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Can you race a 10K with no training?

Finishing a race untrained isn't ideal, but it may not be impossible

Many runners will head into a race with previous race experience or will have at least trained for the race. There are always a few runners that will show up at the start-line without ever covering the race distance in training. 

Unless you have a running or significant athletic background, the half marathon distance is very tough to conquer on the day without training. This raises the question, can you finish a 10K with no training?

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Going into a race untrained is less than ideal, but is the 10-kilometre distance the threshold for how far you can race without training?

It depends on your current fitness levels, age, and the last time you ran any distance. If you haven’t run in the past 10 years, probably not or not at least to your satisfaction. You will need to be careful to not get injured, given no previous training. Your muscles and ligaments will be pushed to their limits very early on in the run, especially if you go out too fast. 

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In an endurance study done by NYU Scientist Niko McCarty, he looked at several cases of human beings pushing their endurance thresholds. McCarty came out with the conclusion that all humans can at least run 10 kilometres (six miles).

He notes that there are limits to performance, such as body energy and sleep, as humans need to have enough energy to continue running. The human body also requires glycogen (a glucose compound) for energy, but it burns quickly. This is why many runners will eat a meal before racing, as they will eventually deplete their glycogen stores and switch to anaerobic capacity, which causes lactic acid to build up in muscles.

Several other limits McCarty noted are not set by training, but by your genetics. Your muscle structure, lung size, and even the length of your toes can play a role in limiting your running threshold.

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What makes a 10K race difficult is the combination of the pace you set for yourself and how long you can hold that pace. The more you train for the distance, the faster you can complete it. Some elite runners will push themselves beyond their comfort zones to chase a personal best beyond what they are capable of.

Your current level of fitness and your athletic background are the main factors in determining whether you could run a 10K without training. If you are exercising regularly, pulling it off shouldn’t be a problem.