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Training Tips To Run A Faster 10K Race

Updated on September 3, 2014

You Can Run A Faster 10k No Matter Your Age Or Fitness Level

Running a faster 10k is about putting in the right training and this can overcome age barriers to build your fitness levels.
Running a faster 10k is about putting in the right training and this can overcome age barriers to build your fitness levels. | Source

Training To Run A Faster 10K

To many runners the humble 10k is the race of truth. Whereas a 5k is over in a flash and has significant speed requirements and a marathon might just feel like one long slog. Running a fast 10 kilometres is a physical and mental challenge for even the fittest runner or recreational mile eater.

Training to race a faster 10k takes focus and dedication. From speed work that leads to a feeling of self-harm, to those long and steady runs that feel like they'll never end. There's always a challenge when you're training to be a faster distance runner.

Periodization: Building A Solid Base Fitness For A Faster 10k

Running faster times starts during those cold dark winters where you have to drag yourself out of bed each morning or simply motivate yourself to head down to the local leisure centre for a session on the treadmill. These are the sessions that not only get you into good habits. These are the sessions that help you to develop a great base aerobic fitness.

Think of your fitness as a pyramid. Without a big, strong base the top layers of the pyramid will simply not be held in place well. The wider the base of the pyramid (your base training) the higher the top of the pyramid can be (your running performance) if your training is structured in the right manner.

Don't Be A One Pace Plodder On Your Runs

We all know someone who goes out an runs at exactly the same pace, every run they do. Beginners to running often fall into this trap and learn to run at one pace no matter what.

Running at one pace teaches us to do one thing- Run at the same pace!

If you want to run a faster 10k and know you're a plodder you need to get out of that mindset of putting on those headphones and just running as it's not conducive to becoming a faster runner.

Ditch The Headphones And Stop Running At One Pace Every Run

Music can help with rhythm but sometimes you need to ditch the headphones and mix up your running pace for a faster 10k
Music can help with rhythm but sometimes you need to ditch the headphones and mix up your running pace for a faster 10k | Source

Run With A Heart Rate Monitor To Help Mix Up Running Paces

A heart rate monitor is an excellent investment for any runner looking to improve their performance as it will allow you to monitor the physical intensity of your training throughout your base training and speed work phases of periodization.

Using a heart rate monitor is a great way to monitor your fitness when you're on the treadmill in the warmth of the gym or out running your favourite local routes as it will allow beginners to see their cardiovascular fitness develop, while more experienced runners will have the opportunity to analyse their training and racing performance.

Add Speed Work To Maximise Endurance Running Speed

Selye's General Adaptation Syndrome dictates that the body adapts to the demands it faces and that is very true of your running fitness. If you run at the same pace constantly- Your body adapts to become efficient at running at that one, constant pace. Sadly this doesn't encourage your body to further improve your fitness for running a faster 10k.

If you train at a faster pace your body will adapt to the training stimulus. This can lead to greatly enhanced aerobic and anaerobic fitness depending on your training focus.

Thus follows a selection of workout types to really challenge your body to adapt and race faster over a 10k.

Surge Training- Learning To Run At Faster Than Your 10k Race Pace

Running is not just about cardiovascular fitness. It's also about the ability of your muscles to repeated perform fast movements which forms part of your motor learning.

By training your muscles to run at a faster pace than your regular 10km or plodding pace your muscle motor units will learn to fire at a much faster rate and thus potentially improving your running ecomomy. This can lead to a faster 10km.

If you're a beginner who is progressing to 10k's and have already developed a base of fitness from at least a few months worth of running consider adding some short 2-3 minute intervals into your workouts once a week. Aim to slightly increase your running pace while maintaining good running form.

An example for beginners where their regular 'plodding' pace is 10 mins/ mile would be as featured below. A more advanced runner may wish to adapt this table by using their steady pace as their 10 mile or half marathon race pace and include their increased pace sections at their 5k race pace to really challenge their working muscles.

Training Should Be Fun Too

Training should always be fun- Runners at a Tough Mudder event- The diverse nature of these events really helps develop general running fitness
Training should always be fun- Runners at a Tough Mudder event- The diverse nature of these events really helps develop general running fitness

Beginners Increased Pace Workout For 10k Training

Workout Phase
Pace (mins/ mile)
Heart Rate (% of Max)
Warm Up
Build Up to 10 min/ mile
10 mins
Up to 70%
Increased Pace
9:30 / mile
2 mins
80% Max
Steady Pace
5 mins
around 70%
Increased Pace
2 mins
around 80%
Steady Pace
4 mins
around 70%
Increased Pace
2 mins
around 80%
Steady Pace
4 mins
around 70%
Increase Pace
2 mins
around 80%
Cool Down
Build down from 10 min/ mile to easy jog
10 mins
Take down to near resting HR

An example of an increased pace workout for a beginner to help improve their running economy and 10k race time

Add Some Farlek (Change Of Pace) Training To Your Workout Arsenal

Fartlek is Swedish for 'speed-play' and is a type of training which involves lots of changes of pace to really challenge your body and your running energy systems to adapt.

Encorporate short speed bursts in your training and long intervals to challenge your body.

An example of a fartlek session could be

12k Fartlek Workout Example

  1. 2km Warm Up
  2. 1 km at 5k race pace (Faster than anaerobic threshold)
  3. 0.5 km easy
  4. 2 km of 20 sec easy run with 10 sec moderate sprint
  5. 0.5 km easy
  6. 1 km at 5k race pace (Faster than anaerobic threshold)
  7. 0.5 km easy
  8. 2 km of 20 sec easy run with 10 sec moderate sprint
  9. 2.5 km Cool Down

Fartlek training is very dependant on the determination and mentality of the runner performing the training. If you struggle to motivate yourself to really put in ultra-hard efforts in training try fartlek training with a willing partner for extra motivation. With the motivation Fartlek training when used sparingly (example once a week) can really improve your 10k race performance.

Train Your Endurance To Run Further Than 10K

If you're looking to run a faster 10k race your endurance needs to be dialled in to ensure you can be successful. There's no point racing if you're going to run out of steam after 9km and finish the last kilometre dying a death on the road.

Ideally your longest runs in training should be around 50% more than your race distance. Therefore, ideally you need to be looking at doing some training runs of around 15km as part of your endurance development. However, if you're planning on racing longer distances 15km might not be enough to develop your racing endurance but for 10k races it should be sufficient.

Realistically you should be performing your longest runs around a month before your targeted 10k race at minimum to allow you a four week period to concentrate on speed work instead of slow steady plodding.

Recovery- The Hidden Edge To A Faster 10k

If you're looking to run a faster 10k you shouldn't just concentrate on your training. Making sure you encorporate enough recovery time into your schedule is also important.

Proper muscle recovery is the key to successful 10k performance.

Good luck with your training

Liam Hallam


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