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Training for a 10k: Posting a good time without injury

For runners both novice and advanced, the 10k represents an important milestone. For beginners, the challenge of transitioning from not running at all to covering a distance of 10 kilometres can be hard. But it often offers inspiration, giving the runner a tangible goal and something to focus on.

For more advanced runners, the 10k is often seen as a stepping stone, a mid-distance point between relatively short races like a 5k and the longer races, such as the marathon.

What’s a Good 10k time? 

Before we start talking about working up to a 10k, let’s talk about goals. While everyone runs at their own pace, it’s good to know the norms for your demographic group so you have a target in mind of what to shoot for.

Of course, the average pace changes depending on a number of factors, including your age and gender. A quick look at a pacing guide can help clear this up. However, we can at least look at general times for various groups to get an idea of what you should be aiming for.

Casual runners can complete a 10k in around 50 to 70 minutes. This gives an average pace of five to seven minutes per kilometer. Men tend to run faster than women, with the average completion time for an adult male being around 56 minutes, or 5:36 per kilometer. The average adult woman comes in slightly slower than that at just over 64 minutes, or 6:24 per kilometer.

For the more advanced runner, these times will be shorter. Experienced runners aim for run times of between four and five minutes a kilometre, which averages out to a total 10k running time between 40 and 50 minutes.

Older and younger runners might experience different time depending on many things, and then other issues like terrain and weather can come into play as well.

What is the Best Way to Train for a 10k?

If you are interested in running a 10k, know that it can take weeks of training to build your body to the point where you are able to successfully complete a training run. That’s before you even think about running a competitive race.

There are many training programs available, but most of them follow the tried-and-true method of short runs, then adding distance until your endurance and speed has built up. A typical two-month training program might look something like this:

Week 1: 2 km, every other day. On off days, 25 minutes cross-training*. Rest one or two days throughout the week.

Week 2: 2.5 km, every other day. On off days, 25 minutes cross-training. Rest.

Week 3: 3 km, every other day. On off days, 30 minutes cross-training. Rest.

Week 4: 3.5 km, every other day. On off days, 30 minutes cross-training. Rest.

Week 5: 4 km, every other day. On off days, 35 minutes cross-training. Rest.

Week 6: 4.5 km, every other day. On off days, 35 minutes cross-training. Rest.

Week 7: 5 km, every other day. On off days, 45 minutes cross-training. Rest.

Week 8: 5.5 km, every other day. On off days, 45 minutes cross-training. Rest.

(*Cross-training refers to aerobic physical activity that comes in some form other than running, such as walking, swimming, cycling, and gym work.) 

Depending on the time you have to put into your training, the numbers might look different, but the idea is the same: begin running at a distance you can handle. Then gradually build up your endurance. On off days (the days you don’t run), give your legs a chance to rest but still make sure you are training your body in other ways. In addition, it’s important to rest one or two days throughout the week to give your body a chance to recuperate.

Training Programs for Experienced Runners

If you are a more experienced runner, already doing shorter distances such as 5ks, then you don’t necessarily need to start at the beginning of a program like this. Instead, it’s best to start from your 5k distance and work up from there. In addition, you need to add other exercises into your regimen as well to help you build your strength and endurance. These exercises include things such as interval training where you vary your speed between faster and slower-paced running and tempo runs, which help you to build your overall physical stamina while maintaining a competitive pace.

How to Eat When Training for a 10k

Just like the fuel you put into your car affects performance, the food you eat will affect how your body reacts while training. Choose foods that will boost your performance as well as helping you recover after your runs.

Choose high-quality foods rich in vitamins, minerals, quality proteins and carbs. Coaches used to insist that athletes load up on carbohydrates. But this is not the recommended way to optimal nutrition. Eating too many carbs will only lead to weight gain, slowing you down and increasing the chance of injury to knees and lower back. Similarly, loading on carbs the night before a race can make you sluggish. If you have good eating habits, don’t change them. Just increase the amount slightly to compensate for the calories burned in training.

In addition, it’s vital to stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water! When training, there really is no such thing as “too much water,” so drink away. Many people gravitate towards sports drinks, but unless you are running in a very high or very humid climate you really don’t need the added sugars that come with those drinks.

Water - Hydrate properly for 10k runs


Additional Tips for Your First 10k

You’ve signed up for your first race. What else do you need to know?

Learn the Course

Try to preview the course before the race. Becoming familiar with the route can help you figure out where on the course you need to push yourself, and where you can take it easy. This will let you save your energy for when you really need it. In addition, it will help you know where you are and how much distance is left.

Don’t Eat Anything New

Right before your race, you might be tempted to try some new protein bar or energy smoothie in an attempt to gain a competitive advantage. The problem is, even if these products are tried and tested for other runners, introducing something new the day of a race (or even a few days before) can lead to an upset stomach and other complications.

Don’t Gorge on Water

This might sound odd, but the last thing you want to do before a 10k is chug a lot of water. Yes, you want to be hydrated, but the best way to do that is to sip just enough to keep your mouth moist.  Proper hydration is a part of preparation. It should be sorted well before the day of the race by drinking lots of water in the preceding days. If you are dehydrated the day of your race, it’s already too late.

Start Slow and Keep Your Pace

One mistake novice runners frequently make is to come out of the gate strong, thinking they can get ahead of their pace and then cruise. However, doing this just makes it more likely that you will burn out sooner rather than later. Instead, start the race a little slower than normal, as much as 10% off of your normal pace. This will let you conserve your energy during the race and help you finish strong.

Training for a 10k is not an impossible task. It takes dedication, patience and a willingness to work hard But it’s something that is within the reach of most able-bodied people. The key is to train smart, slowly building your strength and endurance while eating healthy and keeping fit. So, what are you waiting for? Start your training today!

Further Reading

  • For more info on 10k races, here’s a list of upcoming events in Dublin 
  • And don’t forget that the Dublin City Marathon takes place on Sunday, 30 October in 2022. 
  • Learn how to stretch and mobilise for an injury-free training season and race
  • Feeling a few niggles in those overworked muscles? You might need a little help from a physiotherapist
  • And don’t forget to get some sports massage therapy to prepare your muscles for race. 
  • Deep tissue massage is your friend after the race for releasing tension in the body. Deep Tissue Massage helps to loosen muscles, ease pain and increase mobility. 
What's a good 10k time?

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