A 10K race is an excellent distance for runners of all abilities, especially beginners looking to enter their first mass-participation event. As oppose to the full-on, time-sapping commitment of a half or full marathon, 10K races hit the sweet spot of being a challenge without requiring six months of planning and training to complete them in one piece.
They’re also far more common, with small events running every weekend all around the country, and securing a spot in even the most popular 10K races is a doddle compared to the ballots or extensive fundraising required to bag a major marathon place.
Assuming you’re convinced, head to our running events page to scout out the 10K you’re going to enter in 2018. Once you’ve signed up and given yourself a pat on the back, it’s time to start planning your training.
To help any runner smash their 10K we asked running coaches for training plans for all abilities and aims. Once you’ve selected your plan from the below, scroll down for some general tips for running your best 10K.
10-Week 10K Training Plan For Beginners
We have two 10K training plans for people who are just looking to complete the race, perhaps through a mixture of walking and running. This ten-week plan is aimed at people with little running experience who can run a mile (1.6km) continuously.
16-Week 10K Training Plan For Beginners
Our second plan is aimed at beginners who have given themselves more time to train ahead of the 10K. Having 16 weeks available means you should be able to go from couch to 10K, but it’s best if you can already run 1.6km continuously.
12-Week 10K Training Plan For A PB
For more experienced athletes looking to smash their 10K PB, we’ve enlisted running coach Ed Kerry (therundoctor.co.uk) for a plan that contains a mix of sessions to ensure you have the speed and endurance to fly through the race.
6-Week Emergency 10K Training Plan
One of the great things about a 10K race is that if you are a regular runner – two to three times a week – you can jump into a race at a moment’s notice. Even so, if you’d like to impress at the event try this six-week plan to set you up for race day.
How to train For a 10K
Gundula Hennig, running expert at BodySpace (body-space.co.uk), explains why your easiest session of the week is actually your most important
How much training do you need to do? That depends on your background and experience, but anyone training for a 10K run needs to split their focus between three areas: speed, endurance and recovery. For speed, the focus is on increasing the maximum amount of fast-twitch muscle fibres recruited for each stride. For endurance, it’s about adapting the body and mind to longer distances: here, we’ll do short, recovery and long runs. Depending on how much running you’ve already done, you might take a day or two off completely or run a few recovery miles. Ideally, at least two of your recovery days should be spent running at a very low intensity to aid recovery.
What’s the most important session? Recovery. Everyone disregards it, but not only does this make you more prone to injury – it doesn’t allow your body to recover and allow the physiological adaptations that come in response to a training stimulus to take place. Use a mix of low-intensity running, stretching, foam rolling and soft tissue body work so that your work’s actually helping you improve.
How do you get faster? You’ll need a variety of drills and training sessions to increase speed, including hill runs and interval sessions. Key at the 10K distance, though, is the long run – if you’re aiming for a set time, you can’t make these slow. Try an interval-based long run – speed up and slow down but keep going, either using a timer or by listening to your body.
Where do most people go wrong? Because you’re upping the volume, you have to pay more attention to problems – you wouldn’t ride a bike on a flat tyre! Training through niggles allows injuries to get worse. The other big mistake? Not worrying about your guts until race day: your body gets used to “good fuel” and will perform better through training if you give it some respect. Also, you’ll know exactly what works for you when it comes to the race.
What do elite runners do that everyone can learn from? Regardless of natural ability level or training volume, elite runners spend over 70% of their training at low intensity. Even if you’re not running the same mileage as elite runners, you shouldn’t be running mid-intensity junk miles.
10K Training Tips
For some general advice on bossing a 10K, here’s Adidas Runners London captain James Heptonstall with his five top tips. Adidas’s City Runs series of 10K runs launched in 2016 with a race in Shoreditch. The next event is on 18th March 2018 in Fulham.
1. Mix Up Your Training Runs
“When training for a 10K, variety is key. It’s not just about getting out and running – you should be mixing up your training with intervals, tempo runs, fartlek and hills, as well as steady runs. It is also important to listen to your body and not do too much – rest and recovery is a critical element in all training schedules.”
2. Run With Other People
“If you’re looking to improve your 10K time, it’s crucial to run with someone of a similar ability, be it a friend or in a group at a run club. By training with others, you will push yourself much harder to get more out of your training. Running is a mental game as well as physical so if you have others around you to support and encourage it can make the world of difference.”
