Your Ultimate 10-K Plan


You'll be glad to hear that 10-K training forms the foundation of all-around fitness, because it includes ample amounts of the three core components of distance running--strength, stamina, speed.

By Doug Rennie

From the July 2004 issue of Runner's World

You'll be glad to hear that 10-K training forms the foundation of all-around fitness, because it includes ample amounts of the three core components of distance running--strength, stamina, speed. Sure, you can use it to train for your goal 6.2-miler, yet with certain adjustments you can also use it to prepare for everything from the 5-K to the marathon. But we're talking about the classic distance, made famous by Viren, Salazar, and the transcendant Gebrselassie. When you race a 10-K, you immerse yourself in near-mythical tradition. So read through the runner profiles below to determine which of our six-week plans is best for you. And remember: These are not one-size-fits-all plans, so if you can't complete a given workout, don't. If you need to rearrange training days to fit your schedule, do it.


You're a notch above novice. You've been running at least six months and maybe have done a 5-K or two. You run three to five miles three or four days a week, have done a little fast running when you felt like it, and now you want to enter--and finish--what you consider a real "distance race."

If you're a beginner, your 10-K goal is less a personal record (PR) than an LDF (longest distance finished). You want to run the whole 6.2 miles, so you're going for endurance. Because it's likely to take you an hour to get there. "Basic aerobic strength is every runner's first need," says coach Jon Sinclair of Anaerobic Management (

So you'll do most of your running at a steady, moderate pace. But we're also going to flick a dash of pseudo-speedwork into your endurance stew for flavor. This will put some added spring into your step, give you a brief taste of what it feels like to run a little faster, and hasten your segue to the intermediate level. Hence, every week, in addition to steady running, you're going to do two extra things.

Get Your Training Started Find the 10K Plan for Beginners and more at the Runner's World Personal Trainer.

Race Day Rules
Have some fluids and an energy bar or bagel an hour before the start, and arrive early enough to get your number without the stress of long lines. Walk around about 10 minutes before the start, maybe even do a few minutes of slow jogging. Start off slower than you think you should, and work gradually into a comfortable and controlled pace. Let the race come to you. If there is an aid station, stop to drink and relax for 10 seconds.

Stuff You Need To Know
Aerobic Intervals (AI): You push the pace just a bit, you breathe just a little harder--followed by slow jogging until you feel rested enough to resume your regular tempo. And you always, always, stay well short of going anaerobic (simply stated: squinty-eyed and grasping for breath). Treat these runs like play. When you do them, try to recreate that feeling you had as a kid when you ran to the park and couldn't wait to get there.

Gentle Pickups (GP): You gradually increase your pace over 100 meters to about 90 percent of all-out, hold it there for 10 to 20 meters, then gradually decelerate. Walk to full recovery before you start the next one. Nothing big, nothing really stressful--just enough to let your body go, "Ah, so this is what it feels like to go fast." Note: After a few AI/GP weeks, your normal pace will begin to feel more comfortable. And you'll get race-fit more quickly this way.

Four Training Universals

  • Rest: Rest means no running. None. Give your muscles and synapses some serious R&R so all systems are primed for the next workout. Better two quality days and two of total rest than four days of mediocrity resulting from lingering fatigue. Rest days give you a mental break as well, so you'll come back feeling refreshed.

  • Easy Runs: Easy runs mean totally comfortable and controlled. If you're running with someone else, you should be able to converse easily. You'll likely feel as if you could go faster. Don't. Here's some incentive to take it easy: You'll still be burning 100 calories every mile you run, no matter how slow you go.

  • Long Runs: Long runs are any steady run at or longer than race distance designed to enhance endurance, which enables you to run longer and longer and feel strong doing it. A great long-run tip: Find a weekly training partner for company. You'll have plenty of time to talk about anything that comes up.

  • Speedwork: Speedwork means bursts of running shorter than race distance, some at your race goal pace, some faster. This increases cardiac strength, biomechanical efficiency that translates into more miles per gallon, and the psychological toughness racing demands. That said, you're not trying to kill yourself. Keep it fun.


You've been running a year or more, done some 5-Ks, maybe even a 10-K. But you've always finished feeling like you could have, or should have, gone faster. You consider yourself mainly a recreational runner, but you still want to make a commitment to see how fast you can go.

Here's the two-pronged approach that will move you from recreational runner to the cusp of competitive athlete. First, you'll be adding miles to your endurance-building long run until it makes up 30 percent of your weekly mileage. Second, you'll now be doing a substantial amount of tempo running aimed at elevating your anaerobic threshold, the speed above which blood lactate levels skyrocket--a gulping-and-gasping prelude to your engine shutting down for the day. How to avoid this unpleasantness? With regular sessions at a little slower than10-K pace--that is, tempo-run pace. This will significantly improve your endurance and running efficiency in just six weeks.

So your tempo work will include weekly "10-10s," along with a mixed grill of intervals and uphill running, all of which strengthen your running muscles, heart, and related aerobic systems (see "Stuff You Need To Know,").

