The 10k just might be the ideal race distance. It is short enough that beginners can be confident of finishing. It is long enough that seasoned runners will feel a significant challenge. It’s a great tune-up for longer races like the half-marathon. It’s not so exhausting that it requires significant tapering or dedicating a race season to.
If you are a newer runner, goal times are always a big question. What is a good finishing time for your first 10k? As always, the answer depends on a number of things.
In this article, we’ll answer the question and talk about those numbers of things. We have a few basic tips for beginners who are running their first 10k, including what to do the night before and the morning of the race, tips for during the race, and how long to recover post-race before you start running again.
How Long is a 10k?
A 10k is double the distance of a 5k, making it 6.2 miles, or exactly 20 miles less than a marathon. Want a better visual? It would take you roughly 25 laps around an outdoor track to complete a 10k.
Similarly, you’d need to run back and forth on a football field a bit more than 100 times to complete a 10k. That’s pretty crazy if you think about it! Definitely make sure that you’re not underestimating this race.
Another way that you could visualize the distance is figuring out a landmark or restaurant is roughly 6.2 miles from your house. Think about the distance you’d have to travel to get there.
Common 10k Times
Obviously, people are going to have vastly different 10k times depending on physical fitness, age, elevation profile of the course, and so forth. But here are some broad ideas:
Average 10k Time
The median time for a man to complete a 10k is around 56:00. That’s roughly a 9-minute-mile pace. The average woman takes a little longer: 64:00 is the median time, or a 10:15-mile pace.
Most people who run regularly but aren’t super hardcore can expect to finish a 10k somewhere between 50 and 70 minutes. That range covers paces from 8-minute-mile pace to a 11:15-mile pace respectively.
10k Time for Elite Runners
The very fastest runners can complete a 10k between 30-40 minutes, which works out to a 4:50-minute-mile pace to a 6:30-minute-mile pace. Right now, the fastest 10k road race time for men is 26:24, set by Rhonex Kipruto of Kenya. The womens’ world mark is 29:43, Joyciline Jepkosgei, also of Kenya.
Typical 10k Time for Beginners
Depending on how much you have been training, you should aim for the average time for your gender (and perhaps adjust for age if you’re a little older).
That means that if you’re a man and this is your first 10k, aim for finishing around 56 minutes. If training has been going especially well, you could aim to get under 55 minutes for an even time. If you’re a female, shoot for finishing around 64 minutes, or if you’re feeling really gung-ho, try for under an hour.
You can also use a race time predictor calculator like the one here on Runner’s World. This will give you a good idea of what time to expect. If you have a GPS watch you’ve been using for training, it might also tell you an estimated finish time.
Your 10k Time
Remember, though, that these are just estimates. There are several variables that will impact your race time.
Variables You Can’t Change
First, your age, gender, and physique are all variables that will impact your race time, but you can’t change.
Some people have builds that are more conducive to running while other builds are great for lifting weights and strength training. So don’t worry too much about these.
Weather and Temperature
Second, the weather and terrain for your race will play a huge role. If you have a race that is really hilly, it will be harder for you to go fast than if it’s super flat.
Similarly, if the weather is blazing hot or super cold, this will impact your time. Or if it’s rainy or sunny—all these variables will change your race time.
Thus, if you haven’t registered for a 10k race yet, opt for a flatter course and hope for temperatures in the 50’s, with no wind or rain.
That’s optimal running weather. Your body will heat up about 15-20 degrees during the run.
Finally, training and dealing with injuries will impact your time. If the farthest you ran in your training was 4 miles, and it was kind of haphazard due to other priorities in your life, you shouldn’t expect a super fast time.
But if you trained well, got in lots of 6-8 mile runs, did some speedwork, trained in different types of weather to be prepared, and so forth, you can have higher expectations.
Training injuries will, or course, slow you down. Even if you’re good to run the race after dealing with an injury in training, you shouldn’t expect as fast a time. Proper recovery takes time. Be easy on yourself if this is the case. If your injury is serious, be ready to skip your race. It’s hard to make that decision, but it will be better for your health in the long run.
Tips for Running a 10k Race
It’s the week before race day, and you’ve spent a good number of weeks training. What do you do now? Don’t worry, as someone who has been there before, I have some tips for you.
Before the Race
The night before your race, eat something that is going to sit well the next morning. Avoid spicy or greasy foods! I like to eat salmon with quinoa and some sort of vegetable like zucchini or green beans the night before my races.
Make sure that you’re prepared the night before. Put your bib on your shirt ahead of time. Set out your running shoes and gear, and anything else you might need (hotel key, chews, phone, etc).
Get plenty of sleep and get to the race early. You don’t want to be stressed about the possibility of arriving late. And make sure that you’ve used the bathroom. That’s the last thing you want to deal with during the race.
The morning of your race, make sure that you get in a quick breakfast. Don’t overdo it, but something like a banana and half a bowl of oatmeal should be good. You might want to jump in the shower and take a quick warm shower to get your body warmed up.
Once you get to the race, make sure you take the time to warm up. Do active stretches and take a brisk walk/jog about 15 minutes before the race to get your legs warmed up.
Running the 10k
It’s so easy to make a critical mistake right at the start: going out too fast. Your adrenaline is pumping, you’re eager to get going, and all of sudden you are running a minute per mile faster than planned.
While you might feel good for a few minutes letting the field pull you along, it’s a bad strategy. This will wear you out early and make you finish significantly slower. Know your goal pace, and stick to it. If you still feel strong with a mile to go, that is the time to turn up the pace.
Knowing this tendency to charge off the line, you might even want to plan to run 15-30 seconds slower that first mile. This will give your legs a chance to warm up, and it’s better to make it up in that last 1.2 miles or even 0.2 miles than the first one.
Think of the 10k as an extended 5k. Run the first two miles at a comfortable speed, pick it up just a little bit for the middle three miles, and then give it your all that last 1.2 miles (or at the very least, the last 0.2 miles).
And don’t forget to be smart on the course. Know the race course so that you can be on the inside as opposed to the outside when you have to make turns. You don’t need to turn the 10k into a longer race!
Obviously, if it’s hot, you’ll want to stop more for water, so that you don’t fade due to dehydration.
After you finish the race, congratulations! You did it! As tempting as it is, make sure that you don’t sit down. Take time to stretch and walk around. Drink some water or sports drink and get something to eat, even if it’s just a banana.
If it’s a cooler day, make sure that you stay warm and change clothes when you can. There’s nothing like getting a nice, hot shower in after you’ve run a race. Take it easy the rest of the day and give yourself a couple days off before you run again. You deserve the break!
In closing, it’s exciting that you’re running your first 10k race! It’s longer than a 5k, but it’s not so overwhelming like a half marathon or a marathon. So, it’s a great stepping-stone race for moving on to longer races like 10-milers or half marathons.
Make sure that you take the time to celebrate with friends. A lot of people have run 5ks, and that’s a great accomplishment. But fewer people have run 10ks or longer races, so it’s worth celebrating. Props to you for making healthy decisions for your life!