Tips for First Time 10K Runners

Runner checking her time
John Howard/Digital Vision/Thinkstock
For your first race, don't get too caught up in a super-competitive finishing time. Take the time to enjoy the event.

As you prepare for your first 10K, you'll probably receive a lot of unsolicited advice from other runners and non-runners alike. Here's one tip you should follow for sure -- if you have any sort of known health issues, and you don't generally exercise much, you may want to check with your doctor before you begin training.

Once you're cleared for workouts, there are plenty of other tried and true tips that may help you have a better race experience. For starters, don't get too wrapped up in finishing in a certain time, especially if you've never run 6 miles before. You can worry about training for a specific time goal after finishing this race. Your first 10K result will provide a baseline performance that you can use to establish future goals.

Also, don't completely overhaul your current diet, especially if you're brand new to running. If you try to add too many big changes to your life at once, you're likely to abandon the idea of running altogether. Besides, as your training intensifies, your body is likely to begin dictating changes in diet, as you make the connection between poor food or large meals and subsequent sluggish runs.

Make sure you understand your training program's lingo. Many plans specify the effort you should put into your run, often by denoting longer runs as easy in effort. If you're gasping or out of breath, you're running too hard. If you can have a non-stop conversation or sing, you're probably running too slowly. You should complete easy runs at a pace that feels comfortable.

Plan your training runs with the race course in mind, and select routes that somewhat resemble the kind of conditions you can expect on race day. If you train in the flat plains of Kansas for a 10K race in Boulder, Colo., on race day you're in for a world of pain. If the race is going to be hilly, you absolutely must train on inclines, either outside or on a machine that simulates the same kind of effort.

You do need to have decent shoes that will withstand the rigors of training, but you don't have to buy the priciest pair you can find. There's evidence to support the idea that very expensive, cushy shoes actually cause more injuries than cheaper shoes, in part because they're so cushioned that they make it difficult to feel how your body is responding to a certain pace or stride. Without that physical feedback, you might repeat a harmful motion and cause an injury.

No matter what sort of gear you decide on, listen to your body as you train. If dull, tired aches give way to sharp stabbing pains, call your doctor and cease running. Or, if you're overwhelmed with enthusiasm about running, be sure not to overlook rest, which is a critical part of absorbing your workouts.

So be mindful of your body, respect the challenges that a 10K race presents and follow your training plan with diligence. With a little dedication and effort your first 10K will be a great experience, and you won't want it to be your last.

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