Ask The Expert

What’s A Good 10k Time? (And How To Improve It)

We asked some running and fitness experts for their top tips and tricks when it comes to nailing a good 10k time

Good 10k Time
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If you’re just getting into running, then you may be wondering what a good 10k time is.

Perhaps you’re gearing up for your first 10k, or maybe you’re looking to see how your best current 10k time compares to other people’s.

The 10k is a very popular distance amongst all levels of runners. In case you didn’t know, 10 kilometers is the equivalent of 6.2 miles.

We asked a selected group of experts for their input when it comes to a good 10k time and how to improve it.

Here’s what they said.

A Good 10k Time Depends On Lots of Factors

Jordan Duncan, Owner of Silverdale Sport and Spine

The average 10k time for men is roughly 56 minutes, while the average time for women is about 64 minutes.

For beginners, a good time would be anywhere from 62-68 minutes for men and 70-76 minutes for women.

There is a great amount of variability in regards to what is an ideal time, and this depends on factors such as baseline fitness and age, but these numbers represent an average level of fitness for both genders.

A reasonable goal for improving your 10k time would be to aim for two to three minutes faster than your previous time.

There are many ways to attain your target time, for example incorporating speed work into your training along with your distance runs.

In addition, you could run shorter distances at your target pace, and slowly increase your distance while maintaining that pace until you reach 10 km.

Woman Running

(Photo: Adobe Stock)

A ‘Good’ 10k Time Is Very Subjective

Jack Bolas, Professional Middle-Distance Runner and Running Coach for Tagalong

Firstly, determining a “good” 10k time for any runner is very subjective and really dependent on the individual, their running background, current fitness, and timeline.

I would begin with the timeline. Pick a race or date on the calendar and then work backwards from there to determine your goal time and plan out your training.

Next, you can look into comparing past times you may have run in other distances like the 5k or half-marathon and checking out any number of online race calculators to see how one might convert into a 10k time.

If you’re starting from scratch, then I would focus first on establishing some baseline aerobic fitness with two weeks of every other day, low mileage, easy runs. Then take your shot at a 1-mile time trial and see where you stand.

From this point, it will be somewhat easier to set some goals around racing and training paces. But even then, I recommend reevaluating your goals as your training progresses.

You can incorporate a periodic time trial, potentially every five to six weeks, for instance.

For a 10k, consider a 2-mile on the track or try to find a 5k race half-way through your training block to test your fitness and get some race legs under your belt. A hard time trial and/or race effort in the course of training will help you set challenging and realistic time targets.

Man Running

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For improving your 10k time, I would follow these essential training tenets:

Build a strong foundation with mileage and longer workouts in the beginning of your training. Incorporate more shorter, faster intervals as training progresses. And make sure to taper your mileage and overall workload as you get closer to race day. It’s important to show up feeling fresh and ready to rock.

• Hard/Easy – Distinguish between a “hard” and an “easy” day and always rotate your hard days with easy days. Recovery is just as important as the workout days so never do two hard days back to back.

A “hard” training day is not race effort. Imagine your training as filling a well. A hard day should be about 90 per cent effort. You’ll fill the well with those sessions as long as you give yourself easy days to recover.

Woman Running in Park

(Photo: Adobe Stock)

When you race, effort can be 100 per cent and you’ll be drawing from that well of fitness you’ve been filling. An easy day should be just that: easy. That could be a short, slow shakeout run. Or cross training like swimming or biking to get away from the body weight pounding on the legs. Or simple a day off. Giving your body a chance to recover will allow you to get more out of your hard days.

On your hard days, running workouts should consist of either 1) something shorter than race distance and faster than race pace or 2) something longer than race distance and slower than race pace. This allows you to train different body systems, working both speed and aerobic strength in the preparation for a race.

For 10k training, below are some examples of effective workouts. I recommend 2 workouts and 1 long run each week.

• Tempo – 4-mile progression run beginning at roughly 70% effort which is slower than your 10k goal pace. Work on progressing your pace down with each mile so that you finish your tempo run around 90% effort, running faster than 10k goal pace.

• Fartlek – Ladder up and down 1min, 2, 3, 4, 3, 2, 1 with half jog recovery between each (so 1min on followed by 30sec off). For pace reference, aim to run slightly faster than your 10k goal pace for the on 4min segment, and everything else should be paced accordingly (the 1min faster than the 2min, and so on). For the off recovery segments, try to maintain very light jogging.

• Hills – Find a moderately steep hill and do 6-8 X 1 min repeats. Hills are a great opportunity to focus on efficient form—good arm drive, not swinging across the body, quick feet with a mid-foot strike, running tall with hips underneath you and a slight lean into the hill.

• Track – 1-mile or 800m repeats starting at 10k goal pace and progressing down. Toward the end of your training cycle, you should incorporate shorter intervals like 400s at faster than your race pace.

Running Race

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• Long Run – once per week, get out for a long, slow distance run. It should be longer than 6 miles and you can progress that distance each week. These runs do not need to exceed 12-13 miles.

• Do all of the little things – Eat healthy and drink a lot of water. Get plenty of sleep. Warmup and cool down before and after workouts. Develop a stretch routine. Consider incorporating body weight strength work like planks and pull ups into your routine. These extra activities can help you stay healthy.

• Racing a 10k – Trust in your preparation and stick to the pace that you trained to hit. A 10k is a long race. Aim for even mile splits but know that harder effort will be required in the later stages of the race to hold pace.

Most importantly, compete! A race is your only chance to go head to head with other runners. Focusing on time is important. But remembering to compete and taking advantage of the opportunity may be even more important.

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