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Training for a 10k race: Everything you need to know

The do's and don'ts of training for a 10k

Man running on trail.
Emrah Yazıcıoğlu / Pexels

Are you looking to challenge yourself and push your running to the next level? Training for a 10k race, or 6.2 miles, could be just the goal you need. This popular distance is challenging yet achievable for most runners with the right training. 

In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about how to train for a 10k, including how long it takes, what to eat, a sample training plan, typical 10k finish times, and whether a 5k race should be part of your preparation. 

Let’s dive in and get you ready to crush your first (or next) 10k!

How long does it take to train for a 10k?

Man running on treadmill.
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The amount of time needed to train for a 10k depends on your current fitness level and running experience. If you’re a complete beginner, it’s advisable to give yourself at least eight to 12 weeks to gradually build up your mileage and endurance. This allows your body time to adapt to the stresses of running and reduces injury risk.

If you already run a few times per week and can comfortably run three to four miles, you may only need six to eight weeks to get 10k-ready. And if you’re an experienced runner who has raced other distances, four to six weeks of focused 10k training could be sufficient.

The key is to progress gradually. Increasing your weekly mileage by more than 10% each week heightens injury risk. A slow, steady buildup is safer and more sustainable. Most 10k training plans have you running three to five days per week, with a mix of easy runs, long runs, and possibly some faster workouts like tempo runs or intervals.

What to eat while training for a 10k

Fruit salad in a bowl
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Proper nutrition is crucial to fuel your training and optimize performance. When training for a 10k, focus on eating a balanced diet rich in complex carbohydrates, lean proteins, and healthy fats.

Complex carbs like whole grains, beans, fruits, and vegetables should make up the bulk of your diet. They provide the energy needed to log all those training miles. Aim to eat a carb-rich meal or snack one to three hours before your runs.

Protein is also important for muscle repair and recovery. Good lean protein sources include poultry, fish, low-fat dairy, legumes, and soy products. Try to consume 20 to 30 grams of protein within an hour after finishing your run to kickstart the recovery process.

Don’t fear healthy fats — they’re essential for nutrient absorption and hormone production. Avocados, nuts, seeds, olive oil, and fatty fish are all great options. Just keep fatty foods to a minimum in your pre-run meals to avoid digestive distress.

And, of course, hydration is key. Drink water throughout the day and include electrolyte drinks on runs longer than 60 to 90 minutes. A good rule of thumb is to drink 16 to 20 ounces of fluid a couple of hours before running and then four to eight ounces every 15 to 20 minutes during your run.

How to train for a 10k

Man running
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A typical 10k training plan includes a variety of running workouts along with cross-training and rest days. Here’s a sample week for an intermediate runner:

  • Monday: Rest or cross-train (cycling, swimming, yoga, etc.)
  • Tuesday: 4-5 mile run at an easy, conversational pace
  • Wednesday: 3-4 miles easy pace + strength training
  • Thursday: 4-5 mile run with middle miles at goal 10k pace
  • Friday: Rest
  • Saturday: 3 miles easy pace
  • Sunday: 6-8 mile long run at a comfortable pace

As your race draws closer (about four weeks out), you can incorporate some 10k-paced running into your long runs, like 2 x 2 miles at goal pace with five minutes of easy running in between. This helps train your body and mind to sustain a race pace on fatigued legs.

Be sure to include a two to three-week taper leading up to race day. Decrease your mileage and intensity to arrive at the start line feeling fresh and ready to run your best. That’s the time to trust in all the training you’ve done.

How many minutes should a 10k take?

Man running outside
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Finishing times for a 10k vary widely based on factors like age, gender, experience level, and course terrain and conditions. 

A 10k is 6.2 miles, so here are some rough estimates by pace:

  • 6:00/mile – around 36-38 minutes (for elite runners)
  • 7:00/mile – around 43-44 minutes
  • 8:00/mile – around 50 minutes
  • 9:00/mile – around 55-56 minutes
  • 10:00/mile – around 62 minutes
  • 11:00/mile – around 68 minutes
  • 12:00/mile – around 74-75 minutes

For beginners, breaking 60 minutes is often a great goal to aim for. But remember, comparison is the thief of joy. Don’t get too caught up in time, especially for your first race. Focus on running at a sustainable pace, enjoying the experience, and crossing that finish line with a smile!

Should you run a 5k race first?

Runner wearing black compression socks while running with a mountain background scene.
Real Sports Photos / Shutterstock

Including a 5k race as part of your 10k buildup can be very beneficial. A 5k is 3.1 miles, so it’s a shorter distance that still allows you to experience the race environment and atmosphere. It’s a great opportunity to test your fitness, practice your pre-race routine, and get familiar with running in a crowd.

Schedule the 5k about halfway through your training block, four to six weeks before your 10k race. This timing allows you to use the 5k as a training stimulus and confidence booster without interrupting your 10k-specific work.

Treat the 5k as a hard workout — warm up well, run at your goal pace (or slightly faster), and cool down after. You can use an online race time predictor to estimate your 10k potential based on your 5k time. But keep in mind it’s just an estimate. Your performance will also depend on how you execute your race plan on the big day.

With the right preparation and mindset, you’ll arrive at the start line of your 10k feeling fit, confident, and ready to give it your all. Remember to trust your training, stick to your pacing plan, and don’t go out too fast. When the going gets tough, dig deep and know that you’re stronger than you think. Imagine the pride and accomplishment you’ll feel when you power across that finish line. You’ve got this!

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Christine VanDoren
Christine is a certified personal trainer and nutritionist with an undergraduate degree from Missouri State University. Her…
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