Your First 10K: Five Easy Steps

Here's everything you need to know to compete in your first 10K race

by Michael Donlevy

first 10K race
 6 of 6 

5. Get set

Race day is fast approaching. Here's what you should be doing to make sure you're in tip-top condition...

Taper your training
in the days leading up to the race. "Unless you're a very high-volume athlete, you can taper for just one week prior to any race lasting an hour or less. During that week, cut total training volume by 50-60 per cent, and divide what's left equally between high intensity work and recovery," says coach Steve Lumley.

Recce the route. "Walk or cycle the course two days before the event," says Frank Shorter, former Olympic marathon champion and author of Running For Peak Performance (£9.99, Dorling Kindersley). This will give you information on hazards such as sharp bends, potholes - always likely on UK roads - or high kerbs. But if you can't do that, examine a course map, says Pavey: "I couldn't get to New York to do a recce before the marathon, but I did get a map that showed the elevation of the course. So I was still able to study it and prepare accordingly."

Make sure you know
your kit without  being so overfamiliar with it that it smells. "Don't try anything new on race day - stick with what you like from training," says Pavey. "Does your clothing rub in certain areas? This can be a particular problem for women in crop-tops as the seam can sometimes be in an awkward place, so you need to know in advance if and where you may need to apply Vaseline.

Tactics are down to you
, depending on your level of fitness. But one good trick for beginners is disassociation, or diverting your attention from what you are doing: "It's the habit of thinking about being somewhere other than where you happen to be," says Shorter. "Disassociate and go relatively easy for the first half of the race to avoid burning out. Associate in the second half when the going gets tough."

Aim to run negative splits
. This is basically the concept of getting faster as a race progresses, and ultimately, in this case, means your second 5K should be faster than your first. "This is also where it helps to know the route and any elevations, so you can plan your tactics in advance," says Pavey. "If one split is uphill, you need to take that into account. Many PBs and world records are run in negative splits, so you're still fresh near the end. But don't sell yourself short!"

Drink two litres of water
the day before the race. "Most people use up 1.2-1.5 litres of water a day just being sedentary, so make sure you are well hydrated for the race by adding a bit extra," says nutritionist Sarah Schenker. "Consider the heat on race day: temperature can have a huge impact - you could lose double the amount you usually  lose in hot weather."

But don't overdo it
at the drinks stations around the course. Hyponatraemia is a condition caused by low blood sodium levels, and has become more common in recent years as people exercise harder, for longer, and hydrate more as a result. It happens when you drink too much, to the point where excess fluid lowers the  concentration of sodium in the blood. In extreme cases, it can lead to brain seizures and death.

Work out what you need
by weighing yourself before and after training, says professor of human nutrition Adam Carey ( "Weight in grams is the same as fluid in millilitres. So if you've lost 60g in training, that's equivalent to 60ml. But to stay topped up you should replace one-and-a-half times your fluid loss, so in this case take on 90ml."

Don't be scared!
Pre-race nerves are OK but shouldn't stop you performing your best. Use visualisation techniques in training. "As you familiarise yourself with the course, visualise yourself successfully completing the race," says Shorter. "When you get out there on race day, you'll find it seems a little more familiar than it would otherwise."

On the day of the race, don't be afraid to harness the support of the crowd. The motivating effect of cheering spectators can't be overestimated if you're starting to lose faith in yourself. "If you have enough energy left in you, a timely cheer from the  crowd has the same effect as being able  to see the finish line," says sports psychologist Jeremy Lazarus ( "You get a rush of adrenaline and forget your pain." 

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Discuss this article

I have just run 5k on the running machine with the grade at 2 i would like to run a 10k for charity. So what is the next steps from here to get myself up to fitness.

What r the best trainers for road running. And should I eat any differently?

Thank You

Posted: 25/06/2011 at 21:15

Best thing to do is go to a running shop and get some proper advice on shoes. I went to a running shop in Bristol where they did my gait analysis

. When i went from 5k to 10k i increased my runs by 15 minutes every 2 weeks and built up slowly,

 As far as fuelling goes if its hot i will take a water bottle out with me and whatever time of day i will make sure i have something to eat before for example if i have breaky at 9 i will run at 11 or if i ran at five i would have an apple or biscuit at 3ish. I find as long as i'm not starved but not full of food that works for me.

 You may find it harder on the road than on the Dreadmill so don't worry if you find 5K hard it takes time to build up...goodluck xx

Posted: 25/06/2011 at 21:33

I would stick with a knife and fork approach to eating.

Seriously, keep the carbs up (of the low GI kind), and just go with what your body tells you.

Hope you raise lots for charity.

Posted: 25/06/2011 at 21:39

Knee Injury - take a holiday in the Lakes - it may help!

