Running a 10k event

Could you run a 10k?

Check out your local running scene and you’ll find that there’s one running race distance that surpasses all others in terms of popularity: the 10k. Running is all about inclusivity and the 10k is a great way to get involved with a wider racing community. It also marks your progress so far, on the road towards keeping fit and healthy through running.

The 10k race distance has risen to the top of the charts and usurped all other races over recent years for several reasons: racing six-point-two miles is a meaningful challenge; the event requires an ideal blend of speed and endurance; and, importantly, the training can be easily fitted into your lifestyle. From huge, mass-participation events in major cities, to smaller, more intimate events, the 10k has something for everyone.

So, could you complete a 10k entirely under your own steam? If you’ve ever considered preparing for and completing a 10k but need more of an insight into what it’s all about, what the training involves, the race itself and more, then read on. Our guide to running a 10k will answer all your questions, including:

  • How do I get started?
  • What should I wear?
  • What should I eat and drink?
  • How much training do I need to do?
  • How long will the race take me?
  • What happens on race day?

How do I get started running a 10k?
To help guide you through the 10k maze, simply follow the three-step checklist below to get off the mark:

Step 1. Check that it’s safe for you to begin exercising. If you’ve not exercised for some time, have a check-up with your doctor before you begin.

Step 2. Evaluate your fitness levels. You need to know where you are before you can progress – so sit down and honestly assess where your running and general fitness levels currently are.

Step 3. Select a training plan. Trying to prepare for a 10k without a training plan is like trying to find your way to a new town without a map and signposts. To take you on your journey to 10k success, you need to follow a structured training plan that is right for your fitness levels and will take you safely towards your marathon goal.

What should I wear to run a 10k?
To start your training, basic shorts and a t-shirt and/or sweatshirt is pretty much all you need. There is an excellent range of running-specific kit available that will keep you dry, will help you to avoid any chafing problems and will be light and comfortable to wear – but to begin with you’ll probably find that you already own enough gear to get you started. However, one area of kit where you shouldn’t compromise is on training shoes – and it is certainly worth investing in a proper pair of running-specific trainers. Seek out a specialist retailer who can give you advice and, if necessary, assess your gait, so that you can find the most suitable shoe for your running style. Remember that a good pair of running shoes is an investment in comfort and injury prevention, and will repay you again and again long after your initial outlay.

What should I eat and drink?
Correct nutrition and hydration is an essential part of both your 10k preparation and during the race itself. Without the correct fuel – and enough of it! – you will be unable to complete the longer runs, and so paying close attention to your diet is key. As a runner, you need to be consuming plenty of ‘slow-release’ carbohydrate to provide you with energy – which means food choices such as pasta are ideal. As a rule of thumb, you typically burn at least 100 calories per mile on top of your general daily calorie requirements – so it is important that your body is supplied with enough of the correct type of fuel. Also, don’t neglect your fluid intake, because your fluid requirements will increase both for storing fuel in your muscles and because you will lose more fluid through sweating.

How much training do I need to do for a 10k?
Up to a point, the more training that you are able to complete, the better. However, you should always remember that the most important component of any training plan is rest – so a correct training plan should balance building up your half-marathon-specific fitness with sufficient recovery. Use the ‘training time vs finishing time’ guide below to help you gauge how much time you need to commit per week. Your training plan should consist of a careful blend of long runs, recovery sessions and faster-paced training as you build your half-marathon-specific endurance – so that you will be able to run for 60 minutes or longer.

  • Training for less than three hours per week = Your target 10k finishing time should be 65 minutes or above.
  • Training for three to four hours per week = Your target 10k finishing time should be between 55 and 65 minutes.
  • Training for four to five hours per week = Your target 10k finishing time should be between 45 and 55 minutes.

How long will a 10k race take me?
Depending upon the weather conditions on the day and any unpredictable events that occur, your race may be faster or slower than your target time – so the above finishing times are just a guide. It is also important to remember that you will actually be out on the road for longer than your target time. It can take up to several minutes to cross the start line at mass-participation 10k races such as the Great Run series of events – but with modern computerised timing systems, the organisers are able to record your personal time from crossing the start line to crossing the finishing line. More and more races are issuing runners with their own personal timing chip that you fix to your shoe. At the start and finish lines, as well as at various points around the course, you will cross special mats that register your time as you pass over them – which will provide you with an exact time for your own 10k race.

What happens on race day?
The day of your race will be a fantastic experience that you will never forget. In addition to running your race, the build up and culmination of all your training makes everything worthwhile. You need to rise early so that you can top up your energy stores before heading for the start. At larger events, there can be many thousands of runners – which will make for an amazing atmosphere! Everyone will line up in positions according to their expected finishing time – indicated by placards by the side of the road – and then the start gun will fire and you’ll be off!

En route there will be drinks stations where you can top up with water and/or energy replacement drinks. Running in a huge field is very exciting but can take a little getting used to – so entering a lead-in race such as a 5k event will give you very useful race experience before you do a 10k. Pace judgement is very important during your race, and your training plan will help you to prepare for running at an even consistent pace. Also, each mile or kilometre will be clearly marked so that you can check your progress. There are usually big crowds at the finish, and crossing the line and achieving your goal is a memory that will stay with you forever!

Once you have finished, you will receive your medal, food and drink, and often a goody bag with a souvenir race t-shirt and other products. A few days after your race you can expect to receive the race results and often a selection of photographs taken around the course of you in action – which will be excellent mementoes!

The 10k – can I do it?
The answer to that question is an unequivocal YES! There are literally hundreds of 10k races staged up and down the UK each year, and fields vary from a few hundred runners to many, many thousands – demonstrating that it is a race distance that is accessible to all. Going from non-runner to 10k finisher is always a real success story – and one that is genuinely achievable by following a correctly structured training plan that will help you towards your 10k goal. And as well as achieving your goal, there is a great spin-off benefit too: improved health and fitness! So, if you’re considering taking the 10k plunge, then do it. It’ll be a fantastic experience that you’ll never forget!


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