How to run a sub-50 10K

Up your speed and nail a sub-50 10K with expert tips from our resident running coach Nick Anderson.

How to run a sub-50 10K

10K events tend to be the most popular of all, so if you want to increase your running speed and really smash your PB, then aiming for a sub-50 minute time is a great challenge to set yourself.  

The 10K distance should not be underestimated. Just because it’s shorter and raced by many runners, that doesn’t mean it requires less planning or training than a half or full marathon. It’s a great distance to test your speed and endurance.

The trick is to break out of your comfort zone, so training for a sub-50 minute 10K will mean visiting that hurt locker and investing your efforts in some uncomfortable but rewarding sessions. Follow our tips and nail the distance.

Find your threshold

Threshold sessions are all about being able to run faster for longer. Threshold running is all about effort, not pace, so run these at an effort where you can speak three to four words at a time. Gauge your effort accordingly, otherwise you’ll struggle to complete them effectively.

Try this: Run for 30-40 minutes at an easy pace, but include 3 x 5 mins at threshold effort, with 2 mins easy effort between the blocks.
• After a 5-10 minute easy warm-up, run 6-8 lots of 3 minutes where you alternate the odd numbers at a steady pace and the even numbers at threshold effort.

The hills are alive

Hill training increases your aerobic capacity and improves your running economy. It also helps to build strength in your glutes, quads and calf muscles. It also improves your leg speed and running form. You’ll need to find yourself a steady incline, nothing too steep, and run these hard, tall and strong from the hips with a good knee lift. By the last rep, you need to be delighted that it’s over!

Try this: 6 mins at threshold effort (on the flat) with 2-minute jog recovery, then 8-10 sets of 30 seconds fast hills, with 45-60 seconds recovery between each set. For more on hill training, click here

Intervals

Interval sessions are all about developing your body’s maximum oxygen uptake… working hard, in other words! They can be completed on the track or on a straight, flat section of pavement. Wherever you decide to do these sessions, they should feel uncomfortable! Remember to warm up well before any of these sessions, and cool down and stretch well afterwards. 

Try this

  • 5 mins at 3-4 word 10K effort, followed by 6 to 8 sets of 3 minutes at 5K pace with 90-second recoveries.

  • 8-10 mins at goal 10K pace + 6 x 2 mins FAST (with 60 second recoveries) + 8-10 minutes at goal 10K pace, with 2-3 mins to recovery between the 3 sets.

Get Progressive

Finishing strong is crucial for a successful sub-50 10K race. You’d run your ideal 10K ideally by running the second 5K slightly faster than the first. During progression runs the effort builds as the run progresses.

Try this: A progression run 10/10/10 – 10 minutes easy, 10 minutes steady, 10 minutes at 10K PB pace. You can build this to 15/15/15.

Go Long

Your weekly long run is still important. If you’ve previously been training for longer races, then it doesn’t need to be as long or as exhausting as you’re used to, but continue with a 75-90 minute easy-paced long run each week.

Try this: As you get closer to your race date, consider adding blocks of 10K pace running within the final 30 minutes of your long run, e.g. 75-90 minutes, to include 4 x 6 minutes at your 10K pace within the final 30 minutes.

Get strong

As with any plan, strength and conditioning is extremely important. Not only can it help to reduce injuries, strengthening the key muscle groups will make them more resilient to fatigue and support your running form. Whether it’s a class, such as Pilates or yoga, or a home workout, focusing on a strength and conditioning session 2-3 times a week will benefit your 10K campaign no end. These two key exercises are a great start.

Try this

  • The one-leg squat - stand on one leg and squat as far as you can without your hips tilting or your knee turning in.
  • This may be very shallow or further down, depending on your leg strength.
  • Do two or three sets of 3-6 squats on each leg.

  • The finger-crusher - lie down with your feet flat on the floor and place your hands underneath the small of your back, palms on the floor.
  • Engage your abdominals and then press your lower back into the floor, crushing your fingers.
  • Hold until you feel the burn! Repeat three to four times.
  • To make it harder, lift one foot at a time a few inches off the floor.


5K races and parkrun

Shorter races, such as 5K, are a great way to test all of the above training, as well as a race strategy, aiming to finish strong and fast. Your weekly parkrun is an ideal opportunity to use a group run situation to run progressively, building your effort each mile and pacing yourself accordingly.

Aim to race 5K a few weeks out from your 10K event, and use your parkruns strategically within your training. Try this 5K training plan to start.

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