There is something magical about the 10K distance. On one hand, running 6.2 miles demands your respect and attention, but on the other, it isn't so far that you can't train for it—and run several 10Ks—in one season. It's one step beyond the 5K and a great segue to the half or full marathon distance.
Now that you've built your mileage and successfully tackled a 5K, training for a 10K is well within your reach. Here are 10 tips for training and racing for a 10K in 10 weeks.
1. Have a plan. Let's face, it life is busy and training can easily go by the wayside. The difference between running for fitness and training for a 10K is that every workout has a purpose. That is also what makes "training" so motivational. Follow a training plan that fits your lifestyle and give yourself at least 10 weeks to prepare. You can train for it in less time, however, it helps to have a little extra time in case of illness, vacation or life's chaos.
2. Be consistent. A solid 10K race is not made from a handful of good runs, but rather the sum of good, bad and sometimes ugly workouts. As you make your way through the training program, remember not every run will be your strongest. Even the world's fastest elite runners have tough running days. If you're having a rough day, slow the pace, and get through it. It's all part of the training process and breaking through to your running best. The great workouts will build confidence, the challenging "When-can-I-stop" runs will develop mental strength, and all of them combined will keep your momentum flowing.
3. Go easy. In order to run farther (in this case, your 10K distance), you've also got to run easy during most of your workouts. Think of your training as a chili recipe and the faster workouts as the spice of your program. As you work your way through the 10K training program, you will be pushing longer distance runs as well. The secret is in balancing the recipe to allow your body time to recover between runs and grow stronger. When the program calls for easy runs, focus on keeping a "happy pace" and one where you can easily talk and almost feels effortless. Running easy translates to a stronger, faster or longer distance run down the road.
More: 3 Rules for Easy Runs
4. Go faster. In order to run faster, you need to train at a faster pace. Dedicate one workout each week to running short one to two minutes intervals at a hard effort (hear your breathing and can't talk) followed by equal easy running for the same amount of time. Keep it simple and repeat the workout for three to four weeks (once per week) before you make it harder or add more intervals.
For example, warm up by walking five minutes. Then run 10 minutes at your easy pace, run four two-minute intervals at a hard effort and follow each by two minutes at easy effort to recover. Cool down running 10 minutes easy and finish with a five-minute walk. Repeat this workout once per week for at least three weeks and then add one more interval.
5. Go longer. Part of taking the challenge to progress from a 5K to the 10K distance is learning how to run longer. A great way to build endurance is to invest one running workout each week (weekends work well) and slowly add a half-mile to your longest run. For example, if you run 4 miles now, start with four and a half miles and add a half mile (five miles, five and a half miles, six miles) as you progress through the 10-week program.
Every four weeks, cut back to five miles to give yourself time to recover and adapt. Reduce the long-run mileage the week before the race to no more than five miles. The key to building endurance on the run is to train at a conversational effort level throughout the distance. You should be able to carry on a conversation and feel as if you could keep running a little longer when you've reached the end. Keep this workout slow and easy and your body will quickly recover to the demands of the new distance.