If you’ve run a few 5K races and you’re itching for a new challenge, a 10K could be on your radar. It’s a manageable distance for beginners, but still long enough to provide a decent challenge.
So what’s a good 10K time for beginners? While completing the race is the real achievement, it’s worth knowing what the average times are so you can set a goal.
Keep reading to learn the average 10K times for different levels, plus some runner-tested tips to improve your current 10K time!
How Long Is a 10K?
10K—10 kilometers or 10,000 meters—equals 6.2 miles. It’s just a little under half of a half-marathon distance, so it’s an excellent step if you’re currently running 5Ks but want to work up to a half-marathon.
To put it into perspective in a more tangible way, you’d have to run about 25 laps on a 400-meter running track to run a 10K!
Average 10K Times
Everybody is different, and many factors go into your time. It’s important to note that if your time falls outside of the averages, it doesn’t mean that you’re not cut out to be a runner!
It just means that you have a great starting point to build on so you can reach those average times, and then move beyond them.
It’s hard to define a “beginner”, but most running times are based on pace. Once you know your own pace, you can figure out where you stand on the scale.
According to Strava, the average time for a male runner to finish a 10k is in 55 minutes and 37 seconds, while female runners typically finish in 1 hour, 3 minutes, and 17 seconds.
This is based on the average pace of adult runners, which is 9 minutes and 7 seconds per mile for men, and 10 minutes and 21 seconds per mile for women.
However, this average spans across beginners and casual runners, though, so if you’re just starting, you may be running a 12- to 15-minute mile.
At 12 minutes per mile, you can finish a 10K in 1 hour, 14 minutes, and 34 seconds. If you run a 15-minute mile, you can expect to run a 10K in 1 hour, 33 minutes, and 12 seconds.
Elite runners can finish a 10K race in less than 30 minutes. However, it also varies by athlete, gender, age, and even the conditions on the day.
Out of interest, the men’s world record 10K time is 26:24, set by Kenyan athlete Rhonex Kipruto in 2020. The women’s WR 10K time is 29:38, set in 2021 by Bahraini runner Kalkidan Gezahegne.
What Can Affect Your Time?
Don’t worry if your time is a little different from what we’ve mentioned above. Multiple factors can make a difference to your time, including the following:
Age & Gender
Let’s look at age first. The older you get, the more likely it is that your time will drop. However, this truly depends on experience level—for example, an elite runner in the 40 to 49 age group will obviously run faster than a beginner in the 20 to 29 group.
Gender also matters. Men are naturally faster than women, due to a higher testosterone level, which increases muscular strength and endurance.
Weather & Temperature
Your 10K time will differ on a hot, humid day compared to your time on a cool day. Heat tends to dehydrate you faster and lead to muscle fatigue more quickly.
You might also find yourself running slower in the rain or wind, either battling against the elements or just taking it slowly for safety!
It’s much easier to get a faster time on flat course on a smooth, paved road. However, if you find yourself running on uneven, difficult terrain, you’re likely to take longer to run a 10K.
Hazardous terrain requires you to be more careful in order to avoid injuries. Even though it won’t take a huge chunk out of your time, you could lose valuable minutes and should expect a slower time when you’re running on hilly or tricky terrain.
Sharp turns can also impact your 10K time. A race with lots of twisty corners and 90-degree turns will slow you down compared to something with a straight road and gradual curves.
The fitter you are, the faster you’ll run. Your fitness level is probably the most important of all factors when it comes to working out your 10K time. If you’re a beginner, you may already have a good fitness level if you’ve been doing other kinds of exercise.
However, if you’re new to exercise completely, stay consistent and your 10K time will improve almost weekly as your fitness level increases.
If you’re injured—even minorly—your 10K time is likely to be slower. We advise taking some time to rest and recover before attempting to do a 10K again.
Focus on healing your injuries and aim for recovery runs at shorter distances until you feel better.
How to Improve Your 10K Time
Even as a beginner, there are multiple steps you can take to improve your 10K time. Try implementing some of these measures and you should see positive results.
Follow a Training Plan
This is the best way to work steadily towards a goal. If you’re aiming for a particular time or just want to improve your 10K time, following a good training plan is our first recommendation.
This saves you from having to put together your own train plan, which can be difficult. Following a tried-and-true 10K training plan will give you the best chance of progressing in a linear manner and seeing real improvement.
Another thing to note here is that training plans will include a taper. This is when you decrease the volume of your training leading up to the race, so that your body can recover a little before you race.
Even if you don’t follow a training plan, it’s essential to taper so that you go into your race with optimal energy.
