Runners preparing for a race
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The 10K is a wonderful distance race for both beginning joggers and hardcore racers.

The 10K is a race full of legend and lore, heartbreak and triumph. And because it's a moderate distance, it offers challenges for both novice and expert runners. If you're setting out to run your first 10K, understanding the obstacles you'll face will help you not only complete the race, but cross the finish line with a grin instead of a grimace.

The 10K designation is an informal name given to a 10,000-meter race. Track and field fans know that a formal 10,000-meter race is run on a track. A 10K, in contrast, is usually run on a road or as a cross-country event. That distance, if you're not metric-minded, is 6.2 miles, or about one-half of a half-marathon.

With both casual and serious runners, 10K races are extremely popular. They appeal to beginning runners who aren't yet ready for marathons, but also to long-distance runners who use 10Ks to learn to run faster and to run more often, thanks to the reduced recovery times associated with shorter races.

So you don't have to consider yourself a runner to complete a 10K. You don't really have to be in great shape, either. Some modest, short-term workouts will help you complete the race.

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Training is relatively light compared to the practice and workouts that go towards a marathon, which requires around 18 weeks of training. In contrast, you can go from pretty out of shape to 10K form in about eight weeks.

One of the best things about running in general is that, unlike a lot of sports, it doesn't require you to spend a lot of money on fancy gear. Of course, as with any hobby, if you become more serious about running 10Ks or other races, you can spend hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars on associated gear, entrance fees and other related expenses.

For your first 10K, though, it's best to keep things simple and to focus on the experience of completing a race of more than 6 miles for the first time in your life. It's an accomplishment you won't soon forget.