Hi at the beginning of the year i decided to get fit and start running again after almost a decade (A ran a few Great North Runs in the 1990's).  I ran the Middlesbrough 5K earlier this year and ran a reasonable 26:45.  Around this time however i was getting tremendous pains in my knees (a common problem i am aware).  I went to respectable sports shop and one of there guys checked me out and said there was no problem with my running shoes or the way i ran.  He gave me a number of a specialist as there seemed obviously deep rooted problems and i had every intention to follow this up after a holiday in Coniston.  At the lakes i walked and walked all day every day, up commons, round Tarns and lake and also the Old Man of Coniston and not once did i feel a twinge or any problems with my knees. 

On my return home i had a few days rest then resumed my running scheduled designed for a 10K in Middlesbrough in Early September and i have been running every other day since i got back and not a twinge.  is it possible i have strengthened my knees and indeed solve my injury problem!

May be worth considering for other runners with similar injury problems.


Posted: 07/07/2011 at 13:28

Easy? Steady? Hard? Recovery?

Does Easy mean the speed where you can plod along and talk at the same time?

Is steady race speed?  Is Hard almost sprinting?  In which case, I am not sure I can sprint for 8 minutes.  Or is Hard your desired race speed?

Any guidance would be welcome.

Posted: 03/11/2011 at 18:05

Put simply...

Easy means you can still maintain full sentences with a buddy... hard means you can't.  It's not necessarily sprinting, it just means you're too out of breath for conversation.  Steady is somewhere in the middle... not conversational, but not breathing as hard as at "hard" pace. 

 Hope this helps!

Posted: 30/11/2011 at 16:43

i have less than 6weeks to train for a 10k for charity. i have only started training. Any tips would be appreciated as its freezing outside and i don't want to get injured.

Posted: 09/02/2012 at 09:57

I have started training for a 10k in May and also just to lose some unwanted poundage.

I can roughy run 5k in 30 mins...what do you think I should set as a target for the 10k in May?



Posted: 10/02/2012 at 13:06

Sally - make sure you warm up by walking a couple of minutes then running really slowly for 5 mins or so before you speed up. I was injured for 5 months last year due to over-training in january trying to get ready for a 1/2 marathon. Take it very slowly - do not increase your long run distance or your total weekly mileage by more than 10% per week. Either increase distance OR speed OR hills. Not all in one go. Stretch afterwards - holding each for 20 secs. Cross train if you cant run (swim, cycle, do fast walks up hills...) Good luck. Enjoy your training!

Grant - If you can do 30 min 5k now, aim for a 60min 10k by May. Then if you smash it you'll feel great! Don't aim too high, if you aim for a 55min 10k, and then end up doing it in 56, you will be disappointed. If you've aimed for 60 mins, a 56 min result will give you a massive high. Make sure you do some speed sessions (tempo runs, fartleks etc). You will definitely run faster on race day than you do in training - you just do!

Posted: 10/02/2012 at 20:07

Started running in the summer and followed a 6 week run/walk programme. Commitment was a bit up and down but got to a point where I could run for approx 5km in 30 mins.

Due to health reasons, had to stop running 3 months ago and havnt done any exercise since. 

 I want to start again and my brother has suggested a 10km run in May (12 weeks exactly from now) to motivate me. 

 Is this a realistic target? I just have no idea. I am feeling quite motivated at the moment but I'm not a natural runner at all. What do the more experienced ones of you think? (bear in mind my fitness is probably back to zero again and I might have to start with the run/walk thing all over again)... 

Posted: 19/02/2012 at 21:23

"Put simply... Easy means you can still maintain full sentences with a buddy... hard means you can't.  It's not necessarily sprinting, it just means you're too out of breath for conversation.  Steady is somewhere in the middle... not conversational, but not breathing as hard as at "hard" pace.   Hope this helps!"I'm new to running, but relatively fit (I currently do group fitness classes, mixing cardio, weights, mixed martial arts and spinning, 1-2 hours a time, four times a week) I'm wanting a challenge to aim for and 10k seems a nice one to start with. I have jogged/run a few times recently, just about 3km each time, e.g. to work etc. and do run on the treadmill, usually about 15-20 minutes at a time.I find I really have to train hard and watch what I'm eating to maintain a healthy weight, which is worsened by having a sedentary desk job.

I don't quite understand the whole easy/steady/hard thing though, even at a fast walk I struggle to "maintain full sentences", so am still none the wiser.

What could I be doing wrong? Is there any other way of defining the levels? When I do run I only seem to be able to go at one speed / pace, it's either stop or go!?! *confused*

Posted: 21/03/2012 at 15:00

Hi i m new in here i wanted to know how to start  

Posted: 02/05/2015 at 00:49

Hi i m  new in here this website and i want to know how to start 

Posted: 02/05/2015 at 00:50

New to all this.  Can someone explain to me please what all the terms mean practically:





Cool down


Posted: 13/03/2016 at 12:40

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