How to run a fast 10K (I have no idea)

I’ve been running 10Ks since 2002, when I made my first attempt at “distance running” — at least as I saw it at the time — at the Oxford Day 10K while I was living in Easton, Md.

I was running 30 minutes or so a few times a week, in addition to other workouts, but didn’t train, per se, and felt like death the whole second half of the race. I don’t even remember my time, which is probably a blessing.

Now, even with two marathons and a bunch of half-marathons and 10-milers on my running resume, the 10K continues to stump me. I’m faster and smarter now, but still, I have a sneaking suspicion I should be turning out faster 10Ks than I have been.

A typical 10K time is about 52 minutes for me. I say “typical” because that’s how fast I ran my last two. Sure, they were hilly courses, and yes, one of them was sullied by some stomach issues. Still, 52 minutes and change is pretty far from what the McMillan Running Pace Calculator predicts I should run for a 10K — a 49:08, or slightly faster than 8-minute miles, which truly seems to make sense given my other race times. I understand why my marathon times don’t line up with the rest of my PRs — 26.2 miles is so long, any number of factors can change the course of the race. But a 10K? If I can run a decent 5K and a good half-marathon, why can’t I figure out this strange little middleman?

I don’t think I’m being unnecessarily hard on myself — 52 minutes means I’m running at a pace that’s slower than my best half-marathon, and also slower than my 5- to 6-mile training runs, which are usually right around 8-minute miles.

So what am I doing wrong?

I have played around with the pace at which I start a 10K without any definitive results. I’ve had a few races where I’ve started around 7:30-minute-mile pace, only to slow down the second half. But when I start slower … well, I just sort of stay slow. I just have a hard time wrapping my brain around how much I should hurt if I’m running the race right. I understand that during a 5K, I basically will feel like I’m running hard the whole time. I understand that during a half-marathon, I want to constantly remind myself to push the pace any time I feel too comfortable. I guess I don’t understand how I should feel in a 10K, and waver between going too hard and going too easy.

I’m had planned to run the Jingle All the Way 10K on Sunday morning, but scheduling conflicts intervened. But I’m thinking a fast 10K might be my next short-term running goal.

So who knows how to race a 10K rather than just run it clumsily and unevenly? Tips would be much appreciated!

In other news, I’ve started experimenting with new pre-run breakfasts, the first frontier in figuring out how to manage my stomach while running. This morning, before a rather intense lifting and core workout, I tried my typical slow-cooking Quaker oatmeal with banana slices rather than pumpkin mixed in. Delicious, and didn’t bug me a bit while working out! Trying something that worked made me feel like I learned something about how my body works — part of why I love running to begin with.


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7 responses to “How to run a fast 10K (I have no idea)

  1. I say do some LT work in your training. Try a 10min warmup, then 3-5 x 7-10 minutes at around your goal 10K race pace (or a smidge faster, but not so fast that you can’t breathe). Depending on your time-to-race-day, you could do this workout three weeks in a row, going from 3x to 4x to 5x. Get about a week’s recovery between the last BIG set of LTs and race day, but make sure to do a tune-up before hand… maybe three days out… where you run ~5-10minutes x 2 at race pace.

    You’ll also probably want to do some shorter, higher intensity training if your goal is really to knock your 10K time down.

  2. We’re on the same wavelength. I just posted a new blog entry talking about road running and (sorta) how I managed to run a 10k PR. I think 10k is the toughest distance – at least, it always seems to hurt the most for me. Short enough you gotta run fast but long enough to really make you suffer! Even my husband said he REALLY, DESPERATELY wanted to walk in that last mile.

  3. what is it about the 10k? i totally agree – i just can’t figure it out either. sounds like my “training” for my first one went about as well as yours 🙂 they’re too long for an all-out effort like a 5k and too short for a cruise like a half-marathon.

    i have to agree with megan – lactate threshold or tempo runs would be a good practice run for the 10k. i like to use them for all-distance training anyway. my running schedules are pretty boring – easy runs, tempo runs and 800’s. but hey, it’s worked for me so far!

  4. Pingback: Motivation Monday: the happy stomach edition « Amy Reinink

  5. I too struggle with 10ks. I love 5ks and half marathons, but stay away from the 10k. Even though my pace for my fastest is right where it should be according to some of those calculators, that distance remains a challenge. So, that being said, I can’t offer much help either. Sorry!

  6. trialsoftraining

    I struggled with my *first* 10K because I had NO idea how to pace myself for a shorter race…..I definitely started a little too fast, and was hurting by the end – but that’s a good race sign, right? 😉

    I usually start them around 8:00 min/miles and get it down closer to 7:45 around the middle and finishing around 7:30s ? Basically, negative splits are Always the way to my opinion! And sprinting it out at the end…obviously 😉

  7. Pingback: Motivation Monday: The ‘pulling the trigger’ edition « Amy Reinink

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