Lamenting the Demise of the 10K

By: Brad Deel

Last Sunday, I ran the Tallman Track Club Winter Series 10K in Charleston and I wondered why there are so few 10K's.  I looked at the TriStateRacer calendar for the first six months of 2012 and there are roughly 30 5K's.  That's right.  30.  (If someone with more patience than me counts again and finds that there are only 25 or that I under counted and there are 35, I won't argue).  Once March rolls around, it is easy to find a 5K every weekend.  There are even two half marathons and a smattering of other distances such as 3, 4, or 5 miles races.  But, by my count, only two 10K's.  Two.  Why so few?

In my mind, the 10Kis the perfect distance because it presents the runner with any number of difficulties.  How should you run it?  If you go out like a banshee as in a 5K, you'll blow up and end up jogging around Mile 4.5.  However, if you hold back a bit as in a half marathon, you'll leave a lot of time on the course.  How should you train for it?  Should you focus on speed?  Should you focus on VO2max?  Should you focus on lactate threshold training?  Are long runs important for that final 1.2 miles?  If you focus all of your training on developing your speed, will you die in the end?  If you focus on endurance, will you have the turnover needed for a faster race?

I'd like to say I ran a great race on Sunday.  I didn't.  I ran a decent race but I haven't run a 10K in nearly two years and the reality was that I was worried about blowing up and didn't push as hard as I should have.  Lesson learned but there are plenty of other lessons to be learned about racing at any particular distance and the dearth of 10K's makes it very hard to learn those lessons.  

I'm not sure why the 10K has become the ugly duckling of running.  Perhaps it's because it's not easy to just get off the couch some Saturday morning and walk 6.2 miles as it is for walking 3.1 miles.  Perhaps it's because "10 kilometers" doesn't sound as impressive as "half MARATHON!!"  (I should note that the half marathon is my favorite distance to race).  Perhaps it's because putting on a 10K takes a lot more effort and expense than does a 5K although, given that many people walk a 5K, I'm not sure it takes that much more time.  The last finisher on Sunday crossed in under 1:30 and the last walker in many 5K's takes about an hour.

Regardless of the reason, I'd like to thank the folks who do decide to put on a 10K.  Those of us who appreciate a true running challenge appreciate you.  See you out there. 

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