I started running in January this year and feel I have made pretty good progress (10 min mile, 4 miles at a crack and always trying to increase). My question is about training on the treadmill vs. training on the pavement. I have been stuck on the treadmill for a variety of reasons - I work long hours (usually >90 hrs a week), so my runs are usually after dark and, in the Houston area, I'm not comfortable running even with high visibility gear by myself after dark. I've really only run on solid ground a few times, and those have felt much different than a treadmill. If I were going to try to train for a race, is the treadmill really going to impair me come race day? Is there anything I can do to make the treadmill a more helpful training tool? My only chances for day time runs are realistically every other week.
My experience is that the treadmill IS very different. I exclusively used a treadmill one winter (Central Wisconsin winters can get cold) to train for a 5 mile early March race. I was running 5+ miles on the treadmill pretty comfortably, when the race came I really struggled to even finish it.
The impact that you're making on a hard surface like concrete and blacktop cannot be replicated on the treadmill, so your muscles and joint are not going to react and feel the same. A treadmill is MUCH more forgiving than road surfaces.
After struggling with that 5 mile race, I sold my treadmill and used those funds to buy some cold weather running gear.
There is a deffinate difference between the TM and outdoors. It's tough to duplicate the outdoor elements that we face, and race day can have many elements ie. wind-hot/cold-rain-hills ect. That being said it shouldn't keep you from running a race and completeing it!!! You should keep in mind that your 10mm could turn into 10-11min miles so don't be discouraged if that happens. Also dont feel as though you cant walk part of your race if needed particularly through water stations. After training for my first 10K (mostly on the TM due to winter) I realized a big diff when I hit the streets. I had given myself extra time before the race for unseen problems and was able to train outside some. If you have the opportunity to run outside do it when you can so you'll understand the difference. There are other things to consider such as diet, hydration ect. Most importantly have fun and do it for you. The finish line and the medals are our rewards along with health. Another thing that seems to plague most of us is starting out to fast, so learn to control your pace which is more difficult on the street. Pace groups at races if supplied will help with that. One advantage of the TM is that control of even pace. If your TM is highly programable you can change speeds and elevations while your on it and that would help simulate things somewhat. Hope this helps and good luck with your future runs and races!!!