Why you Should run a 10K for your Next Race
When you ask someone what their next race is, they will likely tell you about training for a 5k, half marathon or perhaps a marathon. Rarely will you hear them mention preparations to run a 10K. This is too bad, as I think the 10K is a much over-looked race distance.
According to the 2015 Running in the USA Race Trends report, the number of people running the 10K was down 5% from the previous year, while all other race distances were up. This isn’t new, as the 10K seems to be loosing popularity.
In September, I decided to run a 10K with my running club in Portland. It was only my second 10k ever! I didn’t specifically prepare for it, but was running consistently enough to feel prepared for a good race. I loved it! It was the perfect way for me to get motivated again after my last race didn’t go so well.
For me, the 10K is a bit of a mystery: it’s fast like a 5k, but you kind of need to pace yourself like a half marathon. A 5k seems to be over almost before it begins, but the 10K was long enough to feel like an excellent workout, and my day wasn’t shot in recovery.
My own coach, Antonio Vega, recently told me,
Racing a 10K is a great way for any athlete used to running only the 5k or marathon to test aerobic fitness. It is a true balance of aerobic and anaerobic fitness in order to have a successful race.
While I am still learning how to truly “race” this distance, here are three reasons why your next race should be a 10K:
You Can get a Break While Experiencing some Speed
If you’ve been exclusively racing half or full marathons for a while, you may need a break from their mental and physical stress. The 10K will challenge you at an unfamiliar distance, while giving your body a break from the seemingly all consuming pursuit of those more difficult training cycles.
Similarly, if you are stuck in a rut at a longer distance, get out by dropping down to the 10K and work on your speed. A 10K is almost as fast as a 5k (about 10 - 15 seconds slower per mile according to Coach Vega), but still carries a good amount of distance. Most novice or intermediate plans have an 8 - 10 mile long run, and peak between 25 - 30 miles per week. This will maintain a solid base until you ramp back up to those longer distances.
Test the Waters of Longer Distances while Building Endurance
If you are new to running, or only race 5ks, the 10K is a perfect next step in your running career. Before getting swept up by the romanticism of the marathon or popularity of the half marathon, give the 10K a shot. It’s a perfect distance to give you a taste of training and racing longer distances. You may decide you’re content with 3.1 miles, but don’t wish to sacrifice four months of your life.
A 10K is twice as long as a 5k, but your training isn’t. A gradual build up from the 5k to the 10K is better for your body. For beginners, all you really need to change is the distance of your weekly long run. A simple way to do that is to add half a mile per week until you get to about 7 miles. Also, if you’re running three days per week or less, add one more day of 3 miles to your schedule.
Run a 10K to Practice Racing
I am someone who doesn’t race a lot. I tend to have one or two goals races per year, and don’t do much outside of that. If I want to continue my pursuit of getting into Boston, I need practice learning how to race. Racing a 10K can be done every few weeks without the toll on your body. I also think it involves a bit more strategy than a 5k, so you can practice getting used to forcing your brain to understand the nuances of racing.
Jon Peterson of Team USA Minnesota says, “…it’s a lot longer grind that has to be approached in a more controlled way, otherwise you’ll pay for it later in the race.” Gina Valgoi, also of Team USA MN, says it is important to have a plan. “It can be hard to stay focused for 6.2 miles. Having a plan can help you remain sharp throughout the entire race!”
Both of these tips are critical for any distance, and the 10K is a great place to practice.
One simple strategy I tried this summer was to run the 10k like two 5ks. The first I ran at a pace I knew I could hold, and the second I ran at a pace slightly faster than I was comfortable. To my surprise, I was faster than I thought, and came in about a minute faster than planned.
Have you ever run a 10K? What do you think? Share your thoughts on this distance below.