If you follow the pattern of most beginning runners, then chances are that you start out by training for and completing your first 5K, probably run a few more 5Ks – with hopefully a PB or two along the way – and then start thinking about that first 10K – “the runner” is, after all, quite often a competitive beast both with themselves and with others.
So what does it actually mean to prepare for your first 10K…
…well it is a bit further to run!
No surprises there – in fact I would go so far as to say that it’s twice the distance! But that has quite a few implications in terms of how you train.
Changes to Your Training
Your overall weekly mileage will need to increase to prepare your body for 6.2 miles of racing. Depending on your goals and inclination as a runner, this may include:
- Running more times per week. Time on your feet is important to training success.
- Running further on some of your runs, including an increased emphasis on the Long Slow Distance (LSD) run.
- Splicing in more easy runs to help the body recover from the longer / more intense sessions.
- Including faster-paced running and / or interval sessions – again depending on your race goals. This may or may not have been part of your 5K training schedule depending on your goals over that distance.
In addition, it is worth noting that you’ll be running a larger percentage of the 10K race within your ‘comfortable’ aerobic zone, i.e. the zone where you can hold some kind of a conversation (hence the increased emphasis on the LSD that specifically trains you for this type of running).
The time spent running within your aerobic zone may be 95% or higher of the total race time, whereas when running a 5K you can run a higher percentage of the total race distance within your anaerobic zone.
Training for longer races requires more time. And to be successful in that race, your training needs to be consistent over your training period. And that means running injury-free. Strength and conditioning can help immensely (see below), but as your mileage increases you also need to become more aware of your body and how it’s responding to the increased training load and then adjust your training accordingly. To do this, you can use a process of continual monitoring.
Strength & Conditioning
As weekly training mileage increases, the overall stress (load) that is placed on your body increases. A comprehensive and progressive strength and conditioning programme helps to prevent injury, keeps you running strong in the latter stages of your longer training runs and the 10K event itself and helps with overall power.
It takes time for the full benefits of strength and conditioning work to be realized, so start early (at least 12 weeks before the event itself – ideally at the very start of your training program) and work at this diligently for the best results.
When most athletes think about running, they think about training the body. This is clearly essential. But what’s also critical is training your mind. Learning to cope with a certain amount of discomfort while running at speed for an extended period of time is a skill that you need to practice during your training. It’s about quieting those voices in your head that are suggesting that slowing down or walking might be a good idea. Quite often, overcoming the mental barriers to racing are much harder than overcoming the physical barriers.
You can do this by regularly incorporating some race-pace running into your training programme. Intervals or lactate threshold runs – but not too often (once per week for a beginner with a minimum training base of 3 months) – are also a good way of learning to deal with uncomfortable periods of running.
Nutrition & Hydration
This is a really big subject, most of which is beyond the scope of this article. But it’s worth picking up on a few key points as you move towards your first 10K…
Longer distances = more training = more recovery. Your body needs time and appropriate macronutrients (carbohydrate, protein and fat) to recover from your training sessions. These nutrients should ideally come from high quality food sources.
The timing of this nutrition is also important in order to maximize the recovery process. Consuming food or drink that contains both carbs and protein within the first 20 minutes of a long or intense training session helps to kick off the recovery process. A tall glass of milk is a really good option.
What about drink and fuel when running?
This largely depends on how long you think it will take you to complete the 10K race. For some, the 10K can take 30 minutes. For others, 1 hour and 30 minutes is more realistic. If you’re going to be out there for a longer period of time, then taking a sports drink or water with you, depending on your energy needs, is a good idea.
To answer the question of whether you need a sports drink, try it out during your longer training runs. See how it goes. Most people find that they don’t need any fluid during a 10K. For others, water is sufficient.
Hopefully the above provides anyone thinking about entering their first 10K with some helpful hints and advice. When you’re ready to begin your training, why not check out our free Beginner 10K training plan.