Oh, one more thing: Running fast requires effort--and some discomfort. Still, be conservative. If you can't maintain the same pace throughout a given workout, or if your body shrieks "No mas!" then call it a day. And maybe adjust your pace next time.

Get Your Training Started Find the 10K Plan for Intermediate Runners and more at the Runner's World Personal Trainer.

Race Day Rules
"Many intermediate runners run too fast in the first 5-K," says Coach Sinclair. "That's the surest way to run a mediocre time. Even pace is best, which means the first half of the race should feel really easy." Sinclair's wife and co-coach, Kim Jones, a former U.S. Olympian, adds this: "Divide the race into three 2-mile sections: doable pace for the first 2, push a bit the middle 2, then go hard the last 2."

Stuff You Need To Know
Pace Intervals (PI): Run at 10-K goal pace to improve efficiency and stamina, and to give you the feel of your race pace. For 10-minute pace (a 1:02:06 10-K), run 2:30 (for 400 meters), 5:00 (800m), 7:30 (1200m). For 9-minute pace (55:53), run 2:15 (400m), 4:30 (800m), 6:45 (1200m). For 8-minute pace (49:40), 2:00 (400m), 4:00 (800m), 6:00 (1200m). With pace and speed intervals (below), jog half the interval distance to recover.

Speed Intervals (SI)
Run these at 30 seconds-per-mile faster than goal pace. For 10-minute pace, run 2:22 (for 400m), 4:44 (800m), 7:06 (1200m). For 9-minute pace, 2:08 (400m), 4:16 (800m), 6:24 (1200m).
For 8-minute pace, 1:53 (400m), 3:45 (800m), 5:38 (1200m).

10-10s: 10-minute tempo repeats at 30 seconds per mile slower than 10-K goal pace; 3- to 5-minute slow jog after each.

Total Uphill Time (TUT): Run repetitions up the same hill, or work the uphill sections of a road or trail course.

Strides (S): Over 100 meters, gradually accelerate to about 90 percent of all-out, hold it there for 5 seconds, then smoothly decelerate. Walk to full recovery after each.


You've been a serious runner for several years, have run many races--perhaps even a marathon. You're familiar with fartlek and intervals, and can run comfortably for an hour-plus. Now you want a breakthrough time--and you're willing to put in a rigorous six weeks to achieve it.

The cornerstone of 10-k training has long been the tempo run. Great for stamina-seeking intermediates working their way up the racing-fitness food chain. But not for you. How come? Because a recent study found that short intervals at--not below--5-K and 10-K race pace (roughly, our speed and pace intervals below) produced huge improvements versus tempo runs. (Note: Tempo running produced improvements, but faster running did better still.)
The study, as reported in the U.K. journal Peak Performance, found that "those doing intervals trained faster than the tempo runners and therefore developed better economy, coordination, and comfort while running fast." Which translated into faster 10-K running. Moreover, the interval group spent just 31 minutes during two sessions per week running their reps, while the tempo runners required 58 minutes for their two sessions.

So there you go. That's why we're going to put you on a six-week diet of quick stuff--medium-long on Tuesdays, short and swift on Thursdays. And we're going to make sure you maintain your vital aerobic base, as you'll be doing solid mileage as well.

"Experienced runners often don't do enough of the mileage to support the harder work."

Get Your Training Started Find the 10K Plan for Advanced Runners and more at the Runner's World Personal Trainer.

Race Day Rules
Know the course. "If you know how the hills and turns go," says Sinclair, "you can more easily match your efforts to the course. Also, study the last mile. In fact, run it as a warmup. Look for markers a certain distance from the finish so you can expend your final energy at the right time."

Stuff You Need To Know
Pace Intervals (PI): For 8-minute pace (49:40), run 2:00 (for 400 meters), 4:00 (800m), 6:00 (1200m). For 7-minute pace (43:28), do 0:53 (200m), 1:45 (400m), 3:30 (800m), 5:15 (1200m). For 6-minute pace (37:15), it's 0:45 (200m), 1:30 (400m), 4:30 (1200m). Recovery is a 1-minute jog (after 400m reps), 2:00 (800m), and 3:00 (1200m). Note: For both pace and speed intervals, run 2 miles easy plus four 100m strides before each session, and 2 miles easy afterward.

Speed Intervals (SI): For 8-minute pace, run 1:53 (for 400m), 3:45 (800m) 5:38 (1200m). For 7-minute pace, do 0:49 (for 200m), 1:38 (400m), 4:53 (1200m). For 6-minute pace, it's 0:41 (200m), 1:22 (400m), 2:44 (800m), 4:08 (1200m). Recovery is jogging half the interval distance (i.e., 400m jog after 800m rep).

Lactate Sessions (LS): LS training involves running about as fast as you can for 1 minute, followed by 3 to 4 minutes of slow jogging.

Strides (S): Over 100 meters, gradually accelerate to about 90 percent of all-out, hold it there for 5 seconds, then smoothly decelerate. Walk to full recovery after each. Strides aren't meant to tire you out. Just the opposite. They'll add zip to your legs.

1 comment: