A 10-kilometer, or 6.2-mile, race is popular among beginner and experienced runners alike. People often consider it the next milestone after a 5-kilometer race.
Anyone who has timed a 5-kilometer (5K) run should plan for a 10-kilometer (10K) run to take a little over twice as long.
Average 10K times vary by age, sex, and fitness levels. Among people aged 30–34, for example, some research shows averages of about 1 hour for females and 54 minutes for males.
Below, we explore these averages and the factors that may affect them.
Many variables, including sex, age, fitness, and experience, can affect how long it takes to finish a 10K.
A 2017 international study of nearly 40,000 competitive runners found that males were generally faster, and females were generally older.
Research from 2018 found that the influence of sex relates to circulating testosterone levels, which affect muscle mass, strength, and hemoglobin levels.
Concerning age, a different 2018 study found that running pace gradually declines into a person’s late 70s. By age 90, the team found, a person runs slightly less than half as fast as they did at their peak of fitness.
Some believe that location might play a role. Traditionally, athletes from countries such as Ethiopia, Kenya, and Uganda have topped 10K rankings, with current world records belonging to Ugandan and Ethiopian athletes.
Meanwhile, in a 2020 analysis of recreational runners from 35 countries, Switzerland topped the chart for overall 10K times, with an average finish time of 52 minutes and 42 seconds. Breaking down the figures by sex, the same study found the fastest times among males in Switzerland and females in Portugal.
The 2020 analysis of recreational runners found that males average 5 minutes and 51 seconds per kilometer in a 10K, while females average 6 minutes and 58 seconds per kilometer.
The same analysis found an average competitive 10K time of 58 minutes for a male in the United States and 1 hour and 6 minutes for a female in the same country.
Using data from the 2020 analysis, the following table shows average 10K times by sex and age in the format of hours:minutes:seconds.
|Age in years||Averages for males||Averages for females|
A person can build up endurance by increasing the duration and intensity of their running sessions gradually.
To improve a 10K run time, a person should also:
Remember to rest
It may seem counterintuitive, but resting is one of the most important things a person can do to improve their run times.
Working the body too hard may be detrimental to overall health and endurance and lead to long-term injury.
Focus on distance over speed
Although the eventual aim is to run a 10K more quickly, a person should focus on building endurance by setting goals that involve distance.
It is crucial to build endurance slowly and gradually. Avoid wearing the body out by pushing it too hard.
Wear appropriate clothing
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) highlight the importance of appropriate running gear. As they point out, clothing should be comfortable, let air circulate, and allow moisture to evaporate.
Also, a 2016 study found that compression clothing may help improve endurance and reduce muscle pain, damage, and inflammation.
Switch things up
Taking breaks from running is crucial, and a person may also benefit from doing other types of exercise to improve their general health.
For example, a person might try gentle aerobic exercises, such as swimming, cycling, walking, or cross-country skiing, to keep up fitness levels during periods of rest.
For a person new to running, the key is to focus on endurance, which a person can only build up by training regularly.
Various running plans, apps, and podcasts aim to help people swap a sedentary lifestyle for a more active one. For example, a person might try a program and podcast from the United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS) called Couch to 5K. It claims to prepare a beginner to run a 5K in 9 weeks.
To avoid health issues common to new runners, such as calf pain and shin splints, it is crucial to wear running shoes with plenty of foot and ankle support and to warm up before each session.
Running a 10K is no easy feat, and age and sex tend to affect the average times.
It is important to give the body plenty of time to prepare by training and resting at regular intervals.
Focus on building endurance, rather than speed, by setting gradual goals for distance. To support overall health, it may help to incorporate other forms of exercise into the routine.
Various running programs, apps, and podcasts can help a person train effectively and safely.