Army Races | Elite Tips to Run Faster

September 10, 2022

Are you training to prepare for Army races? If so, welcome to Nutrition Geeks. I am glad you have made it here. I served for over 20 years on active duty in the US Army. That being said, compete in several Army races like the Army 10 miler and as a member of the US Army World Class Athlete Program. My goal with this post is to share with you some running tips to help you perform at a higher level.

Our military members are some of the most focused and driven leaders in the world. So, I already know that you are hard working individual. I recently created the new Army combat fitness 2 mile running course. It is a resource to help hard working athletes to get better results by working smarter. Remember, higher mileage is not a guarantee that you are going to run faster over your chosen distance.

As you already know the Army in its infinite wisdom introduced the new Army ACFT physical fitness test recently. So, we have 6 events to compete in with 5 of them occurring prior to your 2 mile run. I retired from the Army in March of 2022 and experienced a couple diagnostic versions of the ACFT. Remember, the faster you run over 2 miles the more competitive you will be in other Army races.

Can Anyone Run the Army 10 Miler?

The Army 10 miler is one of many Army races civilians as well as military members can compete in. I was 12th overall in the 2004 edition of the race in 51:53. In addition, was a member of the 2010 Army 10 miler international championship team as well. I finished as the team's 4th man and ran 51:59. LTC Dan Browne, two-time US Olympian and a former teammate of mine at the Army World Class Athlete Program finished in 48:20. The Army 10 miler is probably the most popular of all the Army races we have.

MAJ (ret.) Pennington finishing as the top American and in 4th place at the 2007 California International Marathon in 2:19:35 (5:19 per mile for 26.2 miles)

It is held each year in Washington DC in the month of October. The course is relatively flat and you will most definitely have a lot of competition there. It is also America's second largest 10 mile road race behind the Cherry Blossom 10 miler. I ran a time of 51:29 there in 2007 and finished 24th place to give you an idea how competitive it is. My top recommendation in training for your Army run is to focus on a longer build up. Remember, the longer you prepare the better off you are going to be.

It is tough to train for Army races or any other race in a matter of 4 to 8 weeks. The optimal time frame to do it right is a minimum of 16 and preferably 20 to 24 weeks. I saw far too many military members trying to rush their fitness while I was still serving in the Army.


How Long is the Army 10 Miler?

The Army 10 miler is 16 kilometers in length. The race can be hot or cold depending on the year. I would highly advise getting to the start line earlier than later the morning of the race. The reason is the metro is slammed with runners and you definitely don't want to miss the start of the race. So, get to the start line a minimum of 90 minutes before the start. As mentioned above, a longer build up is better. So, focus on building easy, aerobic mileage for at least 4 weeks before you start your race-specific training.

hand release push ups army
MAJ (ret.) Pennington (second from left) with the 2010 Army 10 Miler International Championship Team in Washington DC

Also, start doing 5 to 6, 100-meter strides twice per week. You will want to continue to do these throughout your training block. Strides are short, acceleration drills that will help you with your form. In addition, over a 16 to 24 week training block you will have spent several miles or kilometers at sprint paces. Also, you will have done these shorter sprints on top of your other workouts. So, they can be extremely beneficial. Again, I created the new Army combat fitness 2 mile running course to help runners use leverage.


How Do You Train for the Army 10 Miler?

The longer you can spend training at the anaerobic threshold, the better. What has been the longest tempo run you have done in the past for your Army races? 2 miles? 3? I would recommend working to extend the duration of your AT runs to around 7 to 8 miles. We run at 85 to 89 percent of our maximum heart rate at this intensity. The overall goal with my running courses and training plans is to help the athlete to improve his or her lactate tolerance.

So, we want to work so that you sustain goal race pace longer. In addition, slow down less than your competition. You also have to be very smart with your pacing. There are far too many runners going out too fast in the first few miles of the Army 10 miler. I advise my athletes to focus on running a negative split.

So, aim at running the second 5 miles faster than you run the first 5 miles. You will lessen the likelihood of going into oxygen debt and being forced to slow down. The same problems occur with the ACFT 2 mile. Soldiers are getting too hyped up and going too anaerobic, too soon.

The result is the slow down significantly and miss their goal time. Again, proper training is vital as is smart pacing. You are not going to win the Army 10 miler in the first mile unless you are prepared to sustain sub-5 minute mile pace. I have run 50:54 for 10 miles and never could run fast enough to win the race. It is the most competitive of all Army races we have.


What time Does the Army Ten-Miler Start?

