Running a 10k can be a challenge to both beginners and more experienced runners. It can be long enough to test your endurance while still being short enough to run in a gratifyingly quick time and remain accessible to almost all fitness levels. We recently spoke to Tom Craggs, an athletics coach and personal trainer from RunningWithUs, and asked him for his top tips on running this classic distance.
Time on your feet
Aim to complete a weekly long run building eventually up to 90 minutes to 1hr 40 minutes. Try to mix the terrain on which you run, including trails, hills and grass if possible.
Try this: Run at a conversational effort and as you get closer to race day, try to include blocks of threshold running at a controlled discomfort within the last 30 minutes of this long run. For example, 90 minutes including three or four 6 minute intervals at threshold within the last 45 minutes.
Push the tempo
“Threshold running” is an essential element of any distance runner’s weekly training. Running at a ‘controlled discomfort’ helps to develop your running economy allowing you to sustain a race effort for longer and this is critical for success.
Try this: Build blocks of running at an intensity where you are able to talk, but unable to have a full blown conversation, about 3-4 word answer effort at between 10k and Half Marathon pace within a 45-60 minute run. Ensure these blocks progress through your plan building up from, for example 5 x 5 minutes to 3 x 10 minutes and even a continuous 20-25 minutes. Use your heart rate monitor if you really want to get this right aiming for 80-95% of your max heart rate.
Alive in the hills
Hill sessions develop strength, power and leg speed and can give you a massive boost to finding that 5th and 6th gear when running at pace.
Try this: Incorporate some 45-60 second bursts of fast hill running into your weekly training. Try to complete 8-12 repetitions followed by a 90-120 second jogged recovery. Remember to focusing on running with a tall posture with a quick, light foot-strike while generating power from driving your arms. A great session could be eight to ten 45-60 seconds fast uphill repetitions with 90 second jog recovery… then afterwards, add 3 sets of 1 mile at threshold or 10k pace on the flat. It’s tough but so is a 10k!
Nailing your race will mean you need to finish the final 2-3km strongly, when your body is really beginning to fatigue. You will need to practise this with progression runs. And make sure you have fuelled yourself correctly for the distance you are running. Find more information here.
Try this: Practice running ‘progressively’ in your training. Don’t try to nail your pace straight out of the front door. Including sessions such as 10 minutes easy, 10 minutes steady, 10 minutes race pace can help you adapt your body to finishing strongly. This can progress to 15/15/15 and even 20/20/20 when you are feeling confident.
Feel the speed
In the final 6-8 weeks of your training plan, it’s time to get specific. If you want a 45 min 10k, you need to be able to run 10 x 1k at 4.30 pace without stopping…simple!?
Try this: This is where interval training comes into play and top VO2 max sessions such as 6 x 1km at race pace off 90 seconds rest, progressing to 8 x 1km off 60 seconds rest over the final weeks really pay off. You have to be fit to run these sessions and remain focused as the session progresses. Caffeine has repeatedly been shown to help increase endurance performance, improve alertness and concentration. A high caffeine product, like IsoGel X’treme, taken before your run can really help take your session to the next level.
In the final weeks you may even run intervals at quicker than race pace with sessions such as 2 sets of 8x 400m at 5k pace off 60 seconds recovery. This is the icing on the cake to get you race sharp. It will make the race day pace seem comfortable and initially easy to hit when the gun goes.
Mix it up
Training well doesn’t have to just mean running. Cross training or strength and conditioning can really help boost your cardiovascular fitness, whilst also leaving you a stronger and less injury prone runner.
Try this: Include a weekly cross training session and a couple of shorter core sessions to give your running a boost without putting your body under additional strain. Hydration is also very important during training sessions, so add a tablet of ZERO to your water bottle.
Enjoy the competition
Do you get overwhelmed building up to a race by getting stressed about your performance, listening to the guy that says he’s done double what you have and questioning why you ever entered the race? You need to get into the mindset of enjoying the boost that competitions and races can give you.
Try this: Your local 5k parkrun provides an excellent way of getting some friendly, lighthearted competition into your training plan and will get you used to running around other people and pushing yourself harder than 10k pace.
Take away tips:
- Build speed up gradually during training
- Follow a hard day with an easy day
- A rapid increase in training can be a major injury risk
- Whatever you eat on race day should have been practiced regularly during training
- Complete a warm-up routine. It will help physically and psychologically prepare you for what’s to come