How to build up from 5k to 10k
You did it! You’re a graduate of the couch to 5k plan. You ran the first 5k a couple of weeks ago, and now you’re running 5k regularly! You have the running bug, you have the gear, and you want to have an idea.
Running friends ask if you’ll think of doing a 10k; there’s a 10k race in ten weeks that you’d love! That’s plenty of time to train for it, they say. Are you up for the challenge?
You think and, after much internal to-ing and fro-ing, agree to run a 10k. Fine! You say you’ll sign up. But now, you need to know how to build up from 5k to 10k.
Ten weeks is more than enough time to train for a 10k, especially if you’re already running 5k. It’s all about your training plan, listening to your body and getting used to gradually increasing the distance each week. With a great training programme, this transition will feel easier.
Please take a look at our top tips to help you with your 5k to 10k training plan and get to that 10k start-line. And even if you’re running 10k to say that you did it, good for you!
Remember, no matter what distance you do or why you’re doing it, you’re a runner, and that’s what matters.
Tip 1: Set a goal
What do you want to achieve? A 10k within ninety minutes? Running the full 10k with no walking breaks? Running the hills (even when they’re really steep)? Be able to maintain a steady pace throughout?
Whatever it is, could you write it down? Make it known to people so they can help you (and hold you to account when it’s raining outside, and you still need to run), and give yourself a realistic time frame. Training for a 10k (or any other distance for that matter) takes weeks, and as a runner, it’s better to have a set goal and a timeframe on that goal to help you achieve it.
Tip 2: Find a training plan
There are plenty of plans online, or you can find 5k to 10k apps on Android and iPhone. Ask a friend who’s already trained for one if you’re part of a running community either in-person or online; there’ll be plenty of people available and willing to help.
It’s ok if you search for a few and make up your own using a few different ideas. Only you know your schedule and what will work for you. Find a routine and try to get at least three to four days of running in.
Your plan should include two ‘normal’ runs, rest/recovery days and a long run day per week. Again, you could change this to suit your needs and increase or decrease runs as and when you feel you need to.
Tip 3: Incorporate your usual 5k into a longer run
If you are now regularly running a 5k (parkrun, for example), use this to get in your long run. You’re out anyway, and you might as well train whilst you’re there. Most trainers agree that between 5% – 10% additional per week is normal. Increasing miles this way also helps you get used to time on your feet, and your muscles will start to get stronger.
Parkruns are a great, free way of getting in your weekly 5k, plus they are fun; you get to meet great people, and as they are in local parks, there’s bound to be one near you! Join up, and don’t forget your barcode!
Tip 4: REST!
Make sure you are utilising the rest days from your training plan on your build-up to the 10k.
Rest days will help you in the long run. Aiming for three to four rest days per week will keep your legs fresh, helping you with distance training, and means that you can recover from those more difficult training sessions.
You can also use your rest days to do other exercises, such as cross-training or strength and conditioning. This will build up your endurance and will ultimately help you when running. Cardio is a huge part of training, but you also need to ensure that your all-around fitness and energy are maintained.
Tip 5: Stretch
Stretching and having a post-run cool-down routine after every run will reduce your risk of injury and will aid recovery between runs.
Yoga for runners is another great way to help stretch those aching muscles. There are loads of free classes on YouTube, and you can obviously pause them to help with the trickier bits.
Tip 6: Get motivated
Use friends, family, Twitter, Facebook groups to keep you going when the going gets tough. Motivation is one of the most important things that people often forget about when they’re training. When you’re training, running can be daunting, and you can lose focus.
See if anyone can run with you, get a podcast or some music on, but get out there and run. If you have to switch your training plan around to accommodate those pesky unmotivated days to get to that 10k, so be it!
Tip 7: Distance more than speed
Gradually increasing your distance is more important than running at a race pace whilst your training. You should probably have a speed or intervals session involved in your training to find a comfortable race pace for you, but building up your distances is far more important when training, especially in the beginning.
Slowly increasing your pace is better in the last few weeks. As above, getting the legs and feet used to being out and about for a longer amount of time each week is best.
Remember that slow and steady is best whilst training. Pace and speed will come later. You want to ensure you run that 10k a much as possible with no burnout.
Tip 8: Hydrate
Stay hydrated when running is important. Most runners will not take on water for 5k, but it is recommended when training and will help you when increasing the miles. A small 500ml bottle should be fine for a 10k but listen to your body. If you feel you need to take on more and you won’t need to go to the toilet every mile, go for it.
Working on your nutrition will also help. Use your long runs to work out when you’ll take on water and any sugars. Small packets of sweets are perfect for a 10k run (you can tell when there’s a race going on in our town as I cannot get hold of any multipacks for love nor money!).
Tip 9: Scout out a route
If you’re running a local 10k race, you might be able to get the route beforehand to have a bit of a recce first. Travel around it in the car (if it’s a road race), and get a feel for the hills, dips and where the start and finish are. I always feel more ready when I’ve got the route in my head and can pick up mile markers – most races will have official mileage markers, but it’s good to have your own to tick off too.
If you’re not running a particular race and are just running 10k because you want to, find the best route. Strava has heatmaps so you can see where other runners have been, and sometimes you can find excellent routes from there.
Tip 10: Have fun!
Running should be fun. Running 10k might not seem like it’s all sunshine and rainbows when you’re training and it’s getting tougher, but you’ve run 5k and felt that runner’s high! When you get that medal, or you’ve stopped at the 10k marker on your own route, you will feel on top of the world. It might not happen straight away. It might not happen until you’re in the bath, soaking your aching feet and wondering why on earth you sign up for these things, but it will. And whenever it does, hold on to that feeling. As it’ll get you through the half marathon training that you’ll inevitably sign up for!
Remember, everyone is different. Do not compare yourself to anyone else and use your own time as competition. Running should make you feel good, and whilst a local 10k will always have those hardcore runners that are going for a personal best or athletic club prize, you don’t have to be the same!
Race day prep
Just a quick one for race day – set out your running stuff the night before. You’ll feel nervous enough without stressing about where your socks are or where your lucky vest is.
Pin your number to your shirt (if you have a number) using safety pins or handy event clips.
Turn up in plenty