Mileage Buildup for the 10K

Once you've run a few 5Ks and have built a consistent running base, your objective may be to run a faster 5K race the next time out. If you've yet to train for the 10K, however, your focus should be on handling the distance while running at a pace you can realistically maintain. Doing this successfully incorporates three elementals of being a runner: stamina, strength, and regulating of pace. Mastering these brings increased ability to all your runs and races.

In thinking about how to safely build your mileage to race the 10K, consult the mileage buildup schedules. There are two schedules—one for beginner and novice runners and one for advanced runners. Take a look at them to determine where you fit in based on your present running routine and your racing goals. Although both are designed to build you safely to running 10 miles, the beginner need not run more than 5 miles in training to be able to comfortably run a 10K race. On the other hand, experienced runners who have competitive aspirations for the 10K or who plan to run a longer event later in the race season may wish to build to the 10-mile level.

Tapering consists of a gradual decrease in running. For runners who race, this means cutting back on mileage in the week before a race. What's the advantage of this? It's so that on race day your legs are rested and you can do your best.

When you follow a training schedule specific to the goal of a race, as you should when training for a significant distance like the half-marathon or marathon, you will incorporate tapering time into your schedule. For shorter distances like the 5K or even the 10K, how much to taper depends on your goals, fitness level, and current weekly mileage.

Things to Consider When Increasing Your Distance

Remember that for the 10K you want to be able to handle the distance. You need leg strength, for sure, but you also need stamina and, if it's your goal, speed. Simply coming off a 5K race in which you finished strong and felt good does not necessarily quality you for doubling that distance—at least not competitively.

To set yourself up for equally enjoyable 10Ks, keep in mind this advice:

  • Form. As you push yourself, don't get sloppy. It's better to put in fewer miles with proper form than to overexert yourself while running in such a way that could lead to injury. Pay particular attention to staying relaxed in your upper body.

  • Pace and time. The 10K requires a different strategy from the 5K. You need reserves to push for a strong finish after running 6.2 miles, which is quite different from running 3.1 miles. One way to gauge the effectiveness of your training program for meeting your race goal(s) is to set up some mock 10Ks. Go the distance at approximately the same time of day in similar weather conditions, taking note of when you feel the strongest, when you feel like you're starting to lag, when you get your second wind, and so on. Be sure to wear your watch on all your runs so you can become better aware of pace and determine what pace is realistic for you.

  • Energy. Energy comes from what you eat and drink, so be sure to be smart about both.

  • Safety. When going out on longer runs, consider in advance the time of day you're running and what the environment is like. Wear reflective gear if there will be little light; carry a cell phone; be wary of road or trail conditions; and be mindful of staying hydrated.

  • Self-talk. If running a longer distance seems intimidating, you may find yourself nagged by unreasonable fears. Change your self-talk so that you approach your runs with positive energy and enthusiasm. If your running program is realistic and your goals are within reason, you should be able to increase your mileage fairly easily.

  • Cool down. Run slowly the last half-mile or so of your long run to help your body ease back into your regular routine.

  • Stretch. As discussed, a thorough stretch after a run is imperative and especially so after a long run. Stretching helps your muscles recuperate, and minimizes soreness later.

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