Why 10k is the perfect distance, according to these running experts

The Greek messenger Pheidippedes has a lot to answer for. Had his journey of glory been over the far more user-friendly distance of 10k rather than the 40k it was, there’d likely be so many more runners.

Back in 490BC he ran from the coastal town of Marathon back to Athens to report a Greek victory over Persia, and then promptly collapsed and died (in his defence, he had run 240km beforehand, so was understandably exhausted).   

From his memorable final 40k – the distance from Marathon to Athens – the modern-day 42.2k (26 miles, 385 yards) marathon developed, and has become the go-to event for tens of thousands of runners worldwide.

What makes 10k so perfect – by Saga Exceptional’s resident running expert

I’ve been running for more than 50 years and can confirm that taking part in marathons comes at a high price.

Running that kind of distance can take a heavy toll on your body, as well as time – which is where 10k events come in. The distance offers all the glory and kudos of the marathon – as well as the camaraderie, buzz and general excitement – but none of the significant muscle damage. And many experts believe that 10k can be the perfect distance for older runners. 

Marathon races such as London, Berlin and New York grab all the headlines and yes, on the surface they do appear exciting, tempting even. You find yourself watching the London Marathon on TV and saying: ‘That’ll be me next year.’ But, as any finisher will tell you, there’s a cost. 

As a runner, I’ve completed many 10k races – all the way from the incredible Borobudor race in Indonesia, which finishes at the foot of an ancient temple, to a more apparently mundane sounding (but it isn’t) Southend 10k, which finishes by the mile-long pier.

As such, I can say with no word of exaggeration, that a 10k can match a marathon in many departments – and even outdo it in others. I once ran the Crescent City Classic in New Orleans and then the spent the rest of the day running around the city taking in all the sights. Try doing that after a marathon!  

There are some fabulous 10k races around. The Asics London 10k on July 9, for example, takes in all the classic sights from Big Ben to Piccadilly Circus. They deliver everything a big city marathon can offer. Or you can choose a local event, of which there are hundreds up and down the country every weekend. Everybody is welcome, the atmosphere is always great, and should you get the bug, well, there’s always another one next week. Plus, your body won’t mind.  

posted Thursday March 28th
by Paul Larkins