The race itself opens around 5am and usually starts around 6:30 with various ability waves starting minutes later. Again, you want to ensure you get to the start line in plenty of time. More importantly, you prepare properly for months prior to the start of the race. I have focused on building resources on my main website that will help speed up your success. In addition, share them here at Nutrition Geeks as well.

I also offer monthly coaching for athletes seeking to take their training and racing to the next level. As mentioned above, focus on working to extend the amount of time you are training at your anaerobic threshold. It will help make your goal race pace to feel that much easier on you. Our anaerobic threshold is when lactic acid begins to rise in the body. Easy running is important but won't prepare you to race all out for 10 miles. Yes, you need to be jogging on recovery days to ensure you adapt to the hard training you are doing though.

I highly recommend investing in a heart rate monitor. I regularly use the Garmin 245 myself. It helps me to stay in the proper heart rates zones during various efforts. So, utilize a tool like this to ensure you are not running too fast on easy days. Also, not running too easy on hard days. Of course, always listen to your body first and foremost.

Army 10 Miler Course

The Army ten miler course is relatively flat. It does have some minor rolling hills around mile 5 and throughout the course but nothing overly steep. It is mainly a flat course and you will never attend an Army 10 miler that is not competitive. There are runners from other branches as well as civilians who compete. In addition, there are teams from other countries' militaries that also compete. As mentioned above, I was a member of the 2010 Army 10 miler international championship team.

It was a great experience to win and to be on a team that competitive. I want you to experience new personal bests and to feel that excitement too. Again, the key focus here to improve the athlete's lactate tolerance. So, you have to be doing at least 1, vo2 max workout per week. Your vo2 max is your body's maximum oxygen deliver capacity. It is running at speeds that are so intense you and I need to stop and take breaks. We run between 95 to 105% of our maximum heart rate at this effort.

Again, by doing workouts like these we recruit more fast twitch muscle fibers. The more of these we can recruit the more efficient we are going to race. Your form will stay strong and you will be able to sustain race pace longer. Why? You have trained significantly faster than you are aiming to race at over the 10 mile distance.

Focus on Faster Long Runs

Are you running long and slow every single weekend? Please stop doing that. All it is going to make you is a superior long, slow distance runner. My goal with the resources I am sharing in this post is to help you to run faster, longer. So, start running a portion of your long runs at faster paces. Of course, the entire long run that you do should not be spend running at fast, anaerobic efforts. You will need to run slower during some segments of the run. That being said, you have to stress the energy systems of the body for the proper physiological adaptations to occur.

Below are some examples of the faster, varied paced long runs I was doing prior to breaking the 2:20 marathon barrier. It was the hardest training I ever did and it lead to a 2:19:35 marathon PR.

  • 2 mile jog, 5 miles@5:35 mile pace, 2 miles easy, 1 mile in 4:55, 3 miles@6:00 mile pace, 2 miles easy, 1 mile in 5:00, 3 miles@6:15 mile pace, 1 mile jog (20 miles)
  • 1 mile jog, 20 miles@5:30 mile pace, 1 mile jog (22 miles)
  • 2 mile jog, 10 miles@5:45 mile pace, 3 miles easy, 2 miles@5:20 mile pace, 3 miles easy, 1 mile in 4:55, 1 mile jog (22 miles)

Lastly, always run easy and slow the following week. So, alternate a faster, varied paced long run one weekend with an easy, relaxed long run the next. Again, recovery is essential in order for adaptation to occur. It was not uncommon for me to need to jog 2 to even 3 days after faster long runs. I took this very seriously. I was able to drop 21 minutes off of my marathon PR going from 2:43:36 to 2:19:35 using this tactic.

Closing Thoughts

How often are you focusing on mental training? I ask that because the vast majority of runners do not pay as much attention to this. I credit mental training for helping me improve my 10 mile best from 55:32 (college) to 50:54. In addition, my 5K PR from 15:19 to 14:18 and marathon from 2:43:36 to 2:19:35. You have to see your goals in your mind before they ever become reality in real life. Would you like to keep in touch? Make sure to subscribe to the RunDreamAchieve YouTube channel to get the latest and newest training videos I make.

So, start spending 10 to 15 minutes daily mentally rehearsing and seeing yourself performing at the level you are aiming for. Also, see yourself getting across that finish line with your goal 2 mile, 10 mile or marathon time on the clock. Regardless what distance you are training for ensure to rehearse. You have to train your mind as you do the body. The world's top runners combine both mental as well as physical preparation. They make it look easy for a reason.


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