There’s no doubt that 10km is a popular running target. In the Wings for Life World Run, where the moving finish line means that everyone can choose their own goals, one of the distances that participants most often aim for is 10km.
Ready to chase down your own new personal best in the 10km? Running coach and personal trainer Laura Fountain has some tips...
1. Increase your weekly mileage by 10-20 percent
"How much mileage you do each week in training for a fast 10km will differ from runner to runner and will depend on what your average week looks like right now. But if you’re about to embark on a fresh training cycle, one thing is true for all: don’t up the mileage or frequency of your training by too much, too soon," Fountain recommends.
"Aim for around a 10-20 percent increase in weekly mileage, spread evenly throughout your runs, and schedule a couple of ‘down weeks’ when you mileage is lower, to help your body to recover," Fountain adds.
"If you’re doing three or four runs per week, that’s enough to get some quality mileage in. These should include some form of speed work, a tempo run and a longer run to build endurance. If you’re comfortably doing more than four sessions a week, your schedule should also include some nice easy runs," Fountain concludes.
2. Spend more time training at threshold pace
As Fountain explains, your lactate threshold is the point at which lactic acid is produced in the muscles faster than it’s able to be used for fuel, and therefore begins to build up, causing you to slow down. "You would need a treadmill hooked up to some serious lab equipment and blood tests to determine your true lactate threshold. Instead you can estimate it," she says, laying out the following:
"For experienced runners it’s somewhere between 10km and half-marathon pace. Add 10-15 seconds per mile (1.6 km) to your (current) 10km pace, or 20-30 seconds per mile to your 5km pace, and you’ll be close enough.
Build up the amount of time you train at your threshold pace for during your training cycle. Over the course of three weeks, your progression might look something like this:
1) 3x 8mins @threshold with 3mins recovery jog
2) 2x 12mins @threshold with 4mins recovery jog
3) 2x 15mins @threshold with 4mins recovery jog
Include at least one mile of easy running before and after the sessions above."
3. Build your speed and running economy with intervals
"Running short, fast intervals improves your top speed, but can also improve your running form and even your running economy (how fast you can run at a given amount of oxygen). By asking your body to run fast, you’re challenging it to find ways to do that. Some of the adaptations might also be biomechanical, including a faster stride rate and a longer stride," Fountain describes.
"There are mental benefits to be gained from interval training, too. Convincing yourself to run another rep when you want to give up, or to hold your pace for one more lap of the track is going to build grit, which you can draw on come race day."
Fountain emphasises that you should make sure you’re properly warmed up before any interval training. Here's her advice:
"You should include at least one mile (1.6 km) of easy running before and after the sessions below, as well as some dynamic stretches and drills to work on your running form.
Here are some example sessions you can try:
1) 6x 800m @5km pace with 400m easy recovery
2) 8x 200m @mile pace with 200m jog recovery
3) 5x 2mins @5km pace + 4x 4mins @5-10km pace, with 90secs recovery between reps, 3mins recovery between sets.
4. Practise your goal race pace
"Training yourself to run at a set pace for 10km is both a mental and physical process. Your body needs to be fit enough to run the time you’re aiming for, and your mind needs to believe you can hold on when it gets tough," Fountain says. "But you also need to be able to judge your speed and know you’re on pace without having to look at your watch every few seconds. Practicing your goal pace in training will help with all of these elements."
Wings for Life World Runners have two key tools for practicing their goal pace.
The event’s Goal Calculator tells you the pace you’ll need to achieve a 10km goal – or any distance you choose. Just enter your target in kilometres or miles and the calculator will not only display the pace you’ll need to stay ahead of the Catcher Car, but also how long you’ll be running before the moving finish line catches you.
You can put that information to use by training with the Wings for Life World Run app. With its virtual Catcher Car, you can train anywhere you want and build up to a pace that will see you reach your goal.
5. Do a long run each week to build stamina
The biggest run of your week is there to build your endurance," Fountain says. "For a 10k, a long run of 11 miles (17.7 km) is a good amount. Your body adapts to endurance training in a combination of ways, including increased capillary density in your muscles, greater glycogen storage and an increase in the number and size of the mitochondria in your muscles. But to fully reap the rewards of your long runs, you need to run them at the right pace. The error a lot of runners make is to run their long runs too fast. You want to be aiming for a pace around 20-30 percent slower than your 10km pace."
6. Pick a racing environment that suits your mindset
Fountain notes that taking part in a big city location can offer “the benefit of more runners around your speed, which you can use to pace yourself and pull you along,” while on the other hand, “smaller, local races can offer you more room to run your own pace.”
When it comes to the Wings for Life World Run, you can choose to run with others in a big city Flagship location or a localised app run, or – if you really want some room – you can run completely on your own using the app. No matter where you start, you’ll be connected with all the participants around the world, and your name will appear on the Global Results List.
7. Think about the terrain
It goes without saying that when you’re aiming for a personal best, the conditions make a difference. Running at a high altitude is going to be tougher than at sea level and steep climbs won’t give you the same numbers as flats. Fountain notes that even knowing what side of the road you need to be on for any bends can help to attain an optimum time.
While most Wings for Life World Runners are participating for fun and because 100 percent of all entry fees and donations goes to help find a cure for spinal cord injury, the ability to run anywhere with the app means that you can also select the perfect course for your aims.
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8. Make sure you are mentally and physically prepared for race day
If you’re really going for your best 10km ever, it won’t feel easy every step of the way, but Fountain has encouragement. “This is exactly where you’ll gain the benefit of practising your goal pace in training and working hard in your interval sessions,” Fountain says. “You can take confidence from knowing that you’ve run this pace in training.”
And don’t forget to do an equipment check, making sure your water bottle is filled to the brim, you’ve packed enough race nutrition and you’re wearing the right kit for the weather. You’ve got this!
Inspired to lace up your running shoes? Sign up for the Wings for Life World Run here.