Advice for sub-40 10k

Hi all,

Looking for some advice. Yesterday I did my local 10k – not one of my better races: I woke up the morning before the race with a cold, and on the day I went off too fast, had to stop for a 30 second wee (!) at 5 km and was really struggling for the last 2-3 km. But I finished in 44:04. My PB (set on the same course in 2017) is 42:55. The course is relatively hilly in the middle, with a total elevation of 80-90 m.

I’m 38, male, BMI 22. I used to run more regularly in my late 20s/early 30s but in recent years I’ve tended to only run my local 10k in March and another local 5 miler in July. Typically I start training for these events 2-3 months beforehand and often stop running in between (in which time I usually cycle, so I’m rarely completely inactive). For example, this time I started running in November and did a 4 mile route once a week for 2 months, gradually improving my splits from 5:30 min/km to 4:39 min/km. From the start of January I then added a faster session (e.g. 4 km at 4:15 min/km or 3 x 200 m hill sprints with 1 km jog recovery in between). For the past 6 weeks I’ve been doing three sessions a week (combination of the 4 mile steady run and shorter fast runs, with the occasional longer run e.g. 10 or 12 km thrown in) averaging 15-20 km total per week. I did pretty much the same in 2017 when I set my 10k PB, and my times were as good/slightly better towards the end of my training this year, so I think I’m in relatively good shape. I did my first Parkrun in 21:04 the week before the 10k. This is pretty typical for me over the past 10-15 years. I do 2-3 months training and get to around 43-45 min for 10k, then I stop.

I’d now love to get under 40 min for 10k. I realise this is a big leap from 43-45 min, but considering the time it’s taken for me to get to 44 min with a maximum of 3 fairly unstructured sessions a week, it seems achievable if I commit - what do you think? The main thing I need to decide is how long I’m willing to commit for. I’ve got my eye on a flat 10k in early May, which is 9 weeks away (although the way my legs are feeling today I won’t be doing much running this week, so maybe 8 weeks training max). Does that sound like a reasonable time frame to get from 44 to sub-40 minutes, based on my progression so far? Or am I kidding myself? Any tips for the kind of training schedule I should be looking at? Most of the plans I’ve found online seem to involve 5-6 sessions per week e.g. so I guess that’s the level of commitment I’ll need? Would following a training programme like that mean I shouldn’t cycle as well during that time? I typically cycle to work (25 mile round trip) 2-3 times per week in spring and summer, but could put that off for a month to focus on the running.

Sorry, that’s a lot of information/questions! But it’d be great to hear the advice of more experienced runners. Just in case I’m being naïve in my ambition.



  • It sounds like you're being pretty realistic. I'd agree with you that you can run sub 40. The real question you are rightly asking is how and in the chosen time frame.

    In a way how long it takes is kind of irrelevant. All that is in your control is training effectively and that will take you you as far as it does when you chose to run. You also mention a 5 miler in July. Why not commit to training consistently up to then and pick a 10km some time after that to have another go at a pb?

    Whatever you do, IMHO, the best way is to try and run regularly and frequently. 5 or 6 times a week is ideal. 4 is better than 3. To be honest I'd only worry about specific types of run training after hitting the frequency goal. You can cycle by all means. Cycling has some cross over benefit to running. The only time to reconsider cycling is if it means you are doing less running because of the cycling. If you were overall too sore or cycling meant you didn't have time to run that is when you need to make a choice.

    What I'd suggest is take some weeks to up the frequency. The idea is to find how many runs you can practically fit in. But in a way that isn't too taxing. You need to be able to do exactly the same the week after. No big effort run or big volume week is worth it if you miss runs after that. Once you have a handle on what a nice running week is for you then you can play with different sessions and see if those work or are too much. Obviously as you progress you can add a bit more at a time. But don't rush it.

    That is what I mean by how long it takes is irrelevant. If you are training in the right way it takes as long as it takes. Which may or may not be in time for any arbitrary race. But try and enjoy the process. The real benefits come from learning what works for you and nudging that forward consistently while avoiding the setbacks that come from over use and over stretching. Right for you is right for you and you can't rush it.
  • Thanks, I appreciate your advice. I think I'll leave cycling for a few months and focus on the main goal. And yes, in contrast to what I would have originally thought, more frequent easy running seems the most important thing I need to consider. I can fit in 5 runs per week, maybe 6 some weeks, totalling 40-50k per week. I came up with this plan, with the workout sessions based on this McMillan plan

    What do you think? Too much too soon considering I've been doing 15-20k per week in the run up to my last 10k? I must admit, the thought of the 6 x 1M at 4 min/km session this week is already daunting, which makes me think getting to sub 40 in 8 weeks is ambitious. But as you say, all I can do it commit for the next 2 months, see what time I get in the May 10k and if I'm close to but not quite sub-40 I can find another race to aim for. If I'm still way off in May I'll probably leave it there, as I don't want it to take over my life for a prolonged period of time.
  • HA77HA77 ✭✭✭
    Yes, too much too soon. I think aiming for sub 40 in 8 weeks will end in injury. But given time and consistency I think you'll get your target. Agree with everything PopSlug says. Better off building up gradually and targeting something around July.

