Average 5k times for the over 50s – how does yours compare?

The average 5k time varies based on factors including age, gender and ability. Use our handy guide to gauge where your own time sits.

When you’re asked what is a good 5km time, feel free to reply: How long is a piece of string? The simple answer is: As long as it takes.  

For almost all of us, running isn’t about the times or finish positions it really is about taking part.

But inevitably you’ll want to know how long it takes to run a 5k so you have something to aim for. Is a good 5k time 13 minutes or 30 minutes? The answer is it can be both.  

An older man checking his watch during an outdoor runCredit: Shutterstock / PeopleImages.com – Yuri A

Average 5k times for the over 50s

Using a mixture of online forums, statistics and the wise words from a selection of coaches, we’ve created this chart of average 5k times for you.

But of course, as a running coach myself and a sub 14minutes runner in my prime, I do have to stress that these are average times only, and your 5k time is always the one you’ve just done. I can assure you I’m just as happy with 21 minutes these days.

We all like a goal, though, so if you’re training for a 5k, this will help keep you focused.

  Fast men  Beginner men  Fast women  Beginner women 
50  22:26  35:47  25:10  39:45 
60  24:22  38:53  27:50  43:30 
70  26:46  42:43  31:20  48:45 
80+  30:30  47:45  36:00  56:00 

What to think about to clock a good 5k time

Adapt as you age

Your speed will decline at about 10% per decade so it’s vital that 50-year-olds who have been running in their 40s and before should take that into account.

Training hard will slow that decline, but it won’t reverse it as a study from Yale confirms. However, the opposite can be true if you’ve just taken up running. Research has shown that if you started in your late 40s, then you’ll be on an upward curve until you’re roughly 60. Good news for all you late starters.

It’s not all about running

To get the best from your body, you’ll need to include other elements in your preparation such as mobility work like Pilates, bodyweight strength exercises such as squats and lunges in your front room – and, of course, your a healthy eating approach to your diet.

But most important of all is rest. Don’t even think about running two hard days in a row. Go easy for two, then add a day for good luck. 

It’s OK to take things slow

Don’t go chasing your hoped-for-time every time you run. In fact, the opposite is true for runners over 50. We need to ease off the gas and be happy with much slower training runs – as slow as your own running will allow.

If you do that, you won’t be breaking your body down you’ll be building a huge internal engine instead, which will fire up when you ask it to. The best runners are those who have learnt to run slowly most of the time. Think of each run as building a wall using bricks. You’re aiming for a big wall, and it will take time. 

Incorproate shorter runs

For that firing up to occur, it is handy to run shorter distances at a faster pace (30-40 seconds, for example). Rather than sprinting, it’s controlled, easy movement where you feel like you are going quicker. We’re looking for smooth pace as opposed to exhaustion.

Use age adjustment tables

Online age grade calculators will work out what your time age, for instance 66, would equate to if you’d run it as a 22-year-old. So, a 50-year-old running 30min for 5km would be the equivalent of a younger runner clocking 26:42.  

Remember: age is no barrier

Ninety-six-year-old Rejeanne Fairhead recently ran an age group world record of 51:09. Fairhead said she is glad she inspired people with her effort — she said her motto is to not let your age define what you can do.

She told Canada’s National Post newspaper: “I’ve been telling everybody ‘to me, age is just a number’. You know, if you feel good, do something.”

And she is not ready to hang up her record-breaking shoes just yet. “If I do walk next year, it will just for fun,” she said. “I’m not going to try to beat anything. I think I’ve done my share. I think I’ve had enough.” 

Four ways to improve your 5k time

1. Give it at least six weeks

Such is the world we live in today we want instant results. Running, however, is about slowly building a base. It doesn’t matter if that base is zero miles a week or 100, your body will still take six weeks or so to adapt to any changes.

2. Go easy and slow

Never add more than about 10%  to last week’s total. So, if you managed an hour in total last week, aim for about 65 minutes of work this week. Success in running a 5k is all about slowly progressing. 

3. Don’t be frightened to mix the pace up a bit

Runners are known for doing everything at the same pace and over the same distance. Agreed, this is fun but every now and then (once every 10 days or so), go shorter and go quicker. Instead of your usual 30 minutes, for example, run a few minutes warm-up then 10×30 seconds striding out. It makes a massive difference.

4. Work on mobility daily

Spend a few minutes every day working on mobility – stretching or simply moving about. Olympian Liz Yelling says she used to do the vacuuming before training as it helped with her mobility. So, remember, running can tighten muscles, especially older ones! 

Paul Larkins

Written by Paul Larkins

Updated:

Paul Larkins has been a sports journalist for more than 30 years, covering two Olympic Games, one Paralympics, numerous World Championships and, most recently, the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham in 2022. He’s also been a magazine editor, heading up titles covering everything from running to cooking and buying tractors. But his real passion is running. As a former GB International athlete and sub-4-minute miler in the 1980s, Paul has a great understanding of life-long fitness and the benefits it can provide.