Female sub-40 10K

Hi there.  I am looking for specific training advice for running a sub-40 minute 10K.  However I am female and most of the advice here is geared towards a male running sub-40 which is, if you don't mind me saying, a hell of a lot easier for a male to do. 

My PB is 42.48 and my running dream is to run sub-40.  I would like to do this next year.  I have been running for about 10 years now, some of which was non-competitive (i.e. just getting round), some years were lost to injury and some years focussed on other running goals like the marathon.  2 years ago I focussed on getting my 10K time down and took off 1.30 mins, but then half the year was lost to illness.

Any tips what I should be focussing on over the winter in preparation - strength?  Cross country, distance etc?  I'm prepared to throw myself into this for a year, whatever it takes (I'm 40 next year image)  I currently run 35-45 miles p/w, have over the summer stopped speed sessions as had an injury but now think I'm over the worst of it but normally include lots of hills, trail running, speed session and a long run of 10-12 miles per week.  I'm keen, me. image


  • Eradicating the injury 100% is going to be the key to this, as you need a good 3months or so consistent training, with your long run, tempo and speedwork, with easy paced running dotted in too.

    Just on a basic level, do you train to pace zones?  Are they calculated from your recent races? Is your week arranged to keep the hard sessions separate from each other? eg Temp Tue, Speed Thur/.Fri, Long run Sunday?

    Apologies if these questions are stuff you're already doing and sound rude to ask, it just helps to get the full picture...


  • Pennylane,

    Looks like you have a good stamina base so the key here is rep work, probably a mix of short 400m reps and longer 1000m reps.

    The key to reps is keeping a consistent "hard" pace.

    Your rep pace should be:

    400m 1:30 +/- 2 secs    10 off with 90 seconds rest between  

    1000m 4:00 +/- 5 secs   6 off with 2/12 minutes rest  

     Some coaches would probably include mile reps at 6:15 pace but I like to keep the reps to the shorter side for 10k training.  

    Alot of women struggle with reps, can you do them with a club or with someone you can "chase".  

     Also tempo runs are good training, should be doing 7 min miling for your 5-6 mile runs.  

    One hard reps session a week, one tempo run per week, one long run c.10 miles per week, one recovery run and one/two "fun" runs per week.   

    Regards Piers

  • Piers, those look like paces for the OP to hit to break 40mins yes, but those paces aren't her current fitness, so she probably won't be able to hit them.

    I mean, her pb is 42:48, which is 6:53 as a 10k pace flat out in a race.

    You're proposing her to do a 5-6mile run at 7:00 min miling?! Sounds very tough indeed. I certainly couldn't do anything like 5-6miles at my 10k pace +7seconds in training, could you?

    I would suggest the below pace zones for her current fitness.

    10k pace            6.53
    tempo                 7.08
    Half M Pace        7.13
    Marathon Pace   7.33
    Steady                 7.48-8:15
    Easy                    8.33-9

    Instead of the tempo you suggest, I'd offer  6.5miles at MP, ie 7.33 pace.

    Once this is mastered, she can build up the challenge by doing something like 40mins alternating in 5min segments between MP and HMP continuously.

    Then build it to 45mins.

    Then finally, perhaps 30mins in 3min segments between MP and Tempo.


    I'd have my doubts on those rep paces too. I'd fear those would be too quick as well.

    However, the OP can pick which approach to try image

  • Thanks for the replies!

    Stevie G - when I did focussed 10K training I ran to pace zones (eg. intervals of 500m @ 5K pace etc)  Right now I am focussing purely on base training and getting my level of fitness back to normal so in the past few months there's not been really too many quality sessions.  Should I start doing this now do you think?  This year, every time I started interval training I got injured and it has taken me months to get back to a relatively ''normal'' level of fitness for me.

    Piers - thanks for the advice.  You are spot on that a lot of women struggle with reps.  I think after a certain amount/weeks, it gets much easier in that you are used to the type of strain it puts on your body but agree that it is extremely hard to get used to!  I haven't done intervals in a while due to the injury, so doubt I would be quite at the speeds you suggest but I can try image  The thing is - do I try now, or do I concentrate on getting my miles in over the winter, or do I start the interval sessions now and then just do more of them when I'm nearer the 10K season in spring?

  • Phew!  Thanks Stevie - I was starting to panic there with the speed thing!

  • Obviously trying to coach by forum is not ideal, that's why I recomended a club and assumed she is fit with no injuries.

    I agree that the 7:00 minute mile pacing for tempo is probably a little bit optomistic but only by say a few seconds a mile and the rep pacing is about right.

    From being involved in coaching ladies, it's the rep work where they tend not to work hard enough. Yes, I know i'm generalising hugely!

  • What does the OP think!

  • Sorry cross post

    As long as you are completly fit and injury free I'd start the intervals whenever you feel up to it.


  • Haha!  I think women do work hard at reps but it is a different sort of training - eg. stop-recovery-start.  Personally I am comfortable doing reps myself and pushing myself to the speed I should be doing it at.  I was a member of a local club but would go out too fast with the faster group every rep session, get carried away and then blow up.  If I do it myself then I reign it in a bit more and can afford to be a bit more er, obsessive about times image

    I also think women naturally compare themselves too much to other women (I am making sweeping generalisations here I know - I only go on what I know).  So when someone is doing really well and getting faster, it's very easy to throw your hands in the air and give up and think: what's the point?!? I will never get that fast!   Whereas the men see it as a challenge.  Hmm, I am thinking quite deep now!

  • Pennylane, with your injury record in mind, i think that base period would be your best bet.

    Used to lay down a structure, where you hit a nice 35-40miles a week. You wouldn't want to be doing any hard reps as they'd come later. Instead, I'd recommend just strides (5 or 6 x75m fast relaxed sprints) within an easy run, or 6 - 6.5miles at MP as your fastest running in this period.

    I wouldn't be surprised if after a couple of months of that you'd already be in the mixer for getting a pb.

    However, laying the quality on top afterwards would guarantee it.

    Personally, i always found the reps to be doable, but the Tempo running to be the hard work.

    When you think of it, running faster but being able to stop is surely easier than having to run medium to quite hard, but for miles and miles continuously? However, it's this latter approach that I find more key to getting faster in races.

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