Is the 10K the Best Race Distance?

New research says 6.2-milers are drawing more female runners and faster participants each year.

More women are signing up for 10Ks—and more women than men are finishing the race in less than one hour. Photograph via Shutterstock.

While millions of runners latched onto the half marathon last year, new research suggests that the 10K may be the new popular distance to tackle. 

Researchers at Northwestern University have determined that since 2002, the 6.2-mile race has become increasingly appealing to not just elite runners and high school athletes, but everyday runners, too. Even more, runners are finishing 10Ks at faster times.

Using data from ten of the most popular 10K races in the US, researchers looked at statistics from a total of 408,296 runners. Over time, they found that while both men and women are producing faster times, more women are completing the race in under one hour than men.

While 10Ks are attracting a wider range of participants, they’ve still got some work to do before becoming the most popular races in the US. While almost 1.5 million people ran a 10K in the US in 2012, more runners ran 5Ks and half marathons, respectively, according to the most recent Running USA report.

Still, the Northwestern study’s lead author, Dan Cushman, says any participation in the 10K race is a good thing. “One of the best things we can do to improve our health is exercise, and taking on a 10KM race is a great goal,” he said in a statement, adding that women make up the majority of runners who participate in largest 10K races in the US.

“Coaches and trainers can use this information to develop more women-specific 10KM training programs to accommodate this surge of female middle-distance runners.”

The full study was published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning

We want to know: What is your favorite race distance? Take our poll and share your thoughts in the comments section below.