The 10k distance is perhaps the most popular distance for a wide range of people involved in running. Many newbies to the sport see the distance as a natural stepping-stone to completing their first half marathon.
Triathletes enjoy racing 10k races to give help them gauge their potential form in an Olympic distance race, and even those who prefer racing over shorter distances such as 5k, a solid 10k time is a useful indicator of their current fitness.
Whether you are relatively new to racing or you have several races under your belt from years of consistent training, the running of a 10k in 40 minutes is a goal of many runners.
The breaking of the 40 minutes barrier will allow you to be more ambitious with your half marathon and marathon target paces in the future and will give you the confidence to take on the challenge of overcoming other classic running barriers.
For example, the capacity to run under 40 minutes for 10k should indicate, given the appropriate preparation and training, that a sub-3 hour marathon is possible.
Related: How To Run a 20 Minute 5k
The 40 Minute 10k Pace
If the goal is to break 40 minutes for the 10k, then the pace you’ll need to run quicker than 6 min 24 secs per mile, or 4 minutes per kilometer.
If you have been consistent with your running over an extended period and have built up a solid aerobic base, and you are now ready to include specific paced workouts to better prepare your body for the demands of running quicker, then it can be achieved!
However as many of the top sports psychologists advise – set the goal, and then detach from it and instead focus on the process of achieving it.
Read on to learn about the essential elements of the process and a 6-week tailored training plan for achieving your goal of a sub 40 minute 10k.
Just looking to finish a 10k? Check out our Couch To 10k Training Plans!
1. Improve your aerobic strength
The ability to run well over the 10k distance will require you to have adequate aerobic strength to remain strong throughout the race.
The 10k event is considered 90% aerobic and 10% anaerobic.
Therefore your focus should be on including a lot more aerobic sessions than anaerobic sessions in your weekly schedule.
In addition to aerobic runs of between 45 and 60 mins, you can use interval training at the target 10k pace or paces slower than this target pace we noted above.
For instance, you could start with including the following 10k paced sessions into your schedule:
- A classic session of 5 repetitions of 1600m in 6 minutes 24 seconds with 2 mins recovery will be a good starting point.
- Also, a session of 8 repetitions of 1k in 4 minutes with a 90-second recovery will help you build the required aerobic strength.
This will also be a good test of how well you can maintain your concentration over longer distances and be a great boost to your endurance.
2. Long Runs
Long runs are another staple that should be part of any runner’s weekly schedule. This easy-paced run of between 12 – 20km or 60 – 100 mins will improve your endurance and give you a chance to recover from the hard sessions earlier in the week.
You should run at between 10-20 seconds per kilometre slower than your marathon pace, so a pace of between 4.30 and 4.40/km is appropriate for this challenge.
Additionally, a safe way to gradually introduce your body to quicker paces is to run some strides after your run. Start with 4-5 efforts where you build up the pace and be careful to stretch well afterwards.
3. Interval training sessions
Considering that the target race pace to run a 10k in 40 minutes is 6 min 24 secs per mile or 4 minutes/km, you’ll need to be able to maintain this pace over the whole distance. Thus you’ll want your body to be able to sustain faster paces over shorter distances.
This is where interval training at speeds quicker than your target race pace will come into play and assist you.
It is widely regarded that you’ll need to be able to run a 5k in around 19.00 or 19.15 minutes if you hope to complete two 5ks in 20 mins back-to-back.
Therefore, let’s focus first on improving your 5k time.
According to the famous coach Frank Horwill, “If you want to improve your potential over 5k, don’t get too far away from speed.” His 5-paces training system has been followed, adapted, and used over the years by many runners from all walks of life.
To get started, it is recommended you find a flat route where you can measure out your distances with a GPS watch. Or even better, if you have access to a local running track, you can use the measured 400m lap.
Start with intervals at your 5k pace.
A good initial session is to run 6-8 repetitions of 600m with a 90-second recovery. As you get stronger, you can try longer intervals such as 800 and 1k at the same pace with a 2-minute recovery.
Then you should incorporate sessions at your target 3k pace. This pace or intensity is what you could hold during a 3k race, which is just short of 2 miles. Aim for a 3k target of 3.40 minutes/km (5.50 minutes/mile) or 88 seconds per 400m.
And finally, to really work on tapping into your top-end speed you could incorporate intervals at a target 1500m pace of 84 seconds per 400m (3.30 minutes/km or 5.34 minutes/mile). You should aim to run 6-10 repetitions of 400m with a 90 second recovery.
If this is too difficult, reduce the interval to 200m and run it 10-12 times with the same recovery.
4 Tempo Runs to improve lactate threshold
Moreover, one of the most widely used terms in sports science when referring to an athlete´s aerobic capacity is VO2 max.
The importance of VO2 max can’t be overlooked. Studies indicate that one of the best predictors of successful 10k performance is your lactate threshold.
This is the speed you can maintain before lactic acid begins to accumulate in your blood. By regularly including tempo runs or anaerobic threshold (AT) runs in your training week, you will increase the speed that you can hold before the lactic acid sets in, and you begin to slow down!
The general rule is that your tempo pace is between your pace for a 10 mile or half-marathon race and 20 seconds per km or 30 seconds per mile slower than your 5k race target pace, in other words, around 4.10 minutes/km or 6.40 minute/mile.
Start off with 2 x 10 minutes with a 3-minute recovery and then build up to 1 effort of 20 minutes. Stay relaxed and remember you are teaching your body to run efficiently.
The 6 Week 40 Minute 10k Training Plan
I’d recommend you first decide on how many days you can train. Some people can dedicate 5 or 6 days a week with a rest day, others can only allocate 3 or 4 days. Stick to what you can do consistently.
This will give your body ample time to recover. Continue to use your long run to build endurance and recover from the hard days.
Allow your body to adapt to this extra load, but most people should be ready to try out a race or test run after 6 weeks of increased quality work.
The following training plan below assumes 5 days of running, with 2 days of complete recovery. Week 4 is a recovery week.
NB: *Hills after tempo should be 6 repetitions of 15 seconds.
|Mon||Easy run 50 mins||Easy run 50 mins||Easy run 55 mins||Easy run 55 mins||Easy run 55 mins||Easy run 45 mins|
|Tues||Intervals 5 x 1600m @10k pace, 2 min rest||Intervals 8 x 400m @1500m pace, 90 secs rest||Intervals 6 x 800m @5k pace, 90 secs rest||Easy run 45 mins||Intervals 4 x1k @5k pace, 2 min rest||Intervals 16 x 200m @5k pace, 60 secs rest|
|Wed||Easy run 50 mins||Easy run 50 mins||Easy run 50 mins||Easy run 50 mins||Easy run 50 mins||Easy run 50 mins|
|Sat||Tempo 2 x 10 mins, 3 min rest||Steady 10 mile @4.15/km||Tempo 20 mins||Steady 10 mile @4.15/km||Intervals 8 x 1000m @10k pace, 90 sec rest||10k race|
|Sun||Long run 60 mins||Long run 65 mins||Long run 70 mins||Long run 75 mins||Long run 65 mins||Easy recovery run|
|Pace||per 400m||per km/mile|
Figure 2: Pacing chart