How Advanced 10K Training Works

By: Josh Briggs
Martin Lel of Kenya crosses the finish line at the Peachtree Road Race in Atlanta on July 4, 2006. Lel won the Open Men's Division.
AP Photo/Gregory Smith

Every Fourth of July in Atlanta, Ga., tens of thousands of people converge on Midtown to run the Peachtree Road Race. Often considered one of the premier 10-kilometer or 10K (6.2-mile) races in the United States, the Peachtree Road Race tests a runner's ability to not only tackle a challenging course, but also the extreme heat and humidity of Georgia's summers. And there are plenty more races where that came from. Throughout the year avid runners seek out 10Ks throughout the world as the distance has become very popular to competitive runners.

Marathon runners compete in similar races over much longer distances (26 miles, 385 yards to be exact, or 42.2 kilometers) on an outdoor course. At the Olympics, the 10,000 meters, which is run around an oval 400-meter track, is often considered the premiere test of speed and endurance. Sort of a hybrid of the two, the 10K is run over a natural course and varying conditions thus times may vary. For instance, Micah Kogo of Kenya ran a 27:01 in a 10k race in Brussels in 2009 and is the current world record holder as of this writing. That's nearly a minute slower than Kenenisa Bekele's world record of 26:17.53 in the 10,000 meters. Keep in mind though, Bekele's record, was run on a flat, premium running surface. Think of it as the difference between a NASCAR oval track and a sports car road course.


So what does this all mean? Simply put, running has been a popular form of exercise for many years and as you can see, it's also turned into a pretty serious sport too. Which brings us to why you came to read this article. You've decided to explore what it takes to run competitively in a 10K race, -- you're looking for the right training method to prepare you for such a grueling task. We've got you covered. This article will detail what it takes to get you up to speed in advanced 10K training. We'll start by breaking down the core of the training regimen in the next section.

The Components of Advanced 10K Training

Speed is one component of winning a 10k race. Another is endurance.

The key to winning a 10K is the combination of speed and endurance. Therefore advanced 10K training incorporates several types of running and each is vital to a well-rounded plan:

Fartlek run -- A fartlek run is when the runner adds burst of speed during a regular run. For instance, an athlete may go out for a 5-kilometer run and simply keep a regular pace throughout. However, a fartlek run adds several short sprints to the same run. Fartlek runs help increase heart rate and build up your lung capacity.


Distance runs -- The distance of a run can vary. Typically you'll classify them as either short or long runs. In each case, these runs are slower than race pace and you should not approach your maximum heart rate at any point during the run. Short runs are typically 3 to 5 kilometers in length while long runs can range from 8 to 14 kilometers or longer. Again, it depends on the program and at what point (week) of your plan you're currently in.

Tempo runs -- These get you used to race pace. On a tempo run, the athlete targets a pace to run for a certain amount of time, then works gradually to reach it. The target pace in advanced 10K training is your race pace. For instance, during a 30-minute tempo run, you may work up to race pace over the first 10 minutes, then maintain race pace for 15 minutes before throttling back over the final five minutes of the run. Tempo runs increase your body's ability to use the extra oxygen your expanded cardiovascular system is providing. Tempo runs increase muscle stamina when your muscles get tired and want to quit.

Interval runs -- These are similar to tempo runs in that you're incorporating race pace. On an interval run, an athlete runs at race pace then slows down to a walk or a slow jog in a 1:1 distance ratio. During a 6K interval run, you would run 3 kilometers at race pace and 3 kilometers at the slow pace. The key is to go at race pace, slow down then do it over again until the run is complete.

Along with these elements are warm-up and cool-down periods. Cooling down or slowing down is critical during advanced 10K training. The same can be said of warming up. You're going to push your body to its limits. Abruptly beginning or finishing such strenuous exercise can be dangerous and may damage your muscles.

Now that we've broken down the components of advanced 10K training, let's see how to put it together in a training plan that will ramp you up to race day in the next section.


Advanced 10K Training Schedule

It's important to warm up your muscles before you run.

Before you even consider building up to an advanced 10K program, it's recommended that you've been running for some time. That time can range depending on the athlete, but running regularly for a year prior will certainly give you a better baseline for success. Some experts recommend as much as three years of running experience before delving into an advanced 10K training schedule [source: Palmer].

We'll assume you're not a newbie to distance running. Once you've decided you want to seriously compete in a 10K and have committed to an advanced routine, you should set aside 12 weeks to dedicate to the program. In other words, start your routine 12 weeks leading up to the race date. Now, let's look at how to put together an advanced 10K training plan.


