Median 5K Times of Age Group Winners
Most 5K races divide participants into age groups by gender. Winning or placing well within your age group is a source of bragging rights and a goal of many race participants. Commonly each age group will span five years, although some races use ten year or other intervals for age groups.
So how fast do you need to run (or walk) to be an age group winner?
In order to provide some insight on this question, I looked at the data for the 1283 U.S. based 5K races reported in the book Racing Among the Ages. These 1283 races were divided into four categories based on the total number of finishers (male plus female) in each race. The race size categories were follows: 100-299 (small races), 300-499 (medium races), 500-999 (large races), and 1000 & over (very large races).
The tables below show the median times for age group winners in each race size category.
In top part of these tables, the 1283 races are reported as if five year age groupings were used throughout, regardless of the actual age groupings used by each individual race. Similarly, in the bottom half of the tables, all 1283 races are reported as if ten year age groupings were used for ages 20 and over.
Since these tables are based on inclusive** medians, individuals able to finish a race at the median age group winning time will have a 50% chance of being an age group winner. If you can beat these times you have a better than even chance of winning your age group. (Of course this assumes the weather and road conditions make the race to be of “average” difficultly.)
We would expect that a better performance is required to be an age group winner in a larger race than in a smaller race, and the tables confirm that this is true. Also, you must generally have a better time to win an age group that spans ten years than an age group that spans only five years.
*any –> less than 50% of the races of the size category have any finishers in the corresponding age group, consequently anyone in this age group who is able to complete a race before timing is cut off has more than a 50% chance of winning his or her age group
**Inclusive Median –> a median is inclusive in that all races of the specified size are included in the calculations even though some of the races may not have had any participants in certain age groups. For example, there were 313 small races but only 263 of these small races had finishers in the F60-64 age group. Nevertheless, in this case, the inclusive median is still the time of the 157th fastest age group winner (i.e. the middle of 313).