 3 miles, because there are no rests in a 5K. After a 10 minute easy warm-up, run a mile at a very hard effort, where you struggle to talk and are breathing in about a 1:2 or 1:1 pattern. You should aim for a pace that you can sustain for all four repeats. Recover with 400 meters (1/4 mile) of very easy jogging, and then repeat 3 more times. To get your approximate 5K pace, take the average pace of the 4 miles.
Race Equivalency Calculator
You can always run a longer distance race to figure out your 5K pace! Race equivalency calculators allow you to plug in a recent race time for any distance and find out what your equivalent time would be for different race distances. Race equivalency calculators rely on averages and statistics, so they do not account for the individual variances of runners. There is also a slight variation between calculators: the McMillan Calculator tends to estimate faster 5K times for the same half marathon or marathon time than does the Jack Daniels Running Calculator. For example, based on my recent half marathon time of 1:43:12, the McMillan Calculator estimates my 5K time as 22:17 (7:10/mile pace), while the Daniels Calculator approximates my 5K time as 22:28 (7:14/mile pace). It’s not a huge discrepancy, but rather something to be mindful of when using these calculators. Runners who perform better at longer distances may want to use Daniels Calculator, while runners who do prefer shorter distances will likely find McMillan’s more accurate.
What’s your favorite 5K pace calculator workout?
Do you run 5Ks frequently?