Debating whether to run your first 10K (6.2 miles) race? You should seriously consider it! The 10K is a great race distance choice for runners that are new to races, or simply new to running.
Why is that? It’s a manageable race distance for a new runner as it…
- Tests your commitment while improving your fitness.
- BUT, it doesn’t require you to run “crazy” mileage for several months to be ready on race day.
- A race on the calendar, whether in-person, or virtual, is motivating, and helps keeps you accountable.
And, while more aggressive goals like a half-marathon or even marathon may seem enticing and motivating, if you’re a beginner runner, training for that race distance can result in injury or burnout. If you want to be a runner for the long haul, set yourself up for success with some reasonable initial race goals/distances. (And, avoid these beginner runner common mistakes.)
Training Pointers to Run Your First 10K
- Follow a training plan. Running random distances without much thought or guidance will lead to less consistency, and more likely to have an injury.
- Run-Walk method – is a smart choice for your first 10K training, or at least the first few weeks of your training schedule. Run-walk is a mix of running and walking at specific intervals that enables you to build your endurance while keeping your injury risk low.
- WHEN will you be ready to race? It depends on your current running base. If you’ve never run a 10K, and are running currently less than five miles a week, you should plan eight-12 weeks to prepare.
That may seem like a long time, but increasing your mileage too soon can lead to both injury, and may leave you feeling overwhelmed if you advance too quickly.
- Be as consistent as possible. With running three-four days per week, you can adjust the days you run if you get busy or have a conflict. Although I don’t recommend running all your runs each week on back to back days.
- Long Runs – add to them to the mix!
- A long(er) run each week is a great idea. The 10K distance is a balance between speed and endurance. Building your mileage with long runs is necessary come race day.
- How long should your longest run be? If you can run a 12K, that will give you some confidence on race day, and make it seem easier, too. Yet, if your longest run is five-six miles, that works, too!
- Don’t add more than .5 miles to your longest run each week, and then drop back every few weeks to a shorter distance.
- Slow down on your longer run. Conversation pace is your goal. A “happy” pace where you still have some gas left in the tank is what you want on long run days.
- Speed work? Assuming this is your first 10K, and you’re fairly new to running, opt out on speed work for this training cycle. A runner should have a base three-six months of injury free running before adding speed work. If you have that base already, check out these speed workouts for beginner runners.
- Cross-training can definitely be on the schedule. With a 10K, you can properly prepare with a three/four runs a week schedule. That allows more days for cross-training, OR swapping a run day occasionally for a cross-training workout.
What type of cross-training? Cycling, swimming, or weights (full body circuit style is best) are all great options. A full body circuit of six-eight upper/lower body moves with little to no rest in between is just the ticket. You don’t need weights if you opt to work out from home; body resistance exercises, or exercises with a set of dumbbells is sufficient. Examples: push-ups, chair dips, sit-ups, squats, step-ups and lunges. Do the complete “circuit,” rest for two-three minutes, and then repeat again. A day’s rest between this work-out is best.
- Give HILLS some love. Hills are a fantastic way to build strength, stamina, and even speed. Do your best to not ignore hills during the training cycle, especially if there are hills on your race day course.
- It’s OK to be negative. Negative splits, that is. During one run a week, run the second half of your run a little faster than the first half. Good preparation for race day so that you pace yourself properly, and finish strong.
Your Race Day is Approaching!
- Taper the week prior, or max two weeks out. Tapering means you should reduce your mileage the week (or two) before your 10K. In the last week of training, cut your miles by ~50-60%.
- Remember the cardinal rule in racing: “nothing new on race day!” No new shoes, new hydration, new socks, etc. Anything you drink, eat, wear should already be tested!
- Do a “dress rehearsal.” If you can run the course, great! That’s not always an option, so being familiar with it by looking at the course map (online), the elevation changes is a good idea. Actually, best to look at the course map early in your training so you can incorporate what you learn into your runs (example: hills).
- A virtual race? If you have a set course planned for your event, still try to run it, or get familiar with it before your big day. Again, if hills on the course, run hills in your training.
- How long will it take to run a 10K (for a beginner)? The average is ~12 minutes/mile, which means 70+ minutes. But, don’t stress about your time. Your first 10K provides an opportunity for you to improve your training, mind game, and pacing at that race distance.
- Enjoy your race, and remember it’ll be a PR (personal record) regardless of the time, and you’ll have an opportunity to improve next time!
- Warm up! Of course, not excessively, but like you normally do in your training (that’s right – always warm up!). Use your dynamic warm-up routine to get the body warm, elevate your heart rate, and prep your mind for your 10K. Best to finish up a few minutes before the race starts.
- Pacing and negative splits. Even though your finish time is not a key concern, pacing is. The VAST majority of runners start too fast, and finish with a slower pace, feeling terrible. Plus, getting passed is NO fun.
Therefore, your goal is to run a negative split. Meaning, run a bit faster as the race progresses. Your second 5K should be faster than the first! As mentioned above, practice this in training so the concept won’t be new on race day.
- OK to be nervous, but there’s no need to be scared. Pre-race nerves/jitters are to be expected. Think positive thoughts before the run, and during it – focus on ONE MILE AT A TIME. That is some of the BEST advice I’ve been given. We tend to project how we’re feeling in the current mile for balance of race – please don’t! Just tackle the mile you’re in.