You’ve pinned on the race number, attached the chip to your shoes, munched on the finish line snacks, and reveled in the accomplishment of crossing the finish line at your first 5K race. You’re not a veteran racer yet, but you finally know what comes with the road-racing territory. Now it’s time to set your sights on a bigger goal: Your first 10K race.
A 10K race may sound daunting. But you’ve done the prep work, so going from 5K to 10K should be a breeze.
“This isn’t a difficult jump at all,” says Jennifer Gill, a Road Runners Club of America (RRCA) certified distance running coach based in Washington D.C. “It’s not like you have to do double the mileage in every training run, you just add a little here and a little there, especially to your weekly long runs.”
“I can understand why people find it intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be,” Gill says. “If you do it the right way, you can definitely get to 10K.”
Several simple changes in mileage and intensity will get you to a 10K in as little as six weeks. You already have the fitness, now it’s time to take things to the next level. As you prepare for the longer distance, there are a number of elements you should add to your training. Consider the following as your put together your plan of attack.
Be sure to complete several 6-mile long runs prior to race day. Begin by adding 10 percent to your total mileage each week. If you ran 15 miles last week, run a total of 16.5 miles the next week.
Gill recommends adding most of this extra mileage to your long run each week. As you get into training, consider adding a mile or two to your mid-week runs, as well. Spreading out the mileage throughout the week and placing special emphasis on the long run prepares your body for successfully finishing a 10K.
Not only do you need to add extra mileage to your training plan, but you should also consider varying your workouts with additional intensity.
“There are a lot of different ways you can go about doing hard workouts,” Gill says. By adding in a short hill workout or speed session once a week, you keep your legs and your mind fresh.
As you add to your training load, you’ll need to be more strategic about when you run certain distances and complete specific workouts. A longer race requires more in-depth training plans.
“You want to vary your easy days and hard days,” Gill says.
If you ran your long run on Saturday, you may want to make Sunday a rest day and Monday a hill workout. This allows your legs to recover from the harder efforts and get the full advantages of the training.
Remember that added mileage does not mean less rest.
“I always tell runners to take at least one day a week where you’re doing nothing in terms of workouts,” Gill says. “You absolutely need to rest in order to get the benefits of your training.”
During rest periods the body rebuilds muscles that are broken down during workouts. Going full-throttle day after day will only lead to burnout and injuries.
COME UP WITH A PLAN
While the Internet is a great source for training plans, it can be hard to decide which is best.
“Go to a running store and get advice from the staff, join a running group or go to RRCA to look for a running group in the area,” Gill says. “Then you don’t have to figure it all out on your own.”
Focus on completing the distance the first time around and then consider adding new goals once you have some 10K experience under your belt.
You can always up your speed and intensity once you gain confidence. Remember, moving from 5K to 10K not only doubles the distance, it increases that priceless feeling of accomplishment as well.