Deciding to really go for a 10K is a bold choice. Run it flat out from the start and you’ll have legs like lead by halfway. Yet start off too slow and you won’t have the time to make amends later in the race. To run a great 10K you will need:
- A strong aerobic foundation and base endurance
- A decent turn of top-end speed
- The physical capacity to hold a high percentage of your maximum effort
- An economical and efficient style of running
- The psychological edge and a tough, focused mindset
The biggest mistake that many new 10K runners make is failing to include enough training that is, of high enough intensity to make a real difference come race day. They either train too slow or too fast. They do plenty of steady and easy running with a little bit of very fast running thrown in for good measure, and not a lot in between.
Training is done to make your 10K race feel easier, so for a better 10K you need to train at paces that match and exceed your target race pace. And to know what paces you’re running at, you’ll need something reliable to measure them on, so get a smart watch, an app on your phone whatever you like, so long as it has a built-in GPS to measure pace and distance.
Easy running all the time won’t help you run 10K faster. Running longer distances won’t make you faster over 10K either. Instead of heading out for another steady plod, properly mix up your miles and include the three golden tickets of 10K racing success: threshold, race pace and speed.
Running a fast 10K means being able to push the boundaries of comfort a little further that you might think is possible.
These three training types help you do just that.
Mastering discomfort is key to running a better 10K. Threshold running is a pace best described as ‘controlled discomfort’. You need to push the boundaries of comfort and run on the edge as effectively and efficiently as you can. In terms of effort, threshold running equates to about an eight out of 10.
2. Race pace
To race a great 10K you should be teaching your body to tolerate anticipated race-day pace, intensity and duration. Interval running at race pace (or faster) is a proven winner for 10K success. Great 10K intervals improve VO2 max, your cardio fitness - these intervals should be run at 85-90% effort level.
Speed work is run at faster than target distance race pace. Speed training will definitely get you properly out of breath, send your heart rate into the peak zone and send your muscles into overdrive. That’s the point. Completing a speed workout means running fast. The term ‘fast’ is relative and can change depending on stage of training, fitness, and session goals. What you can control, however, is your effort. To get the most from speed work, your effort/intensity levels have to be very high (90% of you maximum).
Track your heart-rate to help ensure you’re running at the right intensity. For added motivation, try to do these sessions with other runners who can spur you on.
How to race a 10K
Running a 10K well demands that you quickly get to your limit and stay there until the finish line. Through your training, you will have developed a tolerance for your 10K race pace. Fast 10K running isn’t about suffering for hours like in a marathon. It’s about hurting for less time but more intensely.
Know your race pace per K or mile to the second. You should be able to knock out a set of 5 x 1-mile repeats (or 8 x 1K repeats) at bang on target time, with a little recovery, if you’re going to put yourself in with a chance of stringing them together with no rest on race day.
Don’t spend the first half of the race gently getting into it. You’ve got to be hitting your target race pace quickly and focusing on holding it for each mile. Mess around for the first two miles and it’s too late to play catch up. Go too hard for the first two and the final two are going to be hell!
Push when it hurts – no letting off. It’s going to hurt. That’s the nature of 10K racing. Your strength comes from knowing that you can mentally master the pain and keep churning out the pace with no let up. Be relentless. You won’t nail your 10K by being easy on yourself.
By David Castle, from the Running Hub you can also follow them on Instagram. If you need expert and impartial running shoe or product advice from an expert with 25 years experience, then call the Running Hub Shop: 01892 542077 or Mobile: 07921 693517.