Q: How often can I race 10Ks?
A: If you want to improve, dont race too often: with a solid training background, you can safely race up to once every three weeks, and perhaps even every fortnight for a limited period. Always allow at least two days of easy running before a 10K, and leave a minimum of three or four days after a race before you ease back into speed training. If youre new to the sport, take at least four easy days before your 10K, and a week afterwards.
Q: Can I be in good form for 10Ks and marathons at the same time?
A: Absolutely. In fact, if youre in your best-ever marathon shape, you should be able to set PBs right down to 5K by fine-tuning it with the right training. If youve spent a long time building a solid fitness base, effective marathon training will provide a launchpad of speed endurance, economy and efficiency from which you can focus on race-specific sessions for shorter distances. You can either attack these shorter goals after your marathon, or if your build-up is long enough and properly varied during the course of your marathon training.
Q ... Or 10Ks and shorter races?
A: Again, definitely right down to 3K, the mile and even track races. Racing over shorter distances should be a key component of your 10K development, because it teaches your legs to work faster and makes the 10K seem relatively controlled.
Q: If I can be in great 5K shape or marathon shape using the basic ingredients of 10K training, do I need a 10K schedule at all?
A: No, but the great thing about 10K training is that you can use it as the basis for all-round running fitness, as well as for specific targets. It has all the ingredients of an ideal routine, so you can simply use it week-in, week-out, or adapt the mileage and intensity upwards or downwards for different race goals. At the very least, your training should include the three basic components on which a 10K schedule is built:
- A long run.
- An interval session, with repetitions of 400m-1000m.
- A tempo run of 20 minutes or 4 x 1 mile combined with a healthy diet, a high fluid intake and a regular stretching routine.
Q: Is it worth using drinks stations during a 10K?
A: That depends on the weather, how long youre running for and whether youve drunk enough before the race. A properly-hydrated sub-40-minute athlete on a cool day would be fine without stopping; a beginner would benefit from both the liquid and also the opportunity to relax a little as they walk through the drinks station. Use your judgement, but in any circumstance, try to resume your running rhythm as soon as possible after a station.
Q: Should I try a track 10,000m race if I want to achieve my best time over the distance?
A: No. A tartan (synthetic) track transmits too much shock back into the legs for many runners, which can cause injury over long distances. Also, long-distance track-running requires a different mentality from road running, partly because of the intense concentration involved, and partly because you race against such a small number of people.
Training on a track, on the other hand, can bring a valuable element of structure and focus to your running. Just remember that youre training for a 10K rather than trying to be Dwain Chambers, otherwise you wont make it to the end of the session. Also, dont use the track more than once a week.