How Quickly Can I Get to Sub 40 Minutes for a 10k Run?

I want to achieve sub 40 minutes for a 10k

I currently run

11 minutes for 2.4k
23 minutes for 5k
47 minutes for 10k

I only train three times per week

Two short runs (2 to 4 miles) during the week and a 5 to 6 mile at the weekend

I could run 4 times a week - or more over a short period e.g. 5 times a week during a 10 week period before a race.

I only race twice a year.

Any help much appreciated.


Answer by Dominique:

Thanks for your question and thanks for providing ample information to play with.

sub-40 10k
It is of course hard for me to tell you how long it would take to get to sub-40. It all depends on your abilities and persistence.

It is a big gap to close, going from 47 min to 39:59 min.

But your basics are there, you are doing some consistent training, you have done some races. You now need to focus some efforts to really find out what you are capable of.

My answer is broken down into the following:

1. Race analysis
2. Break down your goal in multiple parts
3. Training building blocks
4. The benefits of training for different distances

Race Analysis

The first thing I checked was whether your race times for the 2.4k, 5k and 10k were well aligned using the race conversion calculator.

People with a poor / not fully developed base often do well on shorter distances, but do disproportionally worse on longer distances.

Your times however seem pretty well aligned, e.g. your 23 minute 5k suggest a 10k result of 47 mins and 57 secs. You run a 47 minute 10k so you are able to maintain your form for longer distances. It's actually rare to see this.

That's great.

However, going the other way around.... for a goal time of 40 minutes on a 10k run, you would have to do a 19.11 minutes 5k, or a 8.48 minutes 2.4k.

So, in order to be able to run those types of times you need to get faster.

Break down your goal in multiple parts

sub-40 10k
The gap between 47 minutes and 40 minutes is big. And as per the previous section, you need improvement across all distances to get there.

Now is the time to get strategic and set a longer term goal, say: break a sub-40 10k three years from now. Then set a goal for this year, e.g. get to sub-45.

The gap is too big to bridge in one go. In order to get to your sub-40 10k, you need some steps in between.

Training building blocks

In order to get stronger and faster I'd recommend the standard running advice:

1) Build up your mileage. If possible, add a day of running to your schedule and slowly increase your long run to 9-10 miles over time. Also see my page about increasing mileage.

2) Start doing speedwork and tempo runs. More on that on the interval pace page and the tempo workouts page.

3) Combine the two tips above in a sound running program.

You have established a good running routine. Going sub-40 is a worthy goal but will require a focused effort. There is no escaping that you need to do more running and work harder.

Clearly there is an elite and sub-elite group of runners who can run sub-40 10k on limited mileage and work. That's not us. We need to work hard for these types of achievements!

Increase your mileage, start doing speedwork and apply the science of a sound running program and I am convinced that you will be able to shave off minutes of your current times.

The benefits of training for different distances

Lastly, in combination with making this a longer term goal I would recommend not devoting all your training to doing a sub-40 10k over the next number of years.

You said you do two races a year. So maybe focus one half of the year on your 10k. Focus the other part of the year on running a 3k or 5k, or maybe even a half marathon.

Reasons for this are that every running distance requires different preparations. A 3k and 5k put slightly more emphasise on interval work, whereas a half marathon would put more emphasis on longer long runs and building a stronger base. So, through varying your distances you ultimately become a better runner. Across all distances.

The variation is also important to avoid boredom and to avoid getting jaded on this one big goal in the distance. Mix it up and enjoy the journey as much, or more(!) than the destination.

Whether you will get to sub-40 is the question, but I at least hope you will have fun while doing it and will give it your best shot!

Lastly, do not forget to celebrate along the way. I am convinced that with focus and effort you will improve your PBs on all distances. All PBs are worthy of celebration, don't get too hung up on the big end goal of the sub-40 10k alone.

Best of luck.
Kind regards,

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