    Having said that, you might feel it's worth the risk to give your plan a go. What's the worst that will happen, you'll get some niggles or an injury and have to take time off running. 
  • GoalpostGoalpost ✭✭✭

    Consistent and enjoyable training is very important here. I took some time to break the mark. In 2011 I ran 42:55 when targeting sub 45. I only broke 40 in 2015. I was injured for much of 2012, 41:47 in 2013, 40:49 in 2014 before a 39:49 the following year. Only raced a 10k twice a year.

    For instance you are not going to break 40 if you cannot break 20 in a 5k. To be honest sub 19:30 5k translates at a stretch to sub 40 so a tarmac parkrun will provide a decent idea of where your fitness base currently is and then use McMillan Running to determine your training paces from that.

    Keep the cycling up but keep it easy, save the legs for the training. My times improved with an 8 to 10 mile run once a week. Target a 5k once a month and attempt the 10ks as before. You will get there as I did. I am mid 40s so given your age and experience it is definitely doable so long as you keep the training enjoyable so you come back for more each week. That is where you get the consistency.

  • Like the guys say it may be too much. There isn't much of a build up but that is understandable given 8 weeks. That's only a problem if you stick to it religiously and push too far because of that. The trick is knowing when to turn the hard run into an easy run or sack off the run and try again tomorrow. So maybe treat the first few weeks of the plan as great if it all goes that way but not the end of the world if you have to adjust on the fly.

    You have to pace yourself over those 8 weeks as much as you do on race day. But like a race you are better of building up to the right pace rather than starting flat out and blowing up.

    Maybe update here to keep yourself honest. I'd be interested.
  • Thanks, I'm already thinking the same. As I've never really run on consecutive days before I think I'll spend the first 2 weeks working up to that and a weekly distance of 40-50 km. I went out on Sunday, last night and I'll go out tonight. I'll then have a day off and go out 3 days in a row, including a long run. I'll do a Parkrun at the end of the second week to see what kind of shape I'm in, as my calves were in a lot of pain after the 10k (my form was probably poor as I hung on in the last few km) so I didn't run at all the week after and have likely lost a bit of fitness since. I'll think about adding one workout session per week from the third week onwards. I've found another flat 10k in June that I could target if I'm not in sub-40 shape by the May race.

    Thanks for everyone's encouragement and advice - much appreciated.
  • Sub-40 is a long was from 44. The primary need is to run at least 20 miles a week I would say with at least two fast (5-6k?) elements on this. I would give it a year!
  • I think frequency and consistency are the key.
  • Just thought I’d give an update. The lockdown has proven to be a blessing and a curse. I’ve been running most mornings in the time I would’ve been commuting to work, so my frequency has increased considerably. But all of the races I was targeting have been cancelled, although I’ve realised I’m still a long way off a sub-40 minute 10k, so I’ve got plenty of time. Here’s what I’ve done over the past 5 weeks (distances in km):

    Week 0 Sunday 6.5 Easy

    Week 1 Monday - Rest
    Week 1 Tuesday 6.5 Easy
    Week 1 Wednesday 6.5 Easy
    Week 1 Thursday - Rest
    Week 1 Friday 7.4 Easy
    Week 1 Saturday 7 Easy
    Week 1 Sunday 12 Long

    Week 2 Monday - Rest
    Week 2 Tuesday 5.7 Hills
    Week 2 Wednesday 7.4 Easy
    Week 2 Thursday 10.1 Easy
    Week 2 Friday - Rest
    Week 2 Saturday 6.5 Intervals
    Week 2 Sunday - Rest

    Week 3 Monday 7.4 Easy
    Week 3 Tuesday 9 Easy
    Week 3 Wednesday 6.2 Hills
    Week 3 Thursday 8.3 Easy
    Week 3 Friday 7.5 Intervals
    Week 3 Saturday - Rest
    Week 3 Sunday 14.6 Long

    Week 4 Monday 6.2 Recovery
    Week 4 Tuesday 6.5 Threshold
    Week 4 Wednesday 6.4 Recovery
    Week 4 Thursday 8.1 Easy
    Week 4 Friday 6.9 Hills
    Week 4 Saturday - Rest
    Week 4 Sunday 13.1 Long

    Week 5 Monday 5.2 Recovery
    Week 5 Tuesday 8.3 Easy
    Week 5 Wednesday 10 Easy
    Week 5 Thursday 8.7 Easy
    Week 5 Friday - Rest
    Week 5 Saturday 5.1 Tempo

    42.6 Average weekly km

    So I'm up to 40-50 km per week now, but based on the two issue below, am wondering if I worked up to this too quickly. Maybe you have some advice.

