How to Run a 12K

By Andrea Cespedes

A 12K is just 2 kilometers, or approximately 1.3 miles, longer than the more popular 10K distance. While you might be tempted to wing it come race day, you'll perform better and discourage injury if you've trained properly. The proper gear, clothing, nutrition approach and hydration strategies will also make the experience more enjoyable.

Schedule Your Training Runs

To successfully run a 12K, plan on at least three days of running per week. Try to schedule them on non-consecutive days and cross-train with a lower impact activity, such as swimming, biking or weight training, on other days. Allow for at least one day of complete rest from exercise per week. Adapt a basic 10K training plan to prepare you to run a 12K by adding just 15 to 20 percent more mileage to each run. For example, if one week of the plan calls for two 3-mile runs and one 6-mile run, make them two 3.5-mile runs and one 7-mile run to get ready for the 12K.

Evaluate Your Starting Place

When selecting a plan, consider how much you exercise and run now, what kind of time you can commit to running and how many weeks you have to prepare for the race. If you're attempting to go from couch to 12K, give yourself at least 16 weeks to build up to the distance; more experienced runners and exercisers can find success with 10 to 12 weeks of training. Beginners should focus on simply getting the miles under their feet by slowly increasing mileage over the duration of the training period. More experienced runners may perform one quality run per week that consists of speed work, hill drills or tempo running; a long run that tops out at 7 to 8 miles in the final stretch of training; and another one to three easy-paced shorter runs every week.

Gearing Up

Proper shoes make training and race day successful. Go to a running-specific store that performs free gait analyses to determine what type of shoe will support you best. Performance running clothing made from wicking fabric keeps you dry during your run and prevents chafing. Avoid wearing anything too baggy, such as oversized T-shirts or sweat pants, which create wind resistance. Invest in quality socks that are made of a synthetic fabric or a natural wicking fabric such as bamboo or wool; cotton socks usually result in blisters, as they hold onto moisture and create friction in your shoes.

Nutrition and Hydration

You don't have to follow a particular diet when training for a 12K, but consuming a healthy amount of carbohydrates -- 45 to 65 percent of daily calories as recommended by the Institute of Medicine -- lean proteins and moderate amounts of healthy fats supports a healthy body. The night before the race, avoid overindulging or eating particularly spicy foods, as this can cause stomach discomfort when you exercise the next day. The morning of the race, consume a quality breakfast several hours prior to race start so that you have energy, but have fully digested your food. Options include toast with a tablespoon or two of peanut butter; oatmeal with a drizzle of honey, milk and fresh berries; or a smoothie made with yogurt, milk and bananas.

Have 12 to 16 ounces of water before the race. Aim to finish this about an hour before start time to prevent a mid-race bathroom break. Unless the race is held on a particularly hot day, water will sufficiently hydrate you; stop at water stops along the way as you feel thirsty. After the race, rehydrate with at least 20 ounces of water.

Race Ready

Arrive at the race at least 30 minutes prior to the start. If you haven't picked up your race bib and packet, arrive earlier. Warm up with a brisk walk or light jog for about five to 10 minutes and use the bathroom one last time before the gun goes off. Visualize yourself finishing the race successfully. Avoid going out too fast when you cross the starting line -- you have over 7 miles to cover, so work at a pace that feels sustainable for the first 5 miles. If you feel strong, pick up your pace in the last 2 miles.

References

About the Author

Andrea Cespedes is a professionally trained chef who has focused studies in nutrition. With more than 20 years of experience in the fitness industry, she coaches cycling and running and teaches Pilates and yoga. She is an American Council on Exercise-certified personal trainer, RYT-200 and has degrees from Princeton and Columbia University.

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