A 6.2-mile race offers both challenge and accessibility. Some of the largest races in the country are 10K runs, from Colorado’s Bolder Boulder (around 50,000 participants) to Georgia’s Peachtree Classic (almost 60,000). Most 10Ks have a festive atmosphere, and running one can feel like you’re in a moving parade. Prep right, and it will feel as fun as it looks.
Set a Goal
Decide early on if you want to just finish the race, finish it without walking, or hit a certain race time. Your decision will affect how you should train. Ideally, you’d set an “A” goal, a “B” goal, and even a “C” goal. The “A” goal would be a best-case scenario: If all your training goes perfectly and you feel great on race day, this goal is attainable. A “B” goal would be sort of a fall-back goal, but not one you’d be disappointed in achieving. And a “C” goal would be something you know you can reach, even if everything goes wrong.
You’ll want to train for your “A” goal. If that goal is to finish the 10K without walking, for instance, you’ll want to build up to running non-stop for 6.2 miles by gradually increasing overall mileage per week, and extending your one long run per week leading up to the race. (See “One Long Run Per Week” section below.)
If your goal is to run a certain time, you’ll want to run the distance of the race and beyond that distance a few times in training (though not all at race pace), plus add in a day a week of tempo training and/or speedwork. Pushing the pace in these workouts both trains your body in what your goal racepace feels like, and trains your overall system to be able to handle harder efforts. (See “One Hard Run Per Week” section below.)
Start Training Early
How many weeks you’ll need to train for either type of goal depends on your current fitness. Generally speaking, a novice runner could benefit from six to eight weeks of structured training, while a more advanced runner could benefit from six to eight weeks of racepace-focused training. If you tackle a 10K without training, it might hurt more than it has to, and be careful of straining something.
Gradually Increase Mileage
This may seem obvious, but it’s worth stressing: Increasing your mileage per week gradually is a prudent strategy in preventing injury. Generally follow the 10% rule, where you increase your long run per week and the total mileage per week by 10% from the previous week. The reason for this is that your body needs to adapt; increasing mileage too quickly can lead to overuse injuries.