    1. I’ve been finding the long/recovery runs quite hard on my calves. I’m not sure if my form isn’t great when running slowly, meaning I’m using my calves more? The week after my last 10 km race in March my calves were in agony, I could barely walk the day after. It’s never happened before at that kind of distance. I thought it might be because my form had fallen off in the latter part of the race. Or maybe it was because my training runs hadn’t covered enough long distances by that point, so I was lacking strength/stamina. But still, over recent weeks my legs definitely feel more comfortable at 4:50-5:10 min/km than 5:30-5:50 min/km. Should I stick with the slower pace for long/recovery runs and see if my form/calf strength improves, or up the pace a little to the point where I feel more comfortable?

    2. I’ve been focussing on getting up to 40-50 km per week with easy/long runs. The only variation on this has been 1 or 2 runs a week where I’ve done some hill repeats or Fartlek-type intervals. I don’t think either would be considered a 'proper workout', but my legs haven’t felt up to an all-out effort yet (I know a few of you have suggested trying to do e.g. 5 km at target race pace each week). I tried a 5 km tempo run this morning (4:10 min/km) but had to break it into 2 x 2.5 km segments as my legs felt sore by the half-way point. I certainly don’t feel up to doing any of the workouts in the McMillan plan at the moment. Do you think this is because I moved up to 40-50 km per week too quickly? Or maybe my legs aren’t strong enough and I need to stick with the easy/long runs totalling 40-50 km per week for a bit longer? Or would it be better to build in a second rest day every week and see if I can manage at least one workout across the other 5 runs?

    Thanks in advance for any thoughts.
  • Sorry, I should've said - the paces for the above are:
    Long/recovery 5:25 per km
    Easy 5:10 per km
    Threshold 4:25 per km
    Tempo 4:10 per km
  • I was in a similar position 25 years ago. I upped my mileage to about 40 MPW, but crucially did some decent intervals once per week. I started with four reps and a minute interval and worked up to eight reps.

    4x800 metres at 2:45-3 minutes, 1 minute interval

    until after 6 weeks

    8x800 metres at 2:45 - 3 minutes, 1 minute interval

    Important only to change one variable at a time - the number of reps, the length of the interval or the speed of the rep.

    200 metres reps are not long enough.

    Hope that helps

    And only weekly
  • I'm now coming to the end of my sixth week totalling 50 km per week. I'm sticking with doing my 16 km long runs at 5:10 min/km, which feels easy even if it's a bit too quick according to the training pace calculators. With the goal of a sub-40 min 10k still in mind, is there any benefit from further increasing the distance of my long runs, maybe up to a half marathon?

    Dirk_Gently - Thanks for the intervals workout suggestion. This morning I managed 4 x 800 m at just under 3:00 min with 400 m (about 2:30 min) recoveries. It was tough but I was encouraged that I got through it. Last week I did a 6 km progression run starting at 5:00 min/km for the first km and increasing the pace by 10 sec/km each km up to 4:10 min/km in the final km. So I guess I am now incorporating one 'proper' workout per week.

    Do you think another 8 weeks at 50-60 km per week with sessions as follows would put me in a good position to try for a sub-40 min 10k?

    Sunday - long run
    Monday - recovery
    Tuesday - easy
    Wednesday - easy
    Thursday - workout
    Friday - recovery
    Saturday - rest

    I could try to follow the workouts in the McMillan 8 week plan and see how I go.
  • The long run is about right. Not sure what the difference is between recovery and easy, but run about 8k on Monday at slow pace as it's good to learn to run on tired legs after Sunday long run. Wednesday do the interval workout. Intervals are very intensive, so beware of injury and don't change any one parameter as I suggest. Stick with 2:30 interval and after a couple of weeks add more reps. It's also OK to reduce the number of reps on any week. Best to only do one intensive session a week, so either intervals or pyramids / progression or maybe fartlek. I found that after running loads of 42minutes 10ks that I regularly got under 40 minutes after about 6-8 weeks of intervals, but I can't remember that far back to exactly how long it took.
  • dtl8dtl8 ✭✭
    I was stuck on around 41 minutes for months. I found focussing on longer runs for a few weeks at a decent pace (eg 15km at 4.10/km) once a week help a lot. I then went out one day and it just happened. Also, it was raining, and I seem to do a lot of my best runs in the rain (I want to get home quicker?) but that’s probably just me...
  • I've now done Dirk_Gently's 800 m in 3:00 min workout for the past 5 weeks, with 2 weeks at 4 reps, 2 weeks at 5 reps and last week (plus this week) at 6 reps. All being well I'll continue adding a rep every 2 weeks until I get to 8 reps. Would you then stick with that for a while, or look to increase the pace/reduce the recovery time (I've been doing 300 m in 1:45-2:00 min for recoveries)? I was thinking at that point I'd try an all-out 5k to gauge progression since my first/last Parkrun in February.

