How To Run a Faster 10k

The 10k is a great race; it’s challenging, but at the same time still very manageable for most recreational runners. So, it’s no surprise that hitting a 10k personal best one of the most popular yearly goals for many people. At RunGuides we’ve put together a list of training tips that should help you as you work towards your 10k goal time this season!


Keep a Fast Cadence

Increasing your cadence (the rate at which your feet hit the ground) will do two things; you’ll move faster, and you’ll expend less energy, both big wins when going for a faster 10k! Train your feet to move faster by running 1 minute repeats and counting the number of times that one foot hits the ground. Try to increase your turnover rate until one foot is hitting the ground at least 90 times per minute (a cadence of 180).

Intervals for Speed

In order to create more speed and power make sure that you work some interval days into your training routine. Run slightly faster than your target race pace for 1km then do a slow jog until you’ve recovered. Repeat the interval until you can no longer run faster than your goal time or until you’ve done about 5 - 7 intervals. Play around with the interval distances and try shortening the rest times as you progress.

One other common interval technique is to run for a set amount of time but pick certain points during the run to go faster than your goal pace. For example, in a 30 minute run you may want to run two 5 minute intervals at 10 minutes, and 20 minutes.

Run The Distance

This tip is as simple as it sounds, since a 10k is short enough that you can run it and fully recover make sure that you run the full ten kilometers in training a few times.  Running the full race will help you train, and give you a great confidence boost. After all, if you can run it fast in training why can’t you PR on race day?!


10k races are short enough that your body doesn’t require any superhuman amount of energy or nutrients to complete them. Your 10k nutrition plan should revolve around your regular balanced diet, and feeling good on race day. Resist the urge to make last minute changes to your nutrition plan, or to take in unnecessarily large amounts of food close to race day (aka skip the carb loading).

Pre Race

Eat a small, easily digestible meal a couple hours before the race (around 300 - 500 calories), and make sure that you are adequately hydrated. A bit of sugar and caffeine about 30 - 45 minutes prior to gun time can help you boost your performance, so don’t be afraid to suck back a gel, or have a small coffee to give yourself an edge.

In Race

The one aspect of nutrition to keep in mind during a 10k is hydration. It is pretty easy to get slightly dehydrated in the later parts of a 10k, especially if you’re running hard, or it’s hot out. Don’t be afraid to hit a water station, or, to carry a 6 ounce flask of water with you on the run. A little bit of water can be the edge you need to shave off precious seconds in the last two kilometers of the race.

Race Day

10k’s are over faster than you think. These race day strategies can help make sure that you’re not scrambling to make back time at the 7km mark of the race.

Warm Up

You do not want to spend the first 25% of your race warming up. Make sure that you spend at least 20 minutes prior to the race start getting a decent warm up in. The less time spent standing around cooling down before the race start, the better.

Mind Your Pace

Do not go out too hard. I repeat, do not go out too hard! Resist the urge to try and keep up with the wave of people who will go way too fast at the start of the race. Instead, run at the low end of your target pace for the first couple kilometers, then, once you are settled in start to crank things up and shoot for a negative split. Pace yourself properly and you will avoid gassing out and be able to finish relatively strong.

Find a Good Start Position

If the 10k that you are running has a large number of entrants try to position yourself so that you’re grouped with runners who will run the race close to, or slightly faster than your goal pace. Many 10k race crowds don’t tend to thin out until around 5 kilometers into the race. If you start too far back you can burn a large amount of energy weaving back and forth in between racers.

Mental Game

Having the mental discipline to hold back early and suffer late in the race can be the difference between hitting, or just missing a 10k personal best.

Run a 9km Race

Break the race into sections, but concentrate on running 9km instead of ten. Imagine that you’ll “float” through the last kilometer of the race powered by the crowd, the sense of your own accomplishment, or whatever motivates you. This will let you run a bit harder through the 7 and 8k sections of the race as you keep telling yourself that you’re almost at the magic last kilometer.

Shrink Your Box

Your running box is an imaginary area ahead of you that you maintain a type of form (speed, power, or smoothness) in. For a 10k stretch your box out for the first few kilometers of the race and think of being smooth. If you’re in a position to PR by 7 or 8k shrink your box right down (next pole, next 100m etc.) and focus on speed and power

Prepare for Pain

If you’re shooting for a personal best the late stages of a 10k are going to hurt, it’s inevitable. Accept that a certain portion of your life is not going to feel that great, and mentally prepare for it. Using a mantra to work through the tough parts of the race like “as it gets harder I get faster” or “power, speed, power speed” can be helpful for a lot of people.

In Conclusion

Train smart, stay hydrated, don’t go out too fast, and mentally prepare yourself to suffer.  Follow these tips and you should put yourself in a great position to hit that personal best!

Published on Apr 17, 2013