May 24, 2014

Tips for running (and training for) your first 10K

Last Saturday, I posted "Tips for running (and training for) your first 5K"; today, I'd like to do the same, only for a 10K race instead. While there isn't a HUGE difference in how to train for the two races, there are a few things that may help.

I'll start off by saying that the 10K is my very favorite race distance. It's not an all-out sprint, like a 5K, but you can still push yourself enough to feel like you're working really hard. There is enough time to get a comfortable pace, but it's still over with relatively quickly. Once you run regularly, with a long run of 6+ miles per week, you can pretty much just sign up for a 10K on a whim, and be able to complete it. It's a great distance!

I ran my first 10K just two weeks after my first 5K, and I instantly knew that I preferred the 10K distance. Here are some of my tips that may (or may not!) be helpful:

*After you finish your first 5K, you can jump right into training to complete a 10K. It's important to maintain a regular schedule, and stay consistent with your training, so you don't lose all the fitness you gained while training for a 5K.

*Again, pick a training plan that fits your needs. I always suggest Hal Higdon's Novice 10K training plan for first-timers; the long run starts at just 3 miles. When I was training, I just did two 3-mile runs plus a long run (see below) each week.

*The most noticeable difference in your training is that you will start having a "long run" each week. Once I was able to run 5K comfortably, I added in a long run once a week, slowly increasing the distance until I was able to do 10K.

*Keep track of the distance on your shoes. You should have gotten good running shoes before training for your first 5K, and if you're moving on to a 10K, you'll want to make sure you get new ones when you've run 300-500-ish miles on them. I have to change mine out at 350 miles, or I get tendonitis--I can actually feel when it's time for new shoes! But I always keep track of the mileage on my running shoes to make sure.

*Don't pick a time goal for your first 10K; just plan to run your best while still enjoying yourself. After the first one, you can aim for a PR, but the first one is really about figuring out how to pace yourself correctly--not too fast, but not too slow.

*Practice eating the breakfast you plan to eat on race morning. You want to make sure you don't get any stomach issues during the race, so practice eating your race breakfast on your long run days.

*You may want to start experimenting with a water break or two. The average everyday runner will be running a 10K in roughly 50-70 minutes, so you may feel like you need a water break. It's really difficult to drink and run at the same time, so when I stop for water during any race, I always walk through the station instead of spilling it all over myself.

*If you want to carry water with you, either on training runs or during the race, my favorite way to carry water for a shorter distance (less than 10 miles or so) is a handheld water bottle. You can find my personal favorites on this post.

I hate that my eyes are closed in this pic,
but you can see how small the water bottle
is in my hand. 

*Make sure you don't start out too fast. Pacing a 10K is definitely different than a 5K. During a 5K, it takes a mile to really find your pace, and by then, the race is 1/3 of the way done. If you started too fast, you can push yourself to finish, but it'll be tough. If you started too slow, you don't have much mileage to pick up speed and get your best time. For a 10K, however, you have more time to find a comfortable pace, and if you still feel good toward the last couple of miles, you can push yourself to work harder.

*Most of the time, wherever there is a 10K, there is also a 5K on the same day. Sometimes the two races start at the same time, and the 5K will break away from the 10K on the course; other times, they have different courses and/or starting times. If the 5K and 10K are going on at the same time, don't get intimidated by people flying past you. It can feel disheartening, but they could be doing the 5K, which is why it seems like everybody is blowing past.

*Hit a port-a-potty before the race. Since you're running for more than twice the amount of time as a 5K, you don't want to have to stop and go to the bathroom mid-race. Get to the race early, and allow enough time to use the bathroom.

*Most of all, don't put too much thought into it on race day. Just go out and think of it like a training run, only with lots of other people around you. Overthinking it can cause you to feel pressured, and that can lead to a bad race. My best race times have been when I felt no pressure going into them. My first sub-50 10K race is a great example!

Hopefully these are somewhat helpful! Like I said, the 10K isn't a whole lot different from the 5K, and the strategy is pretty similar for both. Best wishes on your first 10K!


  1. I really wish there were 10k races in my area. I think I would enjoy racing that distance! It's strange there are tons of 5k races, but not a single 10k that is close.

  2. Sounds like the making for a great first 10K!

  3. Thanks for these tips! This is the distance I hope to accomplish next.

  4. Thank you for sharing these tips. I would really like to tackle a race one day and each tip is like gold!

  5. The Heartbreak Hill 10K is going to be my first 10K - I don't know what I was thinking! I drove the course over the weekend - I am just looking to complete it (My LR's are 7.5 so I know i can do the distance) - I don't have a ton of experience on hills (up or down!) but I am looking forward to just getting it done.

  6. AnonymousMay 27, 2014

    This is seriously perfect timing. I did Race for the Cure at the beginning of the month and now I want to do a 10K. I've looked at the training programs, and I've kind of been making my own. My longest distance that I've done is 4 miles and I'm working my way up!

    I love your tip about the breakfast thing. One of my biggest fears is having stomach issues mid-race. Thanks for the idea of testing it out. It's simple, but it was something I hadn't really though about!


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