Bristol Run Series: The 10k

With the Bristol Run Series 10k successfully launching last Friday, we’ve got another blog post from Matt Dorber of Queen Square Running Club.

This time, he’s focusing on running your 10k, from preparation to tactics to dealing with the mental challenge…

Many of you will have been training through winter and slowly increasing your mileage, and will hopefully be looking at taking on the virtual 10k in the coming week or so. The 10k is a different race altogether from the 5k – tactics are vital in order to get through and achieve the time you want:


Plan the route you’re going to run. Is it flat? Are there hills? If there’s a large climb, how far into the 10k is it? It’s no good going hard from the start and realising 6/7k in that you’re about to tackle some serious incline. Plotting out the run, even walking it before hand is a great way to ensure on race day you know exactly where the troublesome spots are; where you need to reserve energy, where you’re going to struggle. If you’ve got friends helping you, it might even be worth asking them to be in a certain spot along the route for that adrenaline boost when you need it most.

If it’s an organised race, see if a friend has taken part in previous years. What I’ll often do is check back to see the Strava entry for the race from the previous year – that way you can see the incline, the areas people have found difficulty on and it should even give you a map of the route for familiarity. Find out where the aid stations are – on an organised race you’ll generally find 2-3 stations along a 10k route handing out water (and in some cases, gels).

Remember the classic runners motto when preparing – NOTHING NEW ON RACE DAY. You’re going to be on your feet for at least double what you’d run in a 5k, so now is not the time to debut those new trainers, unless you want some serious blisters!


With the 5k race if you go out hard from the start it’s possible (albeit quite difficult) to cling on for the rest of the race. The average runner completes a 5k in and round 25-35 minutes, so blowing up early won’t seriously hurt your chances of a good time if you can keep moving. With the 10k, a fast start can often be your downfall. You might feel fresh and fantastic for the first few kilometres but it’ll soon become challenging, and it’s a significant mental challenge to maintain a hard pace for an entire 10 kilometres.

A lot of coaches will advise negative splits. What this means is starting at a reasonably comfortable pace, and aiming to increase the effort every kilometre (or mile if you prefer). The benefits of this are not only the ability to leave something in the tank for a strong finish, but you’ll also be able to overcome any mid race obstacles that you haven’t planned for.

The Mental Challenge

The 10k is the first race (after progressing from 5) where you’ll have some real mental barriers to beat. If you’re running alone virtually there’s going to be periods of holding an uncomfortable pace, and it can be a real challenge to resist the urge to stop or slow down. In my experience, the more races you do, the more you’ll train your brain to deal with it and overcome the discomfort.

Tempo Running can be a great training session for this as well. Tempo running is often referred to as ‘comfortably uncomfortable’ – running 15/30 seconds slower than a fast effort, with the aim of sustaining it for a slightly longer period than a standard interval session. After a gentle warm up, start with 5-10 minutes at a tempo pace, and then drop down to a gentle jog. Repeat this 2-3 times. Over time you’ll find that it not only improves your cardiovascular fitness, but it also trains you mentally to run at a quicker pace without wanting to stop and walk.

Lastly, as always…

Enjoy It!

Learn from it – when you’ve finished the race, take some notes. Where did you struggle? What could you have done differently? Did you start too fast? Did you finish feeling you had something left to give? All these things can be worked on in training for your next event, so don’t be disheartened if things don’t go well on your first attempt!


Whether you are completely new to running, returning after a break or a season pro, it’s still not too late to sign up for the Bristol Run Series. You can take part alone or as a group with your friends, housemates and colleagues. We want as many people as possible to feel like they belong in our Run Series community, so don’t let the fear of running, or being too slow, or being a beginner, stop you enjoying being a part of it.

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