The 5000m is run over 12.5 laps of the track. Athletes start from a standing position, not in lanes, but behind an arc that ensures that every athlete is the same distance from the finish. On starting, athletes may move towards the inside lane straightaway.
The competition starts with heats. The number of heats and the number of athletes progressing to the next round depends on the number of athletes competing. In each heat the fastest athletes go through, as well as a set number of the fastest losers across all the heats. The following rounds run on the same format, until eight athletes are through to compete in the final.
The draw to determine which heat athletes run in is decided by their initial seedings (based on previous performance) for the first round, and then their performances after that. This ensures that the highest seeded athletes are not drawn in the same heat.
Keys to success
Long distance athletes need immense stamina and mental strength. Races are incredibly tactical, with pace and positioning of vital importance. Despite the distance, sprint finishes are common.
Breaking the rules
Although rare, it is still possible for an athlete to be disqualified for a false start in long distance races. Once athletes have broken from the start and are running as close as possible to the inside of the track, the potential for jostling and obstruction is greater. The race judges are on the lookout for any athlete they perceive to be infringing the rules.
Find out more about Men’s 5000m and Women's 5000m competitions at the Olympic Games on the International Olympic Committee website.