Evaluating your last race season is an important step to create goals for the next season and structure your training. You need to be honest about what went well so you can keep those training elements in place that helped you run PRs or fast races. You also need to search for areas you can improve—this will allow you to determine what types of workouts or race distances you need to focus on this coming season.
Race Times: Predicted vs. Actual
I like to start by using a race time predictor calculator. You simply put in your fastest race time for a given distance. So if you ran two 5Ks last season, one in 25:00 and one in 25:30, use 25:00. The tool will then give you the times at other distances, such as 10K, half marathon, marathon, that you should be able to run based off of that time. So let's say the calculator gives you a time of 52:00 for the 10K. If you in fact ran ran slower than 52:00 for 10K last year—let's say you ran 54:00—then we know something is off. But what is it?
If you're a 25-minute 5K runner who can't run 52 minutes for 10K, then you're lacking some aerobic fitness. Specifically, you're likely lacking long runs, and you're probably lacking workouts that are run at 10K pace. Let's look at the long run first.
Plan 1 to Run Faster
If you're someone who runs 40 miles a week, then one school of thought says your long run should be 20 percent of your weekly volume, or eight miles. But I would rather see you run 10 miles for your long run, which would be 25 percent of your weekly volume. At 40 miles a week you're probably taking a day off per week, and it's realistic that you can work up to a 10-mile run.
Once you've run several weeks of 10 miles, make the long run a progression long run. A progression long run is simply a long run that gets faster near the end of the run. A simple way to do this would be to run five miles at your normal long-run pace, then run the next two miles just a bit faster. Then run the eighth mile a bit faster and run the ninth mile even faster. Then you can do the 10th mile as a cool-down mile.
Make sure you're running your progression long run controlled. You should be able to say, "I could have run another mile farther if I had to." Don't make this a 10-mile race. If your 10K time seems slower than it should be, then you need to value the weekly long run and push the pace near the end.
Plan 2 to Run Faster
Another way to improve 10K pace is simply to run the pace that the calculator tells you to run, but do it in small chunks. This is a simple repetition workout, a type of workout you're likely familiar with. You may have done repeat 400 meters when training for a 5K, or you may have done Yasso 800s when training for the marathon.
For the 10K, I'd do a simple workout of 5 x 2K, which will give you 10K total of running. You can do this on the track or with a GPS on a road or path; it's up to you. The rest can start at three minutes, then cut down to just one minute between the reps. While you wouldn't want to do this workout every week, it's a great indicator of your 10K fitness when you get down to doing the 2Ks at goal-10K-pace with just one minute of rest.
More: How to Kill Your 10K PR
How to Diversify Distances and Training
This approach to determining which races you ran well last season and which distances you need to work on this coming season works for all distances. Many people struggle with the fact that their marathon isn't as fast as their half marathon time predicts. You can read our articles on how the marathon and half marathon are different for specifics, but know that you can close the gap this season and start running all distances to your potential.