How To Pace Your First 10K Race

How To Pace Your First 10K Race

Running your first 10K? Here’s how to structure every kilometre.

You might start worrying if you’re running your first 10K race this year. Will I be able to finish? Do I have to run the whole way around?
We will cover one of your worries today – you have enough to think about! Here’s how – and why – you should have a simple pacing strategy for your 10K race

Pacing A 10K Race

The concept of pacing isn’t just for elite club runners, or the people hoping to win the race. Every runner should think about how they will pace their race, regardless of whether they will finish in 40 minutes or well over 1 hour.

Pacing For First Timers

The point of pacing your first 10K isn’t to make you go faster than you want to. It’s to regulate your existing race pace, so you have a more enjoyable race and finish strong. Pacing doesn’t mean changing the way you run. It just means keeping an eye on things throughout the race and being aware of how you are doing.

Why Pace Your Race?

There are loads of reasons to pace any race.

– Don’t go off too fast – having a pace strategy will prevent you from dashing off far too fast when the gun goes off (something we are all prone to!) This will steady your nerves and actually make it easier to finish the race.

– Achieve your goal – if you have a finish goal in mind, pacing each section of the race will help you achieve it, by breaking your goal down into mini-goals.

– Peace of mind – having a pacing strategy will give you peace of mind that you have planned your race and have a structure to fall back on. This will give you more confidence in your first 10K.

– Focus on yourself – it’s easy to spend time and energy worrying about other runners. Having your own plan will help you focus on yourself at the start line and throughout the race. You are doing your own thing.

– Conserve your energy – running to a pace plan will conserve your energy and help you run a more steady race, maybe even saving some energy for a push at the finish!

How To Design Your Pace Strategy

The ideal pacing plan is a negative split (running the second half slightly faster than the first half). You should start steady, hold your pace, and build up after the halfway point. If you feel you have the energy to really push the pace, leave this until the 8K or 9K marker. Nothing worse than pushing on, only to burn out and have to slow down before the end. Finish strong with this structure:

0-1KM: start steady and slow, focus on your breathing and running tempo. Have a time in mind for the 1KM mark. Aim for your 1KM pace (your finish time divided by 10) plus 5-10 seconds. Write it on your hand or arm if you need to remember.

1-5K: hold your pace. Each kilometre should be roughly the same (taking into account twists and turns on the course). For the first 5K, a pace of 1/10 finish time plus 5-10 seconds per kilometre is ideal. This might feel slow, but steady and patient is ideal at this point in your 10K. If people pass you, let them. Focus on yourself. You know what you are doing! (You may well pass them in the final kilometre.)

5K: up your pace slightly to a negative split. Aim to get to the 6K marker in 1/10 of your finish time, minus 5-10 seconds. If there is a runner or a small group near you running (slightly) faster than you, latch on to them.

6K-8K: the pace might start to feel harder now and you will need to work to keep your pace. Focus on the road ahead of you rather than looking down. Keep your head up, and think positive thoughts. Use mantras like “I am running a strong 10K race”, or “This feels smooth and steady”.

8-9.5K: look ahead and aim to slowly pick off runners ahead of you. Even if you don’t reel them in, the focus will give you something positive to distract you and keep your pace up.

9.5K: if you have the energy to up your pace here, unleash everything you’ve got!

Finish time of 50 minutes? Aim to run the first 1-5 kilometres at 5:05-5:10 minutes per kilometre. Then aim to run kilometres 6-9 at 4:50-4:55 minutes per kilometre. Once you hit the 9K marker, up your pace if you feel you can. Once you see the finish line go for it!


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