10 Pacing Tips For Your First 10K
While 5ks can be run with a comparatively gung-ho attitude, doubling the distance requires a more disciplined approach - here's how to get the pacing right for your first 10k...
1. Know your splits
It takes a highly experienced runner to be able to run a race 'by feel' alone. For most of us, a GPS watch is the best bet for maintaining an even pace. As with any kit, you should practice with your chosen watch in training - and make sure it's fully charged for Race Day! To work out what how quickly you need to run each kilometre in order to achieve your target time, the coolrunning.com pace calculator is a useful tool.
2. Run to warm up
If you've run a race before, you will have noticed that most people start running before it's even started - and with good reason. A gentle jog, with a few faster paced 'strides' (short, controlled bursts of speed), will not only warm your joints and muscles up; it will also get your body used to the motion of running. Going from a slumberous start to full-tilt racing will make your target pace feel difficult from the off, and you'll be in for a very tough 10k.
3. Line up wisely
While the various start points at the Vitality London 10,000 are arranged by number rather than target time, the de facto rules of racing dictate that those at the front are going for quick times. To avoid being swept away by the fast start, position yourself towards the middle or back of the pack. That way it's much easier to dictate your own pace and run the race you had planned.
4. Start steady
On that point, a steady start is crucial to 10k success, because whether you're on your feet for 40 minutes or 70 you've got a lot of running ahead of you. Still, if you're aiming for a set time, you don't want to start too slow and leave yourself with much to do at the back-end of the race. Aim for your target splits or ever so slightly slower for the opening two miles, then pick up the pace gradually. A 'negative split' - running the second half of the race quicker than the first - is the holy grail of racing.
5. Keep sight of the pacer
Pacers are there to help you out - use them! The immediate vicinity of pacers can become crowded, so it's best to stay just ahead or just behind for most of the race. Also, if you feel like you have some gas left in the tank with a couple of kilometres to go, don't be afraid to leave the pacer behind; they are there to guide your race rather than govern it.
6. Avoid traffic
Just as you want to avoid the crowds that form around the pacers, try to weave your way around big groups of runners at other points in the race - mainly in the opening couple of kilometres. Of course, if you're not worried about getting a certain time big groups offer a chance to chat to fellow runners and soak up the atmosphere, but PB-chasers will find it hard to keep up the pace with a mass of race bibs in front of them.
7. Ignore your ego
In other words, don't try to out-run a fellow runner just because you think you should finish ahead of them! Body shape and age are poor indicators of ability - something you're likely to learn the hard way if you make the race a competition with anyone but yourself.
Ignoring your ego also means setting a target time that's grounded in reality. If you've been doing most of your training at 9min/miling, a sub-40 10k is going to be out of the question. Run for the time you've trained for, not what you think will get the most kudos on Strava.
8. Break the race down
If this is your first 10k, treating it as 10 whole kilometres could be quite daunting. Instead, break it down into 2k chunks - five of those and you're finished. It won't make the race any quicker, but it might help you to maintain motivation when your legs begin to tire. If you find yourself really struggling towards the end of the race, take it a kilometre - or even a few-hundred metres - at a time: tell yourself you can walk when you make it to the next point, and the chances are you'll be able to keep going when you get there. It's all in your mind!
9. Imagine an extra kilometre
If you set yourself up for running 10k, you're likely to tire when the 10k is almost up. That could be because of the central governor theory, which says the brain induces fatigue to avoid over-exertion. In the case of a 10k, the brain knows you're running 10k, so fatigue sets in when that distance is almost up. To counter that, try convincing yourself that the race is actually 11k in length. That way, you might just get to 9k with energy left to burn.
10. Attack the home straight
Speaking of which, don't hold back in the closing kilometre. While you want to avoid jumping the gun too soon, you also don't want to cross the line - having missed out on your target time - feeling like you could have tried harder. Scan the Finish Line of any race and you'll notice a sea of beetroot-red faces that are testament to the fact that a fast finish is the thing to do.