The 15k: What To Expect About This Distance Race
Most runners start out by racing 5ks. Some also get a few 10k races under their belts before setting a bigger goal like running a half or full marathon. These distances are major accomplishments and the runner deserves all the praise for completing them. But the runner might not be ready just yet to check these distances off the bucket list. While these are great goals, there is a happy medium, the often forgotten about 15k race.
The “middle sibling” of races, the 15k is—obviously—longer than the shorter distance events like a 5k but not quite the mileage of a half marathon, at 9.3 miles, serves as a great stepping stone for those looking to soon complete their first half.
Here’s what you can expect about running this distance race.
Who Should Run A 15k?
The 15k is perfect for those who currently can run 5 miles comfortably. It is the next step after finishing a 10k and looking for the next challenge. Running a 15k is definitely is more difficult than a 10k in that the runner needs more stamina and endurance to continue running for another three miles.
It also is ideal for those who want to work their way up to running long distance. Runners don’t need to have done 10k before attempting a 15k. It does mentally help since the runner knows they can at least get to 6.2. However, if a person can run 3 miles they can complete a 15k. That is if they properly train.
There are fewer 15k races available compared to other distances like a 10k or half marathon. With that said, there are a few popular ones like the Allstate Hot Chocolate 15 series that takes in cities like Philadelphia, Chicago, St. Louis, Nashville and this year Brooklyn, New York.
While there are events available for this distance, many runners don’t know how to approach training and the race itself.
A 15k race the sweet spot for some runners because it is a big enough goal to chase while not being a huge leap like a half marathon for those used to the short distance.
Training starts with low mileage and builds up weekly over time. It’s advised to train for up to 12 weeks in order to gradually increase the long run and then give time to taper and recover being race day. Many popular training plans like those provided by Hal Higdon are 10 weeks for a novice to more advanced runners.
Training typically consists of two shorter to mid-distance runs per week with the max mileage 6 miles along with strength training. The most important part of the training is the weekly long run which can bring the runner-up to as much as 10 miles or as little as 8 miles. More seasoned runners should train for a minimum of 8 weeks.
Chances are those running a 15k for the first time aren’t trying to be the top finisher of the race. If you are, this includes increasing speed so tempo runs are important as well as strengthening the leg muscles.
Even if we aren’t striving to be the first person to cross the tape, as runners we are always looking to run our best race. So what should your 15k pace be?
A runner’s pace for a 15k is close to a 10-mile race, but since this event is also less common it’s best to use a 10k pace as a guesstimate. There are race predictor calculators available online like the McMillan Calculator that can help estimate 15k pace. This is generally up to 20 seconds slower per mile than the runner’s 10k average pace.
Keep in mind that the course (flat vs. hills), weather (windy, rainy, hot and humid) and overall fitness plays a role in actual race day pace.
What To Expect Race Day
The hard work is really in the training. Show up to your runs, be consistent and log in those long distance miles. Shake the nerves out race day and remember to have fun.
Many runners are actually faster on race day thanks to their adrenaline and the rush of excitement. The energy of other runners is contagious and just running alongside others is motivation in itself.
With that said, try to stick to the planned pace and don’t start off too fast too soon. Allow the first mile to be a warm up almost and kick it up a gear for each significant point of the race like when at the 5k and 10k mark.
Running for this distance means having the proper running fuel on hand whether that be sports beans, energy gels or whatever nutrition works for that runner. Practice with these before race day. Also, find out if water stations are on course. No ones want to be left thirsty or with an upset stomach thanks to consuming gels without water.
The best way to conquer this distance for the first time is with a running buddy since talking along the way makes the miles go by fast. It also helps to have someone in it with you to keep pushing when it starts to get tough. Don’t race before you have to do it solo. Get that new playlist ready and get focused. After all, it’s the runner that did all the hard work so believe in yourself and that will take you to the finish line.
Running long distance races becomes a mind game. The body at this point of the game can go the distance. Get out of your head and just enjoy the race environment. When starting to get tired, try to distract the mind or tell yourself positive mantras. Repeat these and stick with it—even if it means slowing down the pace. Chances are in a few minutes, a second wind hits and that hard part is over.
Unfortunately, some 15k races don’t award medals for all finishers. But the reward is finishing this longer distance—and it should be celebrated. Many events hold post-race parties or go out to celebrate the victory with your running group or family.
Since these races are few in between, set the goal of returning to the course next year to beat your time.