One of the most common questions I am asked is “how can I run faster in the 10km?”
When I ask about their training I find that almost every runner can improve by following the same key principles.
So, here are my 3 top tips to run a faster 10km
1. Ditch the Sprint Finish
Think about it, you run 9,900 metres and you throw in a 100 metre all out sprint to finish strong. Even if you’re Usain Bolt running the world record 9.58 seconds, you are only going to make up a handful of lousy seconds over your 100m dash to the finish line. Instead, start to gradually wind up your speed over the last kilometre or mile (1.6km) so that you can shave minutes rather than seconds off your time.
2. Pacing Strategy
Now let’s talk about the rest of your race. You want to run as fast as you can for 9,000m and still have another gear to click into for your final 1,000m attack. The best way to achieve this is to run an even race from the start. But, in the heat of the moment it is all too easy to go off like a shot and accidentally clock a PB first kilometre leaving you limping home from halfway like you’ve been dragging an anchor uphill. Start conservatively, you can always speed up, but there’s no coming back from a blow up. Better still, decide on an even pace for your race and stick to it. Then crank it up over that final kilometre or so, gradually accelerating towards the finish line for a superb time.
3. Get a Bigger Engine
Get a bigger engine to deliver more oxygen and improve your Aerobic Speed. Aerobic speed is how fast you can run whilst remaining aerobic i.e. without accumulating fatigue causing lactic acid. Too often I see 10km runners falling into the trap of obsessive sprint training and punishing hill reps in the pursuit of so called “speed.” They put in the hard graft but the speed they are promised, by the Peter Coe obsessed running writers and the misguided notion that sprint training somehow makes a long distance runner faster, doesn’t come.
(Remember that Peter Coe was coaching Seb in the 1500m and 800m, two very different events to the 10,000m).
Given that the 10km is more than 80% aerobic and less than 20% anaerobic, you can see how improving the 80% will deliver greater results than the 20%. All this sprint training is only going to help you if you are racing in an event where you need to out kick an opponent for the win. For those of us who want to run fast 10k times, this is almost entirely irrelevant.
What to do: make 3 out of 4 training runs aerobic. Make the fourth run whatever floats your boat, I recommend a Fartlek, but stick to this ratio to run faster for longer in the 10km. If you use a heart rate monitor take 180 minus your age and run no harder than this for around 45-90 mins for your aerobic runs. This will give you a bigger engine and improve your ability to run fast for the whole race.