There’s a popular meme circulating social media that says, “You know you’re a runner when you convince your friends to join you on a 5K race because…hey it’s only 3.1 miles!”
For beginner runners, or those who just love to compete in short runs, 5K races are the considered the easiest. They don’t require too much training time; typically a few weeks.
Sure, it’s only 3.1 miles and experienced runners will find that they can complete this distance within a half hour or less (especially when you can pull off a 10-minute mile). If you’ve competed in dozens of 5Ks and they’re becoming a little monotonous or the race is over before you know it, stepping up your game to a 10K (double the distance, 6.2 miles) could be the competitive edge you need to test your stamina and endurance.
When you think about running 6 miles, you may feel intimidated by the challenges ahead. Maybe you’re not quite comfortable with your body’s ability to power through a long run. One method of conquering this feat is having confidence in yourself and realizing that, if you can prepare your body to run 3 miles, you can prepare yourself for more!
Timing Is Everything
One of the most important aspects of signing up for a race with a longer distance is acknowledging/planning how much time you have to train. Committing to a 10K competition with only a few weeks – or even one month – to prepare may not be sufficient. Give yourself a couple of months, at a minimum, to achieve gradual running goals that will lead up to trekking 6 miles with the least amount of breaks, or no breaks at all (breaks are always good until you’re competing and see the runner behind you flying ahead to the finish line!)
Recover From Your Additional Mileage
It may seem obvious to increase your mileage on each run to 4, 5, and finally 6 miles. However, some people may not have the endurance or momentum to complete a 5-mile run until after they’ve run 4 miles a few times, perhaps even 4 and a half miles.
It’s easy to say you’ll simply “run farther” next time. In reality, acing your added mileage also means having to physically recover from those longer distances. If you’re used to covering a maximum of 3 miles on a typical run, your body may not be familiar with the impact of tacking on another mile. Make sure you gauge your body’s recovery time after each mile added to your routine. For example, it may take your legs two to three days to recover from a 5-mile run, which affects the time you spend hitting the pavement to train more often. You know your body better than anyone else, so calculate how much time you need to recover in between runs before going the extra mile. Hitting the wall and “shocking” your legs/muscles with a long run could put a dent in your training and jeopardize reaching your goals!
Get The Right Gear For The Job!
You’re ready to run – sporting your favorite pair of sneakers that propelled you through all of those 5K races! But wait – are they new or old and how long have you been wearing them? Months? Years? As some runners will discover over time, different sneaker styles are built for different athletic activities and purposes. Runners are always looking for excuses to buy new kicks, so it’s fitting that you make sure the soles and materials can withstand an hour or more of non-stop action.
Experts agree that you should replace your running shoes based on the average distance you cover (of course, the more miles you trek a week, the sooner you should replace your footwear). Some sneakers are only sufficient to wear at the gym for support and others can only withstand a couple of miles on the pavement before they wear down. Longer runs may require you to add a better quality sneaker, with a thicker sole that won’t wear down as easily, to your wardrobe – so get shopping if you must!
What’s Your True Goal?
If you’ve never run a 10K race – or you simply never ran 6 miles in your life – come to terms with your true goals. Are you simply competing to prove to yourself that you can do it? Are you joining thousands of other runners to test your personal finishing time? Maybe you’re just in it for pure fun! Knowing your true goal will help shift your focus during training. Serious runners may train more often and aim to beat their 6-mile run time (without stops), while leisure/amateur runners aren’t concerned with timing and are simply proud that they’ve met their goal of competing in a 10K race.
Getting Stronger Through Strength Training
Keeping your momentum going and preparing your body to handle an hour or more of running could be intimidating. Sure, running a few times a week is good for conditioning the legs and steadying your cardio. However, numerous studies show that in order to prevent injuries, just running isn’t enough.
No gym membership? No problem! In the comfort of your own home, you can practice stretching and simple exercises like lunges, squats, burpees, and calf raises. These can help build muscle and keep the joints fluid. Through regular strength training and conditioning, your body will be ready for various physical challenges. Soon that 10K will seem like a walk in the park!
Sometimes, It’s All In Your Mind
The power of running often boosts one’s confidence and sense of focus. Whether you pound the pavement just to get your mind off of real life and exist in your own “zone,” or you enjoy the highly competitive aspect of racing, there are no limitations except the ones you set for yourself.
If you’ve set the bar mentally high enough that your physical limit is only 3 miles, you may have already convinced yourself to stay at that level of accomplishment. If nothing is physically holding you back from accomplishing higher feats, remind yourself as you’re running that you have the power to do more – and another few miles on the road will make you stronger than before!
Regardless of your training techniques or long-term running goals, never underestimate your growing power. Now go out there and kill that 10K!