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Ten Kilometer Race

Training programme for a fast ten kilometre race

With grateful thanks to Lindsey Parry

Running long distances is one thing, but running fast? Now that is a different world entirely. Running legend Emil Zatopek crisply sums it up – if you want to run faster, you have to run faster. Ask yourself when was the last time you ran a 10 kilometre race in anger? There is a good chance, like most runners in South Africa you could have become obsessed with Ultra Distance Running. With respect to the distance aficionados, it need not be the only worthy goal. Here is something with a little more of an adrenaline rush.  For many who have been happily running the same speed for 10 kilometre races and half marathons, here’s an opportunity to break out and do something different.

Guide to using the programme effectively:

Rest days

Rest days are the glue that binds the programme together.  Rest is the time that your body uses to repair the damage you do in training and if given proper recovery uses the time to improve so that it can handle the next training load you place on it better.  This is the reason we build up slowly, we add stress which breaks down the muscles, allow time for the body to build up and improve and then hit it with more stress. Over time you get stronger and faster. If you start to feel you want more and train harder without allowing full recovery you start a cycle of breakdown which will ultimately lead to over training, illness, injury or all three. Now you can enjoy rest days guilt free!

Wednesday and Sunday long runs:

Weekend long runs build your cardiovascular system and teach you to burn energy more efficiently. They are also responsible for preparing your joints, ligaments and tendons for the work they will be doing to get faster. These are not sessions to test your fitness and as such you should never run these out of your comfort zone. You must be able to easily hold a conversation throughout the run and when you get to the end feel like you could have continued a lot further. There may be some joint and muscular discomfort from being on your legs for extended periods but this run must not tax your cardiovascular system.

By running the long run too quickly you fatigue the muscles and because of the duration of the load it takes time for your legs to recover. This means that you will not be able to do your time trials and intensity sessions fast and this will hamper the development of your speed. The emphasis then is on long and slow.

Tuesday if a Time Trial day:

During the Time Trial the aim is to measure our progress, learn to pace ourselves effectively and to maintain a sustained effort to prepare us for racing for 10km. Always ensure a good warm up so that you can start with a good effort and hold that through to the end. The aim here is to run hard and to improve your time gradually, aim to target one time trial per month where you will give your all. For the rest though a hard consistent effort will see you steadily improve. Talking during a Time Trial effort should be hard to do.


The programme initially starts with you on the hills. I like to think of hill training as secret speed training. These sessions will make you strong and provide you with strength endurance which is a key ingredient in allowing you to maintain a higher speed for prolonged periods. Hill training is often misunderstood and incorrectly implemented leading to people avoiding doing them because they are unpleasant and increased incidence of particularly calf muscles. To avoid both scenarios we build up the repeats slowly and you will need to run the hill repeats a little differently.

The selection of the hill is important; it needs to be steep enough to make it taxing at moderate effort but gradual enough to allow you to run at reasonable speeds 4-5% if you are running on a treadmill.

You should run the hill repeat at slightly harder than the effort you use during your Time Trials. NOT faster because you are on a hill, but the effort must be harder to gain optimal strength and speed gains. Lastly look to build your efforts through the hill so that you finish strongly. Turn around and use the jog down the hill to recover. If you need to rest at the top for more than 10 seconds then you are running the hills too hard and risk blowing before the end of the session or injuring yourself.

Once you have built up your endurance, strength and strength endurance we will move into a shorter phase of speed development.

Interval Sessions

Now that you have built up your muscles, ligaments and tendons through the long runs and your strength and strength endurance on the hills it is time to give you an extra gear for your 10km race. The aim of the interval sessions is to increase your repeated efforts. If you have access to a track or can accurately measure out a flat stretch of road then you can replace the 3min with an 800m.

Because the emphasis moves to speed development you need to focus on running fast so rest intervals are important to allow a good recovery for the next effort. If you are doing intervals on the road and running to time, then you will use 3min hard with 3min continuous very easy running for recover. On the track or measured 800m you will rest 2min between efforts.

The speed you run at will be determined by your time Trial time, this way we can increase your speed effectively without risking injury by you running too fast or above your current capability. This is harder to judge on a 3min interval, however if you concentrate you can get it pretty spot on. Aim to run each 3min piece at a speed approximately 10sec per km faster than you would run the Time Trial in.

For the 800m you can calculate what this is:

Take your 5km or 8km time trial time, convert it to seconds, divide it by 5 for a 5km and 8 for an 8km to get seconds per km and multiply by 0.8 to convert it to an 800m time. You will then run 8-12seconds faster than this time for your 800m repeat.

For example if you run 19.57 for 5km:
(19 min x 60) + 57sec to convert to seconds = 1083 seconds
1083 sec divided by 5 = 216.6 sec/km
216.6 sec/km x 0.8 = 173.3 seconds or 2min53.3 per 800m.
You would then do your 800m repeats at between 2min40 and 2min45.

The taper:

There is a short taper that starts on 19 September. It is highlighted because you can place it anywhere between the end of September and New Years to smash your 10km PB. It is not recommended that you taper more than once per month, you can however race every 2 weeks during this period for distances up to 15km.

During the taper you do not want your muscles to go to sleep so you need to keep running. The volume is reduced and during your very short bursts of intensity you need to go at least at planned race effort so that you keep the legs alive. The final day tune up is critical to this end. Due to the fact that you are reducing the mileage you will start to feel a little lethargic, however the day before the race you need to do a warm up of 10min and then do 30sec run throughs where you build your race up gradually to your race effort.

The warmup:

After all the hard work do not mess up your race with a poor warm up. Get to the race venue at least 1 hour before the race and make sure you are entered and ready to go 35-40min pre race. Jog for 15min easy and then follow the same 5x30sec build routine you followed the night before the race. Head to the start line and keep your legs moving, gently jogging on the spot and during the last minute before the gun do 2-3 jumps so that your legs are ready to fire.

Warming up will ensure you can start at a fast pace and stay relaxed without building up the “burning” feeling often associated with the start of a race.

Race day tips:

•       Stay relaxed, tightening up is the enemy of economical running.
•       Keep your effort, learn from your Time Trials to run strong but not so hard that you can’t maintain the intensity.
•       Concentrate. In a short race if you lose concentration for a km or 2 you will lose valuable seconds.
•       Don’t forget to have fun!

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