The 10k is a perfect distance for many runners. It’s long enough that it can pose an impressive challenge for beginners to work up to finishing their first 10k, and short enough that more experienced runners can typically fit the training into their weekly routine even with a full-time job.
Once you have finished your first 10k, you have a benchmark to guide your training and you can start training with a purpose: to chip away at your personal best time and run faster. In this guide, we will discuss how to hit a 10k PR and share expert training tips on how to get faster at the 10k distance.
We will look at:
- What Is a 10k PR?
- How To Hit A 10k PR: 14 Training Tips To Get Faster
Let’s get started!
What Is a 10k PR?
There’s a good chance you’re aware of what a 10k is, but to cover our bases, the “k” component of the 10k distance stands for the metric distance of a kilometer, so a 10k is 10,000 meters. For runners in the United States who are more accustomed to miles, this converts to 6.214 miles.
For simplicity, most people shorten the 6.214 miles to 6.2 miles when they discuss 10k, but the distance of any official 10k event will be the full 10 kilometers or 6.214 miles.
Your fastest finish time for the distance is referred to as your personal record, PR, or personal best, PB, depending on where you live in the world.
For example, if you’ve run three different 10k races, and finished in 52:04, 50:51, and 49:12, your 10k PR is currently 49:12.
How To Hit A 10k PR: 14 Training Tips To Get Faster
How do you get faster at the 10k? While there are some race strategy tips that can help you improve your 10k race performance, the bulk of the improvements in your 10k race times will come down to the work you do in training.
The following training tips can help you work towards a 10k PR:
#1: Develop Your Base
You need a solid endurance base to run a 10k well. Running 10K takes even the fastest runners at least 30 minutes or so, and takes most runners closer to 40-60 minutes or more.
In fact, according to Running Level, the average 10k time across all ages and sexes is 49:43. The average 10k time for male runners is 46:43, while the average 10k time for female runners is 54:13.Therefore, to run a 10k PR, you have to be very comfortable and accustomed to running at least 6-8 miles or 45-60 minutes or more without stopping.
Distance runs like long runs and base-building runs build your cardiovascular and muscular endurance so that it’s not particularly taxing to tackle the 6.2-mile distance.
#2: Use a Training Plan or Work With a Coach
The most successful journeys tend to follow some sort of roadmap or plan. In much the same way that you wouldn’t begin a transcontinental road trip without consulting a good roadmap, hoping to hit a 10K PR without following an appropriate training plan is a recipe for poor results.
Working with a running coach or following a smart 10k training plan that’s both appropriate for your level of fitness and experience and geared toward achieving the 10k time goal you have in mind will help ensure you’re on the right track to reach your goals while minimizing the risk of overtraining and overuse injuries.
The training plan should employ a gradual progression in intensity and volume so that you continue to improve without increasing the risk of injury.
In most cases, you should heed the 10% rule, meaning you should only increase your mileage by a maximum of 10% from one week to the next. For example, if you are currently running 40 miles a week, run no more than 44 miles next week.
#3: Go Long
A solid weekly long run is a cornerstone in most 10k running plans. As mentioned, you need a strong aerobic base to support the cardiovascular fitness and muscular endurance you’ll need to run a 10k PR.
To hit a 10k PR, aim for a long run of at least 6-8 miles, potentially peaking at 10-12 once in your training cycle, depending on your experience as a runner and fitness level.
#4: Vary Your Workouts
One of the keys to injury prevention and getting faster as a runner is varying your workouts. Running the same, moderate-intensity pace day after day is a less effective approach to improving your fitness than incorporating a variety of paces, distances, terrains, and intensity levels.
Varying the training stimuli is usually a more effective approach to continually yielding improvements. Your progress can plateau if you keep doing the same runs over and over again.
#5: Don’t Forget Speed Workouts
Even though the 10k is a relatively long race, you can’t neglect speed workouts if you want to run faster.
Speed workouts will improve your fitness, allowing you to run faster and longer. They also train your body to be more metabolically flexible so that you can use fuel more efficiently and burn fat at higher effort levels.
Good speed workouts for the 10k include fartlek runs, longer hill repeats, and intervals like 10-12 x 800 meters, 8-10 x 1000 meters, mile repeats, 5 x 2000 meters, 3 x 2 miles, and various other ladders and pyramids run at race pace or faster.
#6: Go Easy
Many runners get competitive with themselves and fall into the trap of trying to run every run faster than the last. This is particularly common amongst runners who use Strava or a GPS watch to capture all their workout stats.
Your easy runs are supposed to be easy for a reason—your body needs to recover—so pushing yourself through them is actually counterproductive and can lead to overtraining and injuries.
Make sure your recovery days are actually easy efforts so that you can attack the speed workouts fully recovered and ready to give your best.
#7: Increase Your Training Volume
Gradually bumping up your training volume can be a good strategy to run faster and hit a 10k PR, but it must be done so carefully.
