Written by

Ben Parker

March 30, 2023

Pacing a 10k: Top tips + a pacing strategy

Runna are here to provide you some top tips on pacing a 10k.

A person drinking water.

The 10k is one of the most popular running distances to race. It isn't quite as daunting as a half marathon or a marathon, but it is a great step up after a 5k.

To make the most out of your 10k training (and hopefully set a new personal best!) we recommend using a pacing strategy.

Why have a pacing strategy for a 10k race?

We recommend having a pacing strategy to ensure you get the best out of yourself and avoid blowing up too early or finishing with more in the tank. And, of course, to have an enjoyable run!

The most efficient way to run is to start slower and build the effort/pace throughout; this is also called a negative split.

Goal time for a 10k

Start by working out what time you are aiming to finish in.

For example:

If you're aiming to finish in just under an hour, then you need an average pace of 5:59 minutes per km.

If you're aiming for a 50-minute 10k, then this is an average pace of 5:00 minutes per km.

If you're aiming for a 45-minute 10k, that's an average pace of 4:30 minutes per km.

Here's a table where you can see target paces (per mile and per km) for a range of 10k goal times:

Sticking to an exact pace to the second isn't easy, so give yourself a range to target, or a buffer of 3-4s either side of your target pace.

For the 50-minute 10k runner, this would be a pace range of 4:57-5:03min per km. To help you achieve this negative split, divide your 10k into 3 sections: first 3k, 4-7k and final 3k.

How to pace a 10k: a sample strategy

Here's a sample pacing strategy for a 10k using a negative split, split into 3 parts:

First 3k (miles 0-2)

Start off around 5s/km slower than your target pace for the first 3k.

It is likely that your first 1km or mile will be a bit quicker as you get wrapped up in the excitement of the race but try to dial it back and be strict with yourself. It's early on and you want to save that energy for the final few kilometers or miles.

The effort should feel fast but also relaxed. Breathing should feel controlled.

4-7k (miles 3-4)

It is common for people to dip around halfway into the race. This is more likely to happen if you have paced the first few km too fast.

From 4k onwards (or approx. at mile 3), increase the pace to your target race pace. Avoid surging to change your pace; this is a waste of energy. Slowly up the ante and use other runners around you to pull you along.

Keep assessing how you feel but wait for that final 2-3k to really push on! If you aren't sure, then concentrate, try stay relaxed and hold your pace.

From 7k (miles 4-6.2)

Now you've got 3k to go. It's probably feeling tough already, but you're so close to the finish line!

Pick your moment to push on. If you are feeling good this might be from 7k (which is approx. mile 4) but if you are struggling, wait until you're closer to the finish line.

From 9km, with only 1km to go, empty the tank and push hard to that finish line....

Then celebrate, you did it!

Runna's top tips for your next 10k race

Here are our top tips on how to prepare for a 10k race:

  • Ensure your training includes a variety of runs: Use a combination of speed work, tempo runs, long runs, and easy runs to prepare for your 10k race. Ideally, include some runs that are longer than 10k, so that the race distance feels manageable. (Runna can help with all that).
  • Eat a balanced diet and get enough carbs: You don't need carb loading for a 10k race, but eating a balanced diet rich in carbs and protein will help your body recover efficiently.
  • Get enough rest: Taper your training in the week leading up to the race and get plenty of sleep.
  • Use tried and tested gear on race day: Don't try anything new on race day to make sure you can focus on your running.
  • Split the race into a few sections and use the right pace for each: Begin slightly slower than your target pace, increase slightly in the second section, and go all in for the last 1-2 kilometers.
  • Be mindful of how you're feeling: If you're struggling, it's okay to slow down. If you're feeling good, you can gradually increase your pace.
  • Get familiar with the race route beforehand: Check the elevation gain and, if you can, go see the race route. This will help you know what to expect.
  • Use a GPS watch or your phone to track your pace: Keep track of your speed and pace during the run.
  • After the race, cool down with a light jog or walk, hydrate, and celebrate: Congratulations, you made it!

And, most importantly, enjoy your 10k race!

Level up your running game with a personalized 10k training plan

While every runner’s goals are different, having a structured 10k training plan is one of the best ways to improve your running game.

To help you prepare for your next race, we’ve built Runna, a dedicated running coaching app that you can use to build a fully customized 10k running plan that’s aligned with your goals, availability, and schedule.

A custom-built 10k running plan makes it 10x easier to stay on track and level up your running game. Download Runna to get yours today.

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