Try 10k, the distance race you need for the ultimate leg workout
‘A 10K offers a good physical challenge without the commitment burden of training for a longer race’
‘The impact that mastering a 10K will have on your running ability makes it the ideal race distance for every type of runner’
It may not have the blister brag-ability of a marathon, or the hard yards of a half, but if it’s a test of speed, stamina and strength you’re after, look no further than the 10K. And it’s fast becoming the UK’s race distance du jour, with hundreds of thousands of runners entering 10K races every year. In fact, this year’s British 10K alone saw over 25,000 people take to the streets of London for just one race. Why? Because, at 6.2 miles, it offers a good physical challenge without the commitment burden of training for a longer race. Better still, the impact that mastering a 10K will have on your running ability makes it the ideal race distance for every type of runner – from haven’t-laced-up-my-shoes-since-school newbies to seasoned 26.2-ers. And even the queen of distance running, Paula Radcliffe, agrees! ‘10K is pretty much a perfect race distance,’ says the women’s road 10K and marathon world record holder. ‘It provides a great test for experienced runners because it’s a superb indicator of fitness for other distances. While at the same time it’s the perfect target for beginners because it offers a motivating, yet achievable, goal that can be worked towards quickly, with the added bonus that 10K road races are also loads of fun.’ Still not convinced? Here are 10 more reasons to tempt you…
1. Anyone can smash it
‘10K is a really manageable and accessible distance,’ says running coach Nick Anderson (@nickandersonrun). ‘It’s still a challenge at 6.2 miles and, for a beginner, running a whole 10K without stopping is a fantastic achievement. But because it’s such an achievable distance, you can run 10K more regularly than other races too, giving you the opportunity to get really good at it.’
2. It provides a foundation for longer races
‘For more experienced runners, if you’re going to run marathons or even halves once or twice a year, you need to run 10Ks in between,’ says Nick. ‘It’s an excellent distance to sharpen your form, speed and race strategy and, because you recover quite quickly from a 10K, you can almost do one once a month. It’s actually a great idea to do a series of 10K races before thinking about moving on to another distance.’
3. You don’t need any special equipment
Fact! No race gels, no fancy laces, no expensive training technology – just a good pair of running shoes and you really are good to go. Though, we’d /never/ discourage a fit kit splurge, obvs…
4. It’s the best distance to learn about racing environments
The more 10Ks you do, the less likely you are to be overwhelmed by the whole occasion if you tackle a bigger race. The adrenaline, tension, nerves, crowd – not to mention navigating your way through a sea of runners who might not be pavement pounding to your perfect pace – can all throw you off-kilter during your first half or full marathon. Getting a few 10Ks under your belt will prepare you for everything race day might throw at you, including those pre-race toilet queues!
5. It a great mental workout
‘In some ways a 10K is actually harder than a half marathon, because you have to approach it mentally,’ says Nick. ‘It’s a balancing act – go off too fast, at say your usual 5K pace, and you’ll end up in trouble during the last few kilometres. Instead, you’ll need to pace yourself a fraction – not too much – slower than your 5K pace during the first half, ease yourself in, then commit to really pushing hard for the rest of the race. 10K pace is probably the hardest to judge because you’re almost pushing the boundaries and limits of what you’re capable of, but stretching it out for longer than you would during any other race.’
6. It won’t take over your life
Unlike marathon and half-marathon training, where the weekly mileage means you start to fit real life around your training regime, a 10K plan will slot effortlessly into your weekly routine. Think regular, manageable distances and time frames. No giving up your days off or sacrificing your fave TV shows to clock up the miles in the cold and wet. Plus, there’s the added bonus that even on race day you’re likely to be medalled up, showered and at the pub in time for lunch.
7. Mastering it will make you a stronger all-round runner
‘I find 10K a great challenge, competing over that distance has definitely made me a stronger athlete,’ says Jo Pavey, current British 10,000m champion and four-time Olympian. ‘It’s tough both physically and mentally trying to keep hitting those lap/kilometre times. It can be very tactical, which makes it a really interesting race to run, too.’
8. It’s the perfect pre-marathon prep
‘Entering a 10K race is a brilliant sharpener in the last six weeks of half or full-marathon training,’ says Nick. ‘Even better, have a 10K season for a few months beforehand – you can race once a month and recover quickly from it. It will sharpen up your speed and endurance so that when you do go back to half or full-marathon training you’ll find yourself in much better shape.’
9. There are loads of races to choose from
Literally thousands, in fact, all over the UK. Fun races, charity races, muddy races, off-road races, all bursting with bragtastic Facebook and Instagram opportunities (see xx for our pick of the best). And it’s not just amateur runners who love a good 10K race, you might well find yourself on the start line in esteemed company. ‘I love 10K road races,’ says Jo. ‘Mass participation events are always so exciting – the atmosphere‘s amazing and it’s inspiring to run with people who have such great personal stories and are running for important charities.’
10. It will feel like a genuine physical achievement
‘Running a 10K hurts,’ says Nick. ‘It’s a short enough distance that you can commit to pushing yourself that little bit harder, but unlike a 5K, which is over pretty quickly, you have to keep your speed and effort up for longer.’ Safe to say you’ll feel pretty damn proud of yourself at the finish line.