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How to Take Five Minutes off Your 10K Time

How to Take Five Minutes off Your 10K Time

Richard Kelly 11th March 2019

In the below article I’ll be explaining to you how you can take as much as 5 minutes off your 10k, and how you can make the step up to half and full marathons with less effort than your peers.

For the vast majority of runners, a 10k is a good distance.  A 5k run is an achievable target for most new runners, whilst a half marathon, marathon or ultra-marathon distance are the domain of the more advanced and hard core runner.  A 10k sits in that happy mid-point, attracting the longer distance runners, the 5k runners looking to step it up, and those middle distance 10k runners.  Some of those 10k runners will be quite happy to stick to a 10k distance and their 10k pace.   This article isn’t for them.  Today I want to talk to those people who would like to step up to half or full marathon distance, or who would like to increase their speed in their 10k.  I assume I am, because otherwise you wouldn’t have read on past the sub-title!  Don’t get me wrong, the advice in here will benefit a runner doing a 5k, half-marathon or full marathon too.  And arguably, is more significant for the shorter and longer distances than it is for the medium ones.  But many longer distance runners often apply at least a few of the below things in their training already.  10k runners typically don’t, because the distance is achievable without training properly.

So let’s get right to it; most runner’s training programmes are utter crap.  If your idea of training towards a run involves going for some runs beforehand, doing a few practice 10ks and spending most running sessions running 7k, all against the clock, then that is exactly what I’m talking about.  It’s crap.  I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again.  You can only get so good just running. 

When you just run and the only outcome marker you are concerned about is your time the only aspect of your running skill you are developing is your fitness.  No doubt it’s an important aspect, but it can only carry you so far.  And that is in all likelihood why you are stuck running a 10k at the same speed over and over again.

But there is far more to it than that.

  1. Technique

Of far more importance to any serious runner than concerning themselves only with the overall time of a run is the running technique itself. How are you landing through the foot and pushing off? Are you using your hamstrings and core? How is your posture and head position? Are your legs driving straight forward, or are you rotating slightly through your hips? What about your breathing? Are you gasping for breath, or taking controlled breaths? As you can see there are a number of different aspects. And most runners concern themselves with exactly none of them.

It is odd to me that whereas most short distance runners, and if fact anyone who participates in another sport, spends so long working on technique, most distance runners don’t.  If their time is better than the previous one they spend no time even thinking about how their technique and performance in that run was. 

Spend some time considering the above aspects of your running style, and see what difference it makes when you do.

  1. Cadence

Once you have worked on technique, it’s important to consider cadence. Cadence is how many ground strikes your feet make during a run per minute. Why is this important?  Because most runners average 160-170 strides per minute, whereas elite level runners average around 180, and 200 in the closing stages of a run.  Running cadence ensures that you don’t over-stride in your run and your tempo remains consistent throughout the duration of a run. 

  1. Stride Length

As hinted above, stride length is significant.  You don’t want to over stride, as that makes each stride more hard work for the body, will affect your tempo and rhythm as well, but equally, you want to ensure that each stride isn’t short, that you are comfortable able to maintain both your stride length and your cadence.

  1. Variating Training Phases

Once you have a firm grasp on your technique and running style, you should be looking at how you are structuring your training plan.  For the vast majority of people this typically means that each week they try to increase the distance they are running, until they come into the run week, and run the full distance.  But the reality is that this only has a limited success.  Yes, this will probably get you through a run, and right up to a half marathon I would say that this strategy could help you finish the run, but there is a world of difference between finishing a run and finishing well.

Most 10k distances will have a degree of climbing within them.  Equally, for the initial two kilometres you are likely to be bunched into traffic as the race begins.  You therefore probably won’t hit full stride immediately.  If you are a one-speed runner you’ll have a problem there, because the first two kilometres will be below your normal speed and you won’t have the variation to handle an increased speed to make up your time. 

When I work with runners this is a big area I work with them on.  Getting them used to shorter distances and sprints, working on elevation work, and challenging their tempos throughout a training plan. 

  1. Resistance and Mobility Work

Typically most runners totally ignore the benefits of resistance and mobility work.  Most do stretch, but they don’t spend much time mobilising their bodies, removing stiffness and aches and pains.  In part this is because of the attitude that aches and pains in runs are part of the process.  Discomfort certainly is, but outright pain is a warning sign from your body that something is wrong.  If you aren’t a professional runner, that should be a concern.  And adding some relatively simple mobility exercises would alleviate that, which ultimately means you can run at a better standard for longer.

Resistance work has a huge benefit, and yet barely any runners tap into it.  Working on the strength and endurance of the muscular system of the body will give you a more powerful run, more resilience, greater ability to resist injury, and a greater ability to push longer whilst the body is in discomfort. I just don’t understand why you wouldn’t want to add that to your runs!

Training runners I incorporate these aspects very early on in their training.  It means we can increase training volume and output.  I think they are vital components to a good running programme. 

  1. Micro goals

When you have a specific running goal in mind, such as a 10k, it’s easy to get overly focused on only that distance.  All your runs around it come back to either finishing that distance, or finishing in a specific time.  Using micro goals can help differentiate between the wood and the trees.  The goal might be 10k based, but initially aiming to run a practice 5k with a cadence of 165 would be a good initial micro goal.  The net effect of that will be improved performance in runs which will carry over into improved results.  Micro goals are, by their name, very short term.  A micro goal could last one or two weeks, and all in the aid of the bigger overall goal.  They help you stay on track.  I would recommend anyone who distance runs spends some time planning out some micro goals to help them improve.


Hopefully by now you have a much clearer idea of what can benefit your runs in future, and by apply all of these steps you will see a big reduction in your running time.  If you’re unsure how to go about applying some of these steps on the website you’ll see that we do offer a pre-planned run programme, called Runner’s Needs.  It covers some of the aspects mentioned above and is meant as a good solid foundational programme for any runner at any distance. 

If you’d want something more personal please click to register your interest in Online Training.  Online Training offers a personalised training plan for you, outlining your specific runs, auxiliary training and mobility, and of course working with you towards your goals throughout the process.  Please follow the link below to see what we can do for you today.

But don’t just take my word for it, follow the link below to read what one of our clients has to say!



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