3. Don’t Neglect Your Strength Training
“When training for a 10K, there are plenty of other exercises that you should consider to complement your running training. Working on your core stability as well as your strength and conditioning, in particular for your legs, provides a great base for an effective and efficient technique as well as helping with injury prevention. In conjunction to this, flexibility training through stretching, yoga or Pilates is also excellent for injury prevention and improving your range of movement as a runner.”
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4. Nail Your Pre- And Post-race Nutrition
“Pre-race I would focus on slow release carbohydrates such as brown bread, porridge or brown rice to provide sustained energy release. Post-race I look to fast-release carbohydrates such as white pasta or a jacket potato to replenish depleted energy stores. For a 10K run you will probably only need to take on water during the race, depending on the weather.”
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5. Avoid Changes And Stress On Race Day
“Don’t change anything – be it your diet, shoes or kit. You shouldn’t introduce something new on race day. Arrive at the race with plenty of time to spare so you can warm up, go to the loo and drop your bag off. Use a watch so you can keep track of your pace over the kilometre splits.”
How To Avoid Injury
You run the biggest risk of picking up an injury when dramatically increasing the amount of running you do, which is obviously more likely to be a concern when training for longer distances than a 10K race. However, it is still wise to increase your training load slowly. If you’ve got it logged somewhere, or can work it out from memory, look at your average weekly distance for the past month and aim to increase that by around 2-4km per week as a maximum. Following a training plan closely will help to keep the workload manageable.
You can also reduce the chances of developing common running injuries like plantar fasciitis, runner’s knee and shin splints by strengthening your leg and core muscles, which will have the added benefit of improving your running too. Leg exercises like calf raises, squats and lunges will bolster your lower body, and always remember to stretch after your runs.
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If you are struggling with injuries it’s also worth having your gait analysed to see if you’re wearing the wrong kind of running shoe for you. If you overpronate (roll your foot excessively inwards when landing), for example, a stability running shoe could do wonders for you. You can get gait analysis for free in many specialist running stores but if you are having persistent trouble with injuries, it’s best to see a physio to check on your running form.
The Running Gear You Need For A 10K
Running shoes are naturally the most important bit of kit for your 10K. You can opt for quite a lightweight shoe compared with the cushioned models that are essential for a half or full marathon, but most casual runners will still prefer to have some cushioning rather than a racing flat.
As mentioned, if you are new to running or have had injury issues it’s worth getting your gait analysed to see if you overpronate or underpronate or are a neutral runner, because this will help determine which is the best shoe for you. However, if a shoe feels good, it’s probably the one to stick with, so don’t feel pressured to change to a completely new style of shoe that doesn’t feel right on the basis of gait analysis alone.
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Other than shoes, you don’t have to worry too much about the rest of your running gear for a 10K, because the distance isn’t long enough for chafing to be a massive issue. It’s still worth having a T-shirt and shorts that are designed for running, if only to make you feel like a pro on race day, and if you’re training through the winter then a jacket, base layer and tights will come in handy too. Just get the stuff you like and avoid wearing new clothes on race day in case they annoy you in unforeseen ways.
How Can Tech Help You?
If you just want to track your runs and review them afterwards, there are several excellent running apps you can download for free that will do the job. Pick up a running belt to safely stow your phone in and you’re all set. If you don’t want to carry your phone with you or are keen on having your running stats available at a glance during your training, then look into trackers, ideally with GPS for accurate distance recording and pace stats.
The cheapest dedicated running watches are between £120 and £140, and these will do a great job of tracking your training and also offer basic guided interval workouts you can programme yourself. Our recommendation in this price range is the TomTom Spark 3. The Huawei Band Pro 2 with built-in GPS tracker is also worth a look if you’re on a budget as it’s only £80, but the slender screen makes it difficult to keep an eye on your stats mid-run.
For around £200 you’ll find more advanced trackers like the Polar M430 and Garmin Forerunner 235, which offer full training programmes for a 10K you can follow from your watch. These plans can be customised based on your current running ability.
If you’re an advanced runner you might also want to pace your race using a tracker and keep tabs on your training load to make sure you’re not overdoing it. Top-end trackers like the Garmin Forerunner 935 will do this while also offering analysis of your running form and telling you how each training session has benefited your aerobic and anaerobic fitness. This kind of tracker is going to set you back £400-plus.