Alternate your workouts. If you set out for a long run on Tuesday, follow it up with a shorter run the next day. Also, find days to rest. Your muscles will respond better to alternating periods of rest. Always take a day off from running once a week.

Work up to longer distances. Your goal is to work up to longer runs the further along your program progresses with the final week leading up to the race being the shortest. As you put together your training plan, increase the distances of each workout whether it's a short, long or fartlek run.

Here's a sample week:

Monday -- Long run (8K)

Tuesday -- Interval run (8 x .5K, 4K daily total)

Wednesday -- Short run (5K)

Thursday -- Short run (4K)

Friday -- Interval (or fartlek run), (6K daily total)

Saturday -- Long run (10 to 12 K)

Sunday -- Rest

Total for the week -- 37 to 39 kilometers

Remember, each day of training you'll also need a warm-up and cool-down session. Those distances don't go toward your training runs. As you get through each week, the goal is to add distance to each run until you get to your target or race week. The week of the race will be shorter because you'll want to be fresh for race day.

These types of training programs are tough, no question. Try running with a partner. Running with a partner has a tendency to motivate you. When there are two of you, it's easier to push each other to grind through the toughest parts of the run.

Advanced 10K training isn't just pounding the pavement or cross country trail until you can't go any farther. In the next section, we'll get into some of the other areas you should consider just as important to advanced 10K training.


Tips for Advanced 10K Training

Races like the Peachtree Road Race often attract runners of all levels. And while anyone reasonably fit can walk or even jog the race, to win, it takes a well-conditioned and well-prepared athlete. Part of this preparation includes nutrition. Proper nutrition will aid you during your training in developing lean muscle. It will also keep you from cramping up which can happen in any race and even more so in extreme conditions like the Georgia heat.

Competitive runners work hard to build lean muscle mass. That said, it's not easy maintaining lean muscle while trying to keep up with the necessary calorie intake needed for an advanced 10K training program. Consuming 100 calories more than your recommended intake each day can add 10 pounds (4.5 kilograms) per year. Energy drinks and bars can provide runners with a burst of power, so to speak, but at the cost of calories. A well-rounded diet is full of carbohydrates, protein and yes, fat. An ideal plan will consist of 50 percent carbs, 25 percent protein and 25 percent fat [source: Fernstrom].


To determine your daily calorie intake, take your weight and multiply it by 13. That number should be your total calorie consumption for each day [source: Fernstrom]. Plan meals around these criteria to get your body on the proper diet.

Like any exercise plan, you'll only get out of it what you put in. For instance, tempo runs aren't effective if not run at the proper speed and distance. The only way to build up the endurance and speed to excel in a 10K -- and maybe even win -- is to push your mind and body past where you think it can go.

Advanced 10K training works the same way for men and women. It's not just men who excel at distance running. Paula Radcliffe's world record of 30:21 has stood since 2003, and it isn't that far off the fastest record time for men.

If you're not too exhausted yet, take a few minutes to browse the related articles on the next page before getting ready to build your own advanced 10K training plan.


Lots More Information

Related Articles

  • "10 Biggest 10Ks in the U.S." (July 16, 2010)
  • Boston Athletic Association. "Boston Marathon History." (July 2, 2010)
  • "Advanced 10K Training Program: Run your 10K Race Faster." (July 2, 2010)
  • Fernstrom, Madelyn. "The Runner's Diet." Runner's World. August 2004. (June 30, 2010),7120,s6-242-304-310-7771-0,00.html
  • Galloway, Jeff. "Speed Play." Runner's World. Aug. 21, 2007. (July 1, 2010),7120,s6-238-263--12081-0,00.html
  • Hanc, John. "Your Perfect Tempo." Runner's World. May 23, 2007. (July 1, 2010),7120,s6-238-267--11909-0,00.html
  • "10000M Men." (July 2, 2010)
  • Palmer, Andy. "Training Program -- 10K Advanced." Running Times. (July 13, 2010)
  • Rennie, Doug. "Your Ultimate 10K Plan." Runner's World. July 2004. (July 1, 2010),7120,sss6-238-244--1117-3-5X8X10-4,00.html
  • Russi Sarnataro, Barbara. "Fitness Basics: Running for Your Life." WebMD. (July 2, 2010)
  • Sport Fitness Advisor. "Advance 10K Training Program." (July 1, 2010)
  • "Advanced 10K Running Program." (July 1, 2010)