If you are already running relatively high mileage or are an injury-prone runner, it’s probably ill-advised to run more mileage. Instead, you could consider increasing your overall training volume by adding low-impact cross training activities like deep water running, cycling, rowing, swimming, and the elliptical machine.
These activities reduce the stress and strain on your bones, joints, and connective tissues while still giving you a cardiovascular workout and encouraging circulation to recover from runs.
Cross-training also subjects your muscles to different motions than the same repetitive running stride, so incorporating cross-training is a good way to correct muscle imbalances caused by running and develop yourself as a well-rounded athlete.
On the other hand, if you’ve been running 15-20 miles per week and feel healthy enough to handle more running, gradually building up to 25-35 miles per week is often ideal for performing well in the 10k.
#8: Increase Your Lactate Threshold
Threshold workouts are designed to increase your lactate threshold or the point at which your body is no longer able to clear lactate from the muscles as quickly as it is being produced.
For most runners, the threshold run pace is somewhere between 10k-15k race pace, so increasing it will help you improve your 10k PR.
Threshold workouts involve any work done at threshold effort. For example, you might warm-up and then run 4 x 5 minutes at threshold pace with 2 minutes of recovery pace in between each interval.
Tempo runs are specific threshold workouts that involve maintaining threshold effort (usually run around 10k or half marathon pace) for a sustained 20 minutes or more and are a great way to improve your 10k PR.
#9: Run Long Hills
Hill sprints are great for shorter races like the mile and 5ks because they build strength, power, and speed. Hill repeats can also be helpful for 10k runners, but it’s often best to do slightly longer hills and work them at 5k race pace.
Hill workouts are also a good opportunity to work on your running form and prepare yourself for tackling hills during your 10k race.
#10: Stay Sharp With Strides
Strides involve sprinting anywhere from 50-200 meters or so, using your best running form, often accelerating your pace throughout the duration of the strides.
Running strides after an easy run is a great way to add a little speed work and improve your technique and running form without really taxing the body as a full interval workout would.
Running strides conditions your neuromuscular system to handle faster paces in a controlled and coordinated manner and can help you increase your turnover or running cadence.
Sometimes, putting in a lot of miles training for a 10k can leave you feeling a little sluggish and flat in terms of your speed. Running strides can help you get comfortable moving your legs faster.
The quicker your foot turnover; the more strides you’ll take per minute. Your running speed is determined by your stride length and your cadence. Increasing both or either will result in a faster running speed.
#11: Don’t Neglect Rest Days
It’s important to take at least 1 to 2 rest days per week to allow your body to heal. Running causes micro-tears in your muscles, and they need time off to repair and rebuild back stronger.
One of the keys to running faster and nailing a 10k PR is consistency, and regularly including rest days in your training program enables you to train consistently by reducing the risk of injuries.
It’s better to voluntarily take planned rest days than have your body force your hand because you’ve overdone it in your workouts and overall training volume.
#12: Include Mobility, Stability, Flexibility, and Balance Work In Your Routine
Mobility, stability, flexibility, and balance work can prevent injuries and leave you feeling limber and loose rather than wound up and tight.
Foam rolling, single-leg drills, core exercises, dynamic stretching, yoga, Pilates, and massage are great accouterments to a running program, especially when you’re pushing your body and striving for a 10k PR.
Think of these modalities as “prehab” practices, bulletproofing your body to reduce the risk of running injuries.
#13: Strength Train 2-3 Times Per Week
Strength training 2 to 3 times per week with total-body workouts is one of the most effective things you can add to your running workouts to help you run faster and hit a 10k PR.
Strength training helps prevent injuries, correct muscle imbalances, and make your legs stronger for a more powerful running stride.
Examples of good strength training exercises for runners include squats, lunges, deadlifts, step-ups, planks, push-ups, pull-ups, rows, bridges, hamstring curls, calf raises, lateral lunges, side steps or clam shells, and other core exercises.
#14: Live Like an Athlete
Any time you want to hit a PR, the lowest hanging fruit to work on—where you’ll get your biggest bang for your buck—is with adjusting your training.
However, once you’ve optimized your training program and are doing the right workouts and hitting your goal paces, you will need to expand your efforts to lifestyle improvements that can support your overall athletic performance.
Lifestyle choices—the things you’re doing when you’re not running—can actually have a significant impact on your performance, and optimizing them can sometimes be the difference between a good race and a 10k PR.
You should eat a nutritious diet with minimally-processed foods and a wide range of healthy natural foods, get at least 7 to 8 hours of quality sleep every night, drink plenty of water and limit alcohol and soda, and minimize stress.
As much as possible, live your life like a champion athlete by maintaining a positive mindset, making healthy choices, and having a focused vision on your goals.
If you need guidance training for your 10k PR, take a look at our 10k training resources.