    When I'm ready to try an all-out 10k, what's the best way to taper considering I'm currently doing 50k over 6 sessions a week:

    Sunday - easy long
    Monday - easy short
    Tuesday - easy medium
    Wednesday - workout
    Thursday - easy short
    Friday - easy medium
    Saturday - rest
  • If you're running 8*800 metres in 3 minutes, then that's 6 minute miling (oops imperial measurement), but that's about half a minute under the 4 minutes per Km required. I'd stick with 8 reps at that pace for a while and gradually reduce the interval (I used to just walk around in a circle before going again). That way you're close to stringing it all together.

    Definitely try a parkrun when they restart, but when you do your target 10K remember that although you've done 100% training, you're only 90% of the way there as weather, health (colds) injuries(niggles) and the state of the race can have an impact.
  • I'm now up to 8 x 800 m in 3:00 minutes, although that's 'only' 3:45 min/km pace so there's not that much of a margin to my target 10k pace of 4:00 min/km. I'm planning to do a second week at 8 x 800 m in 3:00 minutes next week, then do a 5k time trial as my workout session the following week, to see if I'm anywhere near the 19:30 minutes that seems to be a good benchmark for a sub-40 minute 10k. If I am, what do you think - just taper for a week and then go for a 10k time trial?

    I've bought some Brooks Ghost 12 shoes which feel a lot comfier than my old shoes, and I've noticed I'm shaving 5 seconds/km off my easy runs, without trying. So hopefully that will help a little bit towards my 10k goal!
  • That's plenty fast to get under 40 minutes, but I would say you might have to do a few more weeks at that pace, in fact get it into your routine. But why not have a taper and then see what you can do? Pick a nice day and don't strain anything.
  • Well, I did a second week of 8 x 800 m in 3:00 minutes then had to take a full week off after getting an infected bite on my ankle, which caused my foot to swell up. Maybe the rest did me good after 16 weeks of 50 km/week. Anyway, last week I got going again and did 4 x 800 m in 3:00 minutes as my workout, and this morning I ran a 5 km time trial in 19:28, knocking 1:22 off my previous PB from March!!! It wasn’t all-out either, so I think that bodes well for a sub-40 10 km attempt. The regular easy mileage and weekly 800 m intervals workout has definitely had an impact on my endurance and speed. Thank you for all of your advice so far!

    The only question is should I go for a 10 km attempt next week or get a few more weeks of training in (maybe trying some of the later workouts from the McMillan plan: What do you think?
  • I know ir depends upon the individual, but you should be able to run a fast 10k weekly - within reason - so go for it. For 10k racing, starting at 800m reps is a basis, but good enough to break 40 mins. If you run longer reps, it will only have benefit, but increase the interval between them and start with four. Don't increase more than one parameter at a time.

    Bad luck with the bite, but interval sessions can be close to red lining it and the last thing you want is an injury.

    Is this a GPS measured course or a race? Are there any?
  • Thanks, I think I'll go for it in the next 1-2 weeks then. It'll be a GPS measured time trial, which I'll add 100 m on to just in case it comes up short when uploaded to Strava!
  • I managed to complete the final workout from the McMillan 10k plan ( this morning - 3 x 2 miles at 4:00 min/km with 5 min jog/walk recoveries. The last interval felt harder than my sub-20 minute 5k time trial last week, but I think there's a bit more in me so I'm hopeful that next week I can go for a sub-40 10k attempt. I'll just take it easy for the next few days and halve my usual weekly mileage leading up to the 10k. The wind seems to be pretty light for the next week too, so now seems like a good time weather-wise!
  • Well, after 1000 km and 23 weeks of training, this morning I ran 10 km in 39:58 !!!

    Thanks to everyone for your advice, encouragement and reality checks - especially at the start, when I naively thought 8 weeks would be enough time! I suppose I better see how much time I can knock off my HM PB now! After some celebratory beers and a few days off :wink:
  • Excellent. Well done. Beer is a great incentive.
  • GuarddogGuarddog ✭✭✭
    subsub123 said:
    Well, after 1000 km and 23 weeks of training, this morning I ran 10 km in 39:58 !!!

    Thanks to everyone for your advice, encouragement and reality checks - especially at the start, when I naively thought 8 weeks would be enough time! I suppose I better see how much time I can knock off my HM PB now! After some celebratory beers and a few days off :wink:
    Great achievement. Well done  :)
  • Well done, great thread to read
  • Consistently is the key. Long slow aerobic runs, with a little bit of speed work (hills sprints count)
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