Setting the ambitious goal of running a sub-50 minute 10K requires a focused and specific training approach. In this guide, we'll delve into the nitty-gritty details of your training, nutrition and race-day strategy to help you achieve this impressive milestone.
Choose your race
Before you even begin training, you need to select an appropriate race at which you're going to try and break the 50-minute mark. It goes without saying that choosing a flat, fast course is the way forward here! And you're in luck, because in 2024, we have no less than FIVE super-speedy 10km PB course at Langley Burrell between April and October. So, making sure you give yourself enough time to implement the training detailed below, the first thing is to get your name on a start list!
Establish your starting point
Before crafting your training plan, assess your current fitness level by running a timed 10K. This baseline performance will help you set realistic and achievable training targets. The best way to get an honest time is to enter an event (you'll always find a bit more speed when you pin a number on) and doing this solo can be tough.
Use a specific training plan
Design a training plan that specifically targets a sub-50 minute 10K. There's plenty of free ones online or, if you're looking for a coach, post in our Facebook Group - there's plenty in our community who'd be happy to help.
Your training plan should prioritise speed workouts and incorporate interval training with 400m to 1K repetitions at a pace ~10-15 seconds faster than your goal race pace (which for a 50-minute 10km is 5 minutes per km). Include tempo runs at or slightly faster than your target pace to enhance your lactate threshold (do these around 04:30 - 04:45 minutes per km)
Regularly practice running at your goal race pace during training. It'll feel grim to begin and you may wonder how on earth you're going to hold 05:00 minutes per km for 10km at the start of your training, but have faith: it will get easier. Plus, the more you can familiarise your body with the specific demands of running at that pace, the less it'll hurt on race day (or at least, it'll be familiar!).
Progressive long runs
Gradually increase the distance of your long runs, with a focus on building stamina and mental toughness. Include segments at or near race pace (around 7:40-8:10 per mile or 4:45-5:05 per kilometer) to simulate the conditions of the 10K distance.
Hit the hills
If you've ever read any of our blogs before, you'll know we're huge fans of hill training. Why? Because they're a super-effective way of building strength and power. Find a hill where you can run up for anything between 20 - 90 seconds and push hard on the 'ups', focusing on maintaining great form, standing tall and a quick cadence. Recover on the 'downs'.
Integrate shorter, intense intervals (e.g., 200m sprints) at a pace significantly faster than your goal race pace. Aim for a pace around 6:00-6:30 per mile or 3:44-4:03 per kilometer to improve anaerobic capacity.
Dial in your nutrition to support the specific demands of a sub-50 minute 10K. Ensure you're consuming enough carbohydrates before and after training sessions (include protein after a hard workout to stimulate recovery and muscle repair) and don't neglect healthy fats for overall well-being. Hydration is also critical, especially in the days leading up to the race.
Taper taper taper
So many people neglect a decent taper, instead choosing to cram in one or two last minute sessions that do nothing to improve fitness and likely mean you're fatigued on the start line. The best way to ensure a good taper is to plan it well in advance. Give yourself a good 5 - 7 days to allow your body to recover and ensure you're at peak performance. Reduce training volume while maintaining some intensity to keep your muscles sharp. Remember, you're much better off standing on the startline 80% fit and 100% rested than 100% fit and 80% rested.
Race day execution
Have a well-thought-out race strategy. Begin at a pace slightly faster than your goal (around 7:53-7:57 per mile or 4:54-4:57 per kilometer) in order to bank a little time before settling into your target pace (8:03 per mile or 5:00 per kilometer) as the race progresses. Utilise your training experience to gauge your effort, reserving energy for a strong finish in the last kilometers.
Recovery done right
Immediately after the race, focus on recovery with a combination of stretching, hydration and proper nutrition (pizza and beer, of course). Celebrate your achievement - whatever the outcome - and, when the time's right, reflect on your performance to identify areas for improvement in your future training cycles.
Conquering the sub-50 minute 10K requires precision, dedication and a strategic approach to every aspect of your training. By tailoring your plan to the specific demands of this goal, you'll be better equipped to push your limits and celebrate the accomplishment of breaking the 50-minute barrier. Stay focused, disciplined and enjoy the journey toward your personal best. And don't forget Step #1: Enter a fast 10km!!