Fundamentally, runners training for a 5k are preparing for a 3.1-mile run. Of course, if you’re planning for a marathon or even a half marathon, your 3-mile time may be slower as you pace yourself.
However, many runners find that a 3-mile training program can help them to cycle and push longer-term for a longer run. With a solid knowledge of your 3-mile cycle as a runner, you can train effectively for longer runs.
Factors That Will Impact Your Speed
Age can have a huge impact on your average speed to complete a 3-mile cycle. For example, the average age for 19-year-old male runners participating in a 5k is just over 9:30 per mile, while a 65+ year-old male may take nearly 14 minutes.
Female runners from 16 to 19 participating in a 5k generally log 12:09 per mile, while women over the age of 65 can take as long as 16 minutes.
As runners age, experts recommend building up the ankle strength and calf muscles to maintain a longer stride.
While older runners tend to take the same number of steps per minute, their stride shortens over time and overall speed drops.
Both men and women can safely start a running program after turning 60. For those who’ve been working and unable to commit time to an exercise plan, starting out as a runner at the age of 60 will take a focus on
- intervallic work
Older runners, whether maintaining a running program or building a whole new exercise program, would do well to keep an eye out for terrains that will be easier on older knees and ankles.
No matter the age of the runner, as a general rule, male runners have faster times than female runners. It is interesting to note that, over time, females start to catch up to male runners on longer runs.
For example, averaged over all ages, women achieve about 13:20 minutes per mile in a 5k or 3.1-mile run. Men clock in at 11:22 minutes per mile.
While male runners drop their mile time to 10:48 during a marathon, female runners drop their time to 11:47 minutes per mile.
How to Start
No matter what your running goals are, it’s critically important that you set a schedule and stick to it. Try to arrange your daily workout at a time when you have both time and energy so you can enjoy putting that energy to work.
If you hate to get up early in the morning, don’t ask your brain and body to get up early and be excited about running.
Start with a walk to clear your head and loosen up your muscles.
No matter what your average mile speed is as a walker, you want your running habit to build slowly and improve over time.
If you get out there and push hard to set a low time but then have to deal with tight muscles, sore joints, or exhaustion, your time won’t matter.
For those who love to compete with themselves and try to better their previous workout, keep a journal to track your experiences.
Make sure you only track your time on what feels like the best day of the week. For example, you may be a little blue about your Monday run since the weekend is over.
By Friday you may just be tired. Clock and track your Wednesday run, week in and week out, to track your energy level.
How to Improve Your Speed
As noted above, part of improving your speed is in improving your stride. In addition to building up strength in your ankles and calves, make sure you also put time into strengthening and stretching your hips and low back.
Keeping your pelvis both strong and loose may well take exercise far outside the realm of just jogging or walking.
Consider signing up for a yoga class that allows you to focus on stretching and holding. Not only can this keep your stride open and boost your speed, but signing up for a class can help you enjoy the social options of exercise that running may not give you.
How to Recover
As you work to build your speed, do make sure you focus on activities, hydration, and foods that will protect your recently worked muscles.
For example, you may want to carry a water bottle and work to finish it during your cool-down walk. When you get home, consider having a whey-based protein shake to help you avoid muscle soreness tomorrow.
Finally, make sure you stretch fully from your feet up into your spine. Keeping your low back loose can do a lot to help you build strength and confidence in a longer stride, which will improve your speed.
If you run outdoors, find stretches you can do on your feet to open up your hips and your low back. You can also settle onto a yoga mat for many of these stretches.
Should you take a tumble, consider switching to the pool for a few days to maintain your form. Jogging in a pool may not be exciting, but the resistance offered by the water can help you keep your form effective while you heal up.