While many people walk for casual exercise or pleasure, there may come a time when you start thinking about walking a 5K. Maybe it’s because a local charity you support is hosting a 5k as one of their fundraisers or you simply want to take on the challenge for some extra motivation.
I’m sure you’ve heard time and time again that walking is one of the most underrated forms of exercise out there. It’s linked to a whole host of positive health benefits from maintaining a healthy weight to increased energy levels to stronger muscles and bones.
You’re probably wondering why I’m talking about walking when this is “Run to the Finish.” But, as you know I also enjoy walking, whether it’s part of my cool down, a hike, or just another way to move more. I walk daily and it’s how I prefer to hang out with friends!
I recognize not everyone wants or needs to run and that’s ok! As already discussed, power walking is a simple yet excellent form of exercise.
Whatever the reason you’re here, walking in a 5k event is doable for anyone. Keep reading to learn more about the 5k distance, how to pick a 5k event to walk, how to train, and more to make race day the best day.
Can I Walk in a 5K Race?
First things first, can you actually walk a 5K?
Absolutely! One of the best parts about being part of the running community is how accepting and diverse it is. Everyone has the aim of finishing the race, and that can be by running or walking.
In fact, many runners walk parts of the race (especially in longer ones like a marathon) so there really is nothing wrong with it.
And most 5K’s are designed to be more family friendly, meaning they encourage strollers and people of all abilities. You should see information on the race website about any cut off times. This will often help you know if you need to maintain at least a 20 minute mile or something faster for that course.
How Far is a 5k?
A 5k is about 3.1 miles. It’s also 5,000 meters or 12.5 laps around a track. When walking, the distance equates to taking about 6,600 steps, give or take depending on pace.
Whether you walk a 5k or run a 5k, the total distance remains the same. If you’re curious about how far a 10K or half marathon are, I’ve also broken those down in another article.
How Long to Walk a 5k
Just like the number of steps you take in a 5k may vary, so will the length of time it takes to walk the distance. Factors that affect the time include pace, stamina, endurance, and cardiovascular health, among other things.
On average, walking a 5k may take somewhere between 45-60 minutes. Again, total time may vary and will be impacted by the factors listed above, but also things like whether you stop along the way and the weather.
Let’s break things out though by pace to get a general idea.
- 13 min/mile – 40:23
- 14 min/mile – 43:30
- 15 min/mile – 46.36
- 16 min/mile – 49:43
- 17 min/mile – 52:49
- 18 min/mile – 55:55
- 19 min/mile – 59:02
- 20 min/mile – 1:02:08
Finding a Walker Friendly 5k’s
Can you participate in a 5k as a walker? The short answer is ABSOLUTELY!
The long answer is also ABSOLUTELY, but let’s provide a little more detail.
The great thing about signing up for a 5k is that you can find them virtually year round and in just about every city or town. They come in all shapes and sizes, from smaller fun runs and charity fundraisers to larger events with big crowds, multiple race distances, and fancy amenities.
While walkers tend to be welcome at all, if it’s your first time you might want to find a lower key event or invite friends and family to join you in the walk or to be there to cheer you to the finish.
Those that are for charity are often listed as 5K run/walk events because they want as many people as possible to participate! Also don’t discount a RunDisney event, they are super fun and filled with fellow walkers!
Other things to consider when selecting your first 5k include:
- Picking a race far enough in advance to allow you to train
- The race start time, which may be early
- The course time limit or pace minimum
- Check the event website, previous years results, or contact the race directly to ensure they have a long enough time limit to allow walkers to finish.
- How many participants they average each year
- Whether the race offers varying start times for runners and walkers or if they encourage participants to line up based on pace
How to Train to Walk a 5k
A 5k may sound like a short distance in some regard, but 3 miles is still 3 miles.
If you’re not sure where to start in training to walk a 5k race, you’re in luck!
I’ve created a training program that will not only get you to the starting line, but ensure that you feel great during and after the race. You’re going to create a habit that will have benefits to your overall health.
A walking training plan is designed to ensure you’re doing an appropriate amount of exercise to prepare without under or overdoing it. It also helps with consistency because you don’t have to figure out what to do, the plan can tell you.
- Pick out the 5K race you want to do (see tips below)
- Look 8 weeks back on the calendar to find the start date for following the plan
- Remember that our goal is to hopefully improve upon your typical walking pace so you can finish a bit faster
Often times we are simply out for stroll with the pup or looking around and that absolutely counts. But when it comes to your training, now it’s time to think about being a bit more focused. Swing the arms, walk with purpose!
What Does a 5k Walk Training Plan Include?
When looking at the training schedule, it is 8 weeks in length, giving you essentially 2 months to prepare for a 5k. The plan includes rest days, walking days, strength training and cross training days, and even notes to consider for each week.
Slower walkers don’t be worried. This plan goes by time, not distance or pace. As a coach my goal is to help you progress without getting frustrated or injured.
You’ll notice the first week has shorter walks, but that over the course of the plan your daily walking time and the distance of your long walk each week increase slowly, but steadily. While you might be excited to jump in for more that often leads to shin pain due to muscle fatigue and overuse.
