The keys to running a successful 10K are preparation and planning. Your individual strategy for the race depends on choosing an appropriate goal, and to do that, you need to have a good idea of your current ability level. In a 10K race, you can run slightly faster than your training pace, but not a lot faster. (For instance, if you average 10-minute miles on your regular training runs, you shouldn’t expect to average eight-minute miles in the race, but a 9:30-per-mile pace should be possible.) Plan to run the first mile or two at your goal pace or slightly slower, and then pick it up gradually. It’s easy to let your attention wander in the middle miles, so really pay attention to your form and breathing to keep yourself on pace. Save your “kick” for the six-mile mark.
In your last race, you may have made one of the most common mistakes of inexperienced runners: letting the excitement of race day push you to start too quickly, which caused you to fatigue in the later miles. One way to gauge your effort is to become familiar with your maximum heart rate and your regular training heart rate. If you’ve trained adequately, you should be able to complete the race at a pace that keeps your heart rate at 85-90 percent of your maximum. (You’ll probably need a heart-rate monitor to use these guidelines.) If you find yourself unable to speak several words or are gasping for breath, slow down or, if necessary, take a walking break.
No matter your goal, you’ll be more likely to meet it if you start the race properly hydrated and fueled.
Dr. Lisa Callahan is a sports medicine physician and co-director of the Women’s Sports Medicine Center at Hospital for Special Surgery. Since 2004, Dr. Callahan has been the Director of Player Care for the New York Knicks and New York Liberty basketball teams. She has acted as medical coordinator and event physician for triathlons, duathlons, and other sporting events.