Perfect 10

The 10K is the most popular race distance in the UK. Why? Because it’s ideal for newcomers and experienced runners, says Sam Murphy.

by Sam Murphy

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Ten kilometres – or 6.2 miles – is the perfect distance over which to test your endurance and speed, whatever your running pedigree. For new runners it’s a challenging but achievable step up from 5K, and it’s a great speed sharpener for those who prefer to focus on longer races. 

‘It’s not just endurance you need – it’s speed endurance, the ability to sustain your pace for a prolonged period,’ says Julian Goater, a running coach and author of The Art of Running Faster (Human Kinetics). Physiologically, this means that a high aerobic capacity (VO2 max) and lactate threshold are equally important assets, so a balance of VO2 max sessions, such as intervals, and tempo runs to raise lactate threshold, are on the training menu.

‘Running faster than your goal race pace will make race pace feel easier,’ says Goater. ‘But break it down into reps to make it more manageable.’ A study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology found that experienced runners who replaced some moderate-paced miles with three or four sessions of short efforts at 95 per cent of maximum speed improved their 10K time by an average of one minute.

Training at your goal pace is also important. ‘The closer you are able to perform workouts that mimic the physical demands of a race, the better you’ll get at racing that distance,’ says running coach Jeff Gaudette ( Another great thing about a 10K is that it’s a race in which you can take a few risks. While going off too fast might make the latter stages of the race uncomfortable, it won’t destroy your race altogether. And if you do get it wrong first-time round, you can give that PB another go a couple of weeks later. Even better, once you get back to those longer distances, you’ll probably find your 10K training has paid dividends. Ready to discover the power of ten? Here are training plans for those targeting sub-40, sub-50 and sub-60-minute finishes.

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