How many miles is a 5k? Eight fun facts about this popular running distance

Your 5k questions answered, with examples of the best UK races.

The short answer to ‘What is 5k in miles?’ is a definitive one in that it’s 3 miles 188 yards – but in running terms it’s so much more.  

It’s a hugely popular distance that sees thousands of runners take part in every weekend. Most events include a fun run, which is often 5k. So, a great choice as there’s definitely no pressure. The clue is in the word ‘fun’. Or you can take part in a Parkrun, which are free to enter and take place every Saturday all over the country. 

An older man and a young man running in the forestCredit: Shutterstock / Cameron Prins
You’ll soon discover 5k is a great distance to run

It’s a fabulous distance, as it’s almost instantly achievable and takes around an hour if you walk. Of course, these days, the best runners in the world can now run it at just about the same speed the first-ever sub four-minute miler Sir Roger Bannister managed and today the country’s best race walkers can cover 5km in just 18mins 20.97secs (on an indoor track) for men and 21mins 30.75secs for women outdoors. 

How far is 5k? Route examples to give you an idea

The following sample routes across the UK will help give you an idea of how long a 5k – or 3.1 miles – is: 

  • A lap of the Birmingham Jewellery Quarter (plus walk to carpark). 
  • In London: Bankside to Blackfriars, via the South Bank, crossing the Thames at Westminster Bridge, and back along the Embankment. 
  • In Buckinghamshire: one lap of London 2012 Summer Olympics venue Dorney Lake. 
  • A stroll from Birmingham New Street railway station to the Aston Villa football ground. 
  • Chester City Walls are just over 3k (two miles) around but add in the walk from the carpark makes and it will add up to about 5k. 
  • The centre of Newcastle to Gateshead Stadium. 
  • Edinburgh Waverley railway station to Meadowbank Sports Centre and back. 

8 fun facts about the 5k distance

  1. 5km is 3.1 miles. Until 1966, Britons used to race three miles in championships such as the Empire Games but had to run the 5000m at the Olympics.
  2. The 5000m became an Olympic event for women in 1996; it was first introduced in 1912 for the men. 
  3. The British age group records for the distance are nothing short of incredible. For the men: 15 minutes flat for 50 plus; 16mins 06secs for 60 plus; 19mins 02secs for 70 plus; and 22mins 41sec for 80-year-olds. Meanwhile the women are equally amazing with 16:50, 18:43, 21:53, and finally 28:21, for the corresponding ages.
  4. The current men’s and women’s 5k world records are 12:35.36 and 14:06.62 respectively.  
  5. In 1954, Britain’s Roger Bannister averaged just inside 60secs (59.9) for four laps of the track to famously break four minutes for the mile for the first time ever. Today, Uganda’s Joshua Cheptegei can average 60.4 secs per 400m for more than three times that distance (12.5 laps)! 
  6. The Parkrun takes place over 5k and there are more than 2,000 races in 22 countries on most Saturdays. Almost certainly, you will be just a few miles from one. Free to enter, everybody is welcome – from elite athletes to people who run with their dog. Register and run for free!
  7. The fastest times ever run on the road for 5km are 12:49 for men and 14:29 for women. 
  8. A great way to get in shape is to follow the Couch to 5k programme, which is recommended by the NHS and is a brilliant way to get your foot out the door and be on your way to running over three miles in one go. 

There’s always time to improve. Science will tell you that you’ll enjoy a nine-year (on average) improvement curve from whenever you start. Start your 5k adventure aged 50 and you’ll still be improving all the way to when you hit 60 and beyond. 

An older muslin couple enjoying running togetherCredit: Odua Images
5k races are a wonderful way to get fit, meet new friends and have fun

Memorable UK 5k races

North

Great North 5km, Newcastle  

This is a fast, flat run on the quayside two days before the iconic Great North Run. You’ll be treated to a fabulous festival atmosphere and there’s a wave start so there’s plenty of space to run. And, of course, there’s the iconic North Run to look forward to on the Sunday.  

Run for Wildlife Autumn 5k, Doncaster 

What’s not to like about a 5k race around Yorkshire Wildlife Park? Your entry fee includes not just the run around the amazing park, but park entry as well. You’ll fly by the zebras, otters, and tigers on what will be a truly memorable day out.    

Midlands

Birmingham Running Festival, Sutton Park 

This has something for everyone, whether you fancy 5k or marathon. But what’s really fabulous about this event is the location. Sutton Park is a wonderful rolling mix of heathland and forest just a few minutes from the centre of Birmingham. It’s a great place to run and have fun with the family afterwards.   

Great Eastern Run 5k, Peterborough 

Chip timing, a fast course and a city centre location are what this race is all about. The run finishes on the city’s embankment – a picturesque riverside park where you can relax afterwards, enjoying the entertainment. Watch the half marathon finish at the same location later that morning. 

South

Great South 5km, Portsmouth  

Enjoy fabulous views of the Solent and plenty of on-course entertainment in this fast, flat run. “This was the first 5k event I had completed,” writes Chris on Twitter. “The event was well organised on the day, with roads closed along the seafront for both the 5k and the kids’ event. Marshals were fantastic, and the local support was phenomenal.” 

Friday Night under the lights 5km, Battersea  

This is wonderfully simple and hugely popular. Small groups of 60 race two laps around Battersea Park in what has quickly become one of the highlights of the 5k calendar. It’s perfect for anyone looking to improve. 

Scotland

Edinburgh Marathon Festival, Edinburgh 

Get into the spirit with a 5k around the stunning Holyrood Park with its incredible panoramic views of the city and Edinburgh Castle. That’s on the Saturday and forms part of a race weekend that includes the marathon on the Sunday. 

Scurry around Devilla Forest Trail Running Festival, Alloa 

Enjoy amazing forests, wonderful smooth woodland paths and all the scenery you can soak up in this 5k that forms part of a day of running. The event hub is based within the stunning grounds of Tulliallan castle, a popular tourist attraction.  

Wales

Cardiff 5k, Whitchurch, Cardiff 

Great atmosphere, officially one of the best 5k races in the UK – and the race t-shirt will have your name on it. Superb for so many reasons. Oh, and it’s nice and fast and everyone can say they ran in the National Champs, because that’s what it is.   

Swansea 5k, Swansea 

Enjoy a fast, flat run around Swansea Bay – it’s a runner-friendly event that is as much as about the sharp end as it is encouraging newbies to the sport. Plus, you’re not far from one of the world’s best beaches in the Gower Peninsula in the form of Rhossili Bay, voted 11th best in Europe. 

Northern Ireland

Belfast Zoo 5k, Belfast 

The first ever 5k around this incredible venue took place this year and let’s hope it’ll be back next winter. Be warned, it is hilly although the finish line at the Lion’s Den Café will more than make up for that. Plus, runners can spend the rest of the day in the zoo. 

Hillsborough Castle and Gardens Running Festival, County Down 

The race starts and finishes within the beautiful Grounds of Hillsborough Castle, before heading out onto the surrounding rural roads of Hillsborough and taking in historic attractions in the local area such as Hillsborough Fort and Hillsborough Lake, and finishing with a lap of the gardens before crossing the finish line in the event village. 

Nationwide

Race For Life 

The numbers are fantastic for this event. Over the past 20 years, more than 8 million people have taken part in the Race for Life, raising over £547 million to fund Cancer Research UK’s lifesaving work. There are more than 180 venues up and down the country. 

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.