Shin splints are preventable, but super, super common. So follow the plan! Do the strength work and stretching, you got this.
Let’s take a look at each component and why they’re important.
Three days of each week, Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, are dedicated to walking workouts. These start with 15-minute walks early in the plan but as you progress through the weeks, you’ll see both increased distance and time.
In addition, some of the walking workouts include changes in perceived effort, such as alternating between an easy pace and a hard pace, and added power walking. These will not only improve your cardiovascular fitness, but also prepare you to walk faster on race day.
On walking days, make sure to pay attention to your walking form. Just like posture is important in running, a good walking posture is imperative. It can reduce stress and strain, lessen injury risk, and make you more efficient and faster.
You can walk outside, at a local outdoor or indoor track, or on a treadmill. It does not matter. Consistency though does matter!
While you might be thinking that all you need to do to prepare to walk a 5k is walk further and longer, adding in some strength training to your exercise program will pay dividends. Wednesday and Sunday each week are strength training days according to the plan.
Don’t worry, this doesn’t have to be intense! Bodyweight strength workouts are a great addition to any exercise program. Some exercises to consider doing include:
- Bodyweight squats
- Incline pushups using a wall or countertop
- Planks, which can also be done on your knees
Having a strength training routine with exercises like the ones above will engage key muscle groups that can increase strength and endurance, as well as improve posture. Don’t underestimate the value of even just 20 minutes of this type of work.
Stretching/Cross Training Days
With all this walking and strength training, it’s important to take care of your body.
Every Friday, you’ll spend some time stretching, doing yoga, or some other light cross training, which will help your body adjust to the new demands on it and stay injury free. If you love biking or swimming, those are incredible options for cross training days to keep building your endurance.
Consider this active recovery.
A hallmark of each week is a day of rest on Monday. I picked this day because often Monday is the busiest day of your week and it ensures you don’t miss a workout.
Yes, you should take rest days.
This doesn’t mean you have to just sit on your couch all day, but it should mean that you take it easy to allow your body to recover from the work you’ll be putting it through the rest of the week.
8 Tips For Walking A Race
Alright, so you picked a race, made it through 8 weeks of training, and race day is upon you. Here are a few tips to make your race a success.
1. Get Proper Walking Shoes
You’ll be walking for 3.1 miles! That’s quite a bit of mileage on your feet and even more when you account for all the training. While old sneakers or casual sandals might seem like a good option, it’s important to get a good part of walking shoes to make sure your feet are properly supported. Check out my walking shoe guide to find the right one for you!
2. Don’t Try Anything New
Don’t try anything new the day before or the day of the race. Eat your usual foods and wear shoes and clothing you have tested during training. You don’t need to carboload or eat extra.
3. Stay Hydrated
Hydrate! Whether it’s a chilly fall race morning or a sweltering summer day, make sure you’ve had plenty of water before and after your walk. Include some electrolyte powder in your drink as well if it’s warm.
4. Set a Goal
A goal should be realistic. Maybe it’s as simple as finishing the race and having fun or maybe you want to consider setting a time goal.
5. Do a Warm-up
You all know I’m an advocate for warming up before running, it applies to walking your race too. Don’t neglect this on race day (or during your 8 weeks of training!).
6. Make it Fun
Grab a friend or family member to walk with, or consider listening to some interesting podcasts or music to make the most of your 5K walk and training!
Take in your surroundings, the day is going to be different than all the miles you’ve put in solo. Enjoy!
7. Line up with Fellow Walkers
To avoid getting passed by all the runners, plan to line up toward the back of the participant group with other walkers. Trust me it’s not fun to feel like you are getting run over by starting at the front.
8. Celebrate Your Finish
Don’t spend even one second worrying about your finish compared to anyone. By spending time celebrating your achievement it makes it more likely that you will keep going! This applies during your build up to the race as well.
Have fun! You’ll always remember your first race, so put a smile on your face and hit the road. You may just be amazed at who else is encouraged to get active by seeing you be so consistent!
BONUS Tip: Don’t Stop Here!
The 5K experience can serve as a springboard for setting new goals and conquering more challenges. Take a moment to reflect on your achievement and appreciate how far you’ve come. Celebrate the dedication and effort you put into training and completing the 5K race.
From here, consider what you’d like to achieve next. Whether it’s participating in more 5K races and working on your time, attempting longer distances like walking a half-marathon, or exploring other fitness activities, the possibilities are endless.
Incorporating walking into your daily routine is a simple yet effective way to maintain your fitness momentum. Aim to engage in at least 30 minutes of brisk walking most days of the week.
Make walking a habit by choosing to walk whenever possible to hit those 10,000 steps. Whether it’s walking to work, running errands, or taking a leisurely stroll after dinner, every step counts. Walking not only improves your physical health but also provides a mental boost and a chance to connect with your surroundings.
Looking for more training tips?
- Best Hoka Walking Shoes
- Best Walking Shoes for Your Foot
- Walking vs Running Shoes – why you need different pairs
- Best Shoes for Wide Feet
- FitBit vs Garmin – which do you need
- Walking Vs Running which is better for your goals
Other ways to connect with Amanda
Instagram Daily Fun: RunToTheFinish
Facebook Community Chatter: RunToTheFinish