Vary Your Runs
You can’t only train for a 10K by running 10K distances. The best way to improve your stamina, endurance, and fitness levels is to vary your runs throughout your training.
If you’re on a training plan, you’ll find that they have you running various distances and paces. If you choose not to follow a training plan, be sure to incorporate one long run done at an easy pace, multiple 3 to 6-mile runs at your regular pace, and one day of speedwork, like hill repeats.
Overtraining can set you back weeks and ruin your progress. But there’s an easy way to keep your fitness up without overdoing it on the running, and that’s to cross-train. This means including exercise other than running in your routine.
You can do cardio-based cross-training or strength training. We highly recommend doing strength training, as it will give you the opportunity to build muscle in your legs, which will improve your running performance.
You can also do cardio training like cycling, swimming, jumping rope, elliptical, or anything else that differs from running. This will give you a cardiovascular boost without overtraining on the running.
Improve your Form
Getting your form right will make a difference to your time. Running with incorrect form is inefficient, which means you aren’t going as fast as you could be.
When you run with the correct form, your front foot lands underneath your hips and not out in front of your body.
This is one of the most common mistakes, and it can take seconds off your time as your body needs to expend more energy to push the rest of the body forward when you overstride.
Improving your form—whether you video yourself and watch YouTube videos or invest in a running coach—is guaranteed to boost your performance.
Experiment With In-Race Nutrition
If you’ve never tried using energy gels or electrolytes during a race, this could be very handy to give you a boost and speed you up on the course.
However, it’s a good idea to first test them out during training. Some people don’t respond well to energy chews or gels, and you don’t want to ruin a race by eating something you’re not familiar with and having stomach problems.
You should aim for one nutrition item every 45 minutes to an hour. If you’re running a 10K in an hour, you might want to take one at around 45 minutes to give you a final boost to cross the finish line.
You can also use electrolyte drinks or tablets, especially if you’re prone to cramping as you become dehydrated.
Consider New Shoes
Your shoes can hold you back! Make sure you’re wearing well-cushioned shoes, that provide the right kind of support for your foot—overpronator or neutral foot—and that you have the right fit on your foot.
You may want to invest in a new pair of shoes if your existing ones have flattened a bit, have slipping heels, or aren’t entirely comfortable anymore. Remember, though—nothing new on race day, so make sure you’ve practiced in the shoes before you race in them!
Don’t Neglect Recovery
Recovering properly is as important as training properly. If you ignore recovery, you might find yourself exhausted before you get to run your race, which will have a negative effect on your race.
Use a foam roller to ease sore and stiff muscles. Make sure to get enough sleep, and eat healthy. Other recovery measures could include compression gear, ice baths, or heat therapy.
You should be tapering the week or a few days before your race. You should also optimize your nutrition on these days, especially the night before your race. Avoid spicy foods or anything overly fatty.
Eat a well-balanced meal with healthy carbs, protein, and some healthy fats. In the morning, a quick, healthy carb breakfast will set you up for a good race. Make sure you’ve had enough sleep the night before.
It could be handy to set out your outfit and pack your race bag the night before. This will save you time in the morning. Remember to warm up while you’re waiting for the race to begin.
During the Race
Don’t start too fast. Stick to your 10K pace, even when it’s tempting to push ahead! If you go too fast in the beginning, you’ll fatigue too quickly and lose time near the end. Remember to stay hydrated and take your chosen nutrition at the right time.
Think of the 10k as running two 5Ks. Aim to run the first two miles at a comfortable speed. Pick up the speed for the middle three miles, and then go all-out for the last 1.2 miles. If you can’t manage to go all out for that long, at least try to really speed through the last 0.2 miles!
Crossing the finish line is a great achievement, no matter what your time is! While it’s tempting to just collapse and pass out at that point, taking some post-race actions can help to set you up for better recovery.
Do some stretching once you’ve finished your race. While the blood is still pumping through your muscles, this will help you to cool down effectively while your body comes off its high.
Rehydrate and have some carbs to replenish your energy. A banana or an oat energy bar are good options. Get out of the sun if it’s a hot day. On the other hand, if it’s cold, change out of your sweaty clothes and wear something warm.
It might be tempting to leave the layers off because you’re warm, but covering up will stop you from potentially catching a cold. Get into a nice warm shower as soon as you can—it will warm you up, loosen up tightening muscles, and make you feel better because you’re no longer sweaty!
Remember, just finishing a 10K is a great achievement. No matter what your time is, you’ve done something awesome. Keep following the tips in this article and stay consistent, and you’ll notice how quickly you improve. Here’s to many more 10Ks in your future!