Whenever the weather even thinks about getting warmer a lot of runners decide to make it their mission to try and rewrite their 10k personal best. With that in mind what are the secrets of a fast 10k? Here are some top tips to help you grab that 10k PB you've been training for.
Specific speed work
If you're looking to run a fast 10k then you need to train your body's physiology specifically for the demands of the race. This means doing some training at your target race pace and slightly faster. Interval training is a great way to do this. Here are some suggestions for specific 10k workouts that can be done on the track or on the road or grass to time rather than distance. Of course you can gradually build up the volume and intensity of these workouts and adapt them to your current level of fitness.
- 1 mile reps: Start with 4 x 1 mile with 2 minutes jog recovery and aim to build to 6 reps.
- 3 minute reps: Start with 6 x 3 minutes with 90 seconds jog recovery and aim to build to 8-10 reps.
- 1 minute reps: Start with 12 x 1 minute with 1 minute jog recovery and aim to build to 15-20 reps.
- 600m with 400m floating recovery: Start with 5-6 reps and aim to build towards 8-10. The idea of this workout is to run a faster segment followed by an active recovery, where you still maintain a good pace. This teaches your body to ‘recover’ and buffer any lactate in your blood at faster speeds because you don't get any recovery during a race!
Don't neglect endurance
It's very easy to become caught up in the need for speed, but remember that 10k is very much an aerobic event, so neglect endurance work at your peril. With better endurance you'll be able to hold your speed for longer and will finish faster and stronger. It's no coincidence that many runners improve their 10k personal best while training for a marathon! Consistent training and regular weekly long runs are the most effective ways to improve your endurance.
Nailing your pace judgement
Good pace judgement is crucial if you want to run a fast 10k. Whether you're new to 10k or regularly race over the longer distances, remember that 10k is over 6 miles, which is a long way if you're running hard! Pace misjudgement is probably one of the biggest sources of post-race frustration for runners. An over-zealous start nearly always results in a slow and painful finish, and you can kiss goodbye to any opportunity of a personal best. The smartest runners are those who spread their effort over the duration of the race by running even or negative splits.
To work out your splits you need to set a time target and then work backwards. If you have run a race (over a standard distance) recently you can use an online pace calculator to predict your potential over 10k. These tools should only be used as a guideline though, as there are many other variables that can affect your performance.
Prime your energy stores
When it comes to 10k, carbohydrate is your body's fuel of choice as it's quick to break down and produces energy rapidly. Due to the shorter distance, there's no need to carbo-load before a 10k but at the same time you should look to maximise the availability of carbohydrate to your muscles before the start. Aim to eat an easily digestible carb-based breakfast such as toast and honey and a banana and try taking a carbohydrate gel or a small amount of sports drink such as Gatorade Prime 15-20 minutes before the start.
Pick a course with PB potential
If you're serious about running a fast 10k then you need to think carefully about which race will maximise your chances of scorching to a personal best, so you might want to consider the profile of the course. Flatter courses tend to be faster than undulating ones (unless they are very exposed to the elements), and find out whether you're likely to have the company of other runners who are within your target time range.
Don't forget to taper!
If you want to give yourself the best possible chance of running a fast 10k then you will need to taper your training in the week before the race so that your legs are fresh and ready to roll. In the final week you should cut down the length of your runs and your last speed session should be 4-5 days before the race. Rest up, the hard work is done and you can't get any fitter in that final week. Good luck and happy racing!