10km racing

10K runWe’ve all had that dialogue with non-runners who have two concepts of racing distances. Marathon – very long and tough. 10k – short and simple, the distance of choice for joggers and fun runners. The ever increasing number of 10ks organized by clubs, charities and corporate sports brands also develops the idea that a nippy 10k can be dashed off every weekend for a T shirt and a decent blow out.  But to think a little deeper about the event ….we look to the coach of a guy who’s come 1st and 2nd in the last 2 European Championships at 10,000m and been the leading non-African at the last Olympic 10,000m, so we’ll guess he understands the challenge of 10k running.

He recalls watching a very experienced guy, sub – 28 minutes and with experience in the brutally tough World Cross Country Championships over 12k, looking painfully anxious before the start of a 10k and saying ‘That dread and anguish before a 10k never leaves me and is even worse than before a marathon’. OK, maybe this runner urgently needed a sports psychologist, but the point to note is that the race is no picnic when you push yourself.

Running a 10k to the upper limit of your current fitness level is never easy. For the large majority of us, it involves running between 30 and 50 minutes at a pace that feels fine for 5-10 minutes, then uncomfortable for maybe half the remaining time, and extremely hard work for the final 10 to 15 minutes. After about 5 minutes of 10k pace running you will be breathing too hard to talk, so if you are able to hold a conversation with other athletes and spectators along the route, you may well find that you will finish with more in the tank than you had planned.

So, as very general rules of thumb to get your 10k times closer to what you can really achieve, think about the following suggestions: -

Don’t race the target distance too frequently, just because it’s so easily available. Instead select a particular 10k race as your aim, perhaps 12 to 16 weeks away and systematically prepare for it, incorporating both shorter and slightly longer races in your build up.

    Don’t start your race too quickly. Embed firmly in your body and mind, the exact feeling of what your PB 10k pace actually feels like, and then practice it regularly. A common mistake, made by many distance runners, is that they spend little time in the race at their 'average' 10k pace. Instead, they will typically start off far too quickly, and are already slowing when they briefly spend a little time at their average pace during the middle section of the race.  From this point and into the latter stages of the race, they drift towards a pace that is slow enough to ensure that their best potential result is not achieved.

    Do give 10k training sessions the right structure and challenge. When running intervals or repetition at 10k pace, you will notice one major difference compared to actually racing 10k. This is that in the race there is no kind coach allowing you time to walk or jog to recover en route. With this in mind, you should always look carefully at the duration of the efforts that you run. These efforts should last several minutes, allowing you to experience the demands of running at race pace, but not necessarily so long that your running form and pace suffer. Its also important that the recovery time between each effort is kept fairly short, generally not more than 30% of the duration of the repetition.

    As your fitness improves, and you are running even paced efforts, with a short recovery, the next thing that should be reviewed is the volume of your session, not the pace at which you are running. If you are running less than 8km at your 10k pace during each session, there may be room for improvement in this area.

Progressive improvements to the running sessions, combined with a well structured training program, racing calendar, will have a positive impact on your 10k performance if you give your body time to adjust.

As your fitness improves, and you are running even paced efforts, with a short recovery, the next thing that should be reviewed is the volume of your session, not the pace at which you are running. If you are running less than 8km at your 10k pace during each session, there may be room for improvement in this area.

Progressive improvements to the running sessions, combined with a well structured training program, racing calendar, will have a positive impact on your 10k performance if you give your body time to adjust.