Looking for a Sub-40 10k Training Plan

by Stephen
(Oldham England)

sub-40 10k training plan

Hi there,
I would like to eventually achieve a sub-40 10k.

Last time I tried I was running 3 to 4 times a week with one run a week doing intervals over the course of a 10k.

I picked up a niggle in my foot which meant I stopped running for six weeks prior to the race so I could at least run it.

I ran my first mile at 6.20 min miles; my second at 6.45 and the rest at 7.03 mile pace, finishing in 43:15.

My longest run was also 10k in my weekly training.

Have you got any tips for a sub-40 10k training plan please?

Answer by Dominique:

Hi Stephen,
Thanks for your question about your quest for sub-40.

It is a great goal to have. When I was 20 years younger I was able to do this; now, it's become harder. I haven't put it completely out of my head yet, but I'd have to put in a lot of effort to do it again.

And, to be honest, the 10k kind of scares me now. I like 5k races because the suffering is over soon. I like 15k and beyond because you run at a mostly comfortable pace. But the 10k is a tough race, requiring you to run uncomfortably hard for a long time. Not saying I will never do one again. But I am happy that I don't have one planned in my near future... :)

Anyways, on to you... It looks like you have done well, despite the injury problem. 43:15 is a respectable time. Clearly without the injury and without the six weeks off, you could have been a bit faster. So the gap to a sub-40 10k is not too big.

And with some of the tips I am about to give you, I hope you will be able to put together a great sub-40 10k training plan! So here we go:

1. Way more running
2. Way more variability
3. Diagnose your injury susceptibility

Way More Running

sub-40 10k training plan
You have done really well, on quite limited running. And with an injury. You were still able to run that first mile in the required pace for a sub-40. But then, you ran out of gas. Because you need more endurance. You are able to get to the right speed. But you need to be able to maintain it for 40 minutes (well 39:xx minutes), not for 7.

So, let's first work on tip #1: way more running. Let's split this in two parts:

1. More running days
Running 3-4 times per week is good. But, you could be running more. 4-5 times per week is better. 5-6 times per week better again.
I don't know anything about your life. Life is busy. So, maybe 3-4 times per week is all you can do at this stage in life.

But, undeniably, more is better. When you add days of running to your schedule, be mindful to do it sensibly. Add short runs first, e.g. 30 minutes. Then slowly build up.

2. Longer runs
Your longest run of 10k is a good start. But, I guarantee you, increase that longest run to 20-25k and that sub-40 may already be yours! A longer long run will make you so much more powerful.

Of course, don't increase that long run from 10k to 25k in one go. Build it up gradually. A good sensible guide is available on my Increasing Mileage Safely page.

Way More Variability

sub-40 10k training plan
You wrote that you do intervals once a week. Nothing wrong with intervals. They help make you a more economical runner and give you speed. Check out my page on Interval Running for some ideas.

However, at least as important as interval speed is running at tempo pace. Tempo pace is that "comfortably hard" pace in between easy pace and interval pace. For you it would be about 4:25-4:35 min/km pace, about 7:00 min/mile pace. Fun test, check if my estimate is right by going to the Running Pace Calculator page and plugging in your recent 10k time... I should be in the ballpark....

Tempo running pace is just that little slower than 10k pace. At this pace you improve your body's ability to handle lactic acid. I like to start off my tempo running with shorter "cruise intervals" of say 4-6 x 6 minutes, then build up to 3 x 10 min, 2 x 15 min etc.

Check out the Tempo Running page for more information.

Diagnose Your Injury Susceptibility

sub-40 10k training plan
The long time off running due to injury at a relatively low mileage level concerns me. Clearly my answer to you focuses on increasing your mileage and increasing the length of your runs.

That's not without its risks. So, before you commence that journey, you need to understand why you got injured in the first place. And what you can do to avoid it going forward.

For many of us the answer lies in strengthening our bodies. Just the simple act of doing strength training will make your body more resilient. You can get a lot of the benefits of strength training by two short gym sessions per week. Most weeks that's all I do.

Check out the Strength Training for Runners page which tells you all about the benefits of strength running and also about the strength training routine I follow.

I hope this helps. Want more help trying to put a sub-40 10k training plan together? Then check out my running coaching service.

All the best with trying to achieve sub-40.
Kind regards,

10k running tips

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