Time to step up to a 10k event?

Time to step up to a 10k event?

You have cracked the 5k, maybe it was about running a park run non-stop or a charitable event? Or perhaps your focus had been on a 5k race (there are some great ones around!) 

But what now? You have the running bug (not to mention the trainers, running gear for every condition, wearable tech, Strava subscription...) so it would seem a shame to not take your running habit further. Essentially there are two choices; decide to focus on speed and push your 5k PB to the next level. Or go longer and tackle your first 10k

There is no right or wrong answer obviously. Each represents a fabulous achievement and very worthy next step. In this post I am going to focus on the second option - going longer rather than faster.

Even though 10K is double the distance of a 5K (maths really was my strong point), it’s not all that different and certainly not twice as hard. You now have a string foundation in place, some base fitness, and you understand the basics of technique. Most importantly you are in the habit of training. Sp with a few adjustments to your existing programme, you can easily cover 10K and achieve a new running milestone. Probably as important is a fresh challenge to stop you getting stale. And as the Winter approaches have a committed goal is the reason most of us keep training in the cold dark days!

Now that you are sold on the idea (!!), how might go about it? Well in broad terms:

1) Choose a race

Whilst it does not have to strictly be a race (a 10k charity run works too), what matters is that there is a date in your diary that is not moveable. You have made the commitment to enter (the money is not the point, this is about commitment). A sensible plan is to choose one at least 12 weeks away. This will give you enough time to train, but  it's not so far away that you will be running 10k at a whim before the event.

2) Set a goal for the event

Yes I know you have entered, but honestly that is not enough. Think about three goals for your event. Firstly your Bronze goal, this would typically be to finish the race (you might choose to nuance it with "running continuously" as this is your first 10k. Next up is your Silver goal, which is if you are having a good day and feeling strong then you will be shooting for this. A suggestion might be to run it under 1 hour, but it needs to be something that you think is realistic but not certain or expected. Finally your Gold goal, if all your stars align, you run your best run ever and everything is perfect then you will hit your Gold target. Make it an ambitious time! With a proper training plan and enough time, you should achieve your Silver goal! Using this three tier approach is a proven way to stay focused during training and have a plan to run to on the day. Trust me, it works! 

3) Follow a training plan

Training for a 10K isn’t like running a marathon, but you will still benefit from a structured training plan. Look for one that matches the length of time you have before your race, ideal is a periodised plan, and has a taper at the end. 

4) Build the distance

Increase your mileage every week, and take some deload weeks (where you taper back on the volume). Don’t suddenly jump up in total weekly mileage, or in individual run distance. Your body and connective tissue needs time to adapt.

5) Think and focus on long runs

One of the big differences between 5K and 10K is the long run. With a 5K, “long run” isn't really a feature of your training plan. But for 10K, it needs to be. As a novice 10k runner this is not about racing fast, but rather sustaining a solid pace. So you need to build your aerobic capacity and muscular endurance. You’ll build up to 5 and 6 mile long runs at weekends – so be prepared for an hour to an hour and a half of running on your long run. Think about how far you have come! 

6) But sometimes you need to run a little faster

Having just said that training for a first 10k is all about long slow runs and endurance, your weekly programme does also need to include some faster (or more to the point challenging) paced work. This could be hill reps or threshold intervals, and you should expect it to represent about 20% of your weekly volume and programmed once a week and not too close to your long slow run. The purpose of this higher intensity run is to elevate your heart rate to close to it's Threshold value and provide a contrasting stimulus to your aerobic base runs (the stuff you do the rest of the time). This run develops different components of your energy system and  promotes adaption in different types of muscle fibre. If you would like to know more about Heart Rate based training and the 80 / 20 principle of training please do get in touch - I have written many articles about it!

5) Mix it up - running is not enough

Add other forms of cardio into your 10K training plan. It will take some of the strain off your joints, muscles, and soft tissue whilst pushing your fitness levels higher and building complimentary skills. Schedule in a swim, bike ride,  spin class, or yoga once a week or once a fortnight. Developing a Cross Training habit like this will set you in good stead for future running training, but do make sure your Cross Training uses a completely different movement pattern to running. However, you are a runner not a multi sport athlete (I assume!) therefore running is what will have the biggest effect on your run performance. Cross Training is optional. 


Cross training might be optional, but Rest Days are certainly not! Remember the basic rule that your body adapts (becomes fitter, stronger and more capable) on rest Days, not on training days. Training provides the stimulation, but actually adaption occurs during rest. And sleep - which is something else you need to get enough! 

7) Recover properly

You should also take recovery seriously on non-rest days. Stepping up to 10K distance means more stress and strain on your muscles, nervous system, and skeletal framework. Your entire body is going to feel the increase in training volume. So you need to sleep well, eat well, and keep on top of your hydration. And don't forget to stretch. Whilst we can get away with missing out post run stretches during couch to 5k, this will be more problematic now the volume has increased. 

In Conclusion

Have fun and embrace the training. Whilst I have tried to highlight a variety of things to think about, in practice you already know these things. They just need to be at the fore of your mind. Going from zero to 5k is the hard part. 5k to 10k represents an achievement, but now you ARE a runner already so this is super attainable now. You've got this. Go do it! 



Photo Credit :  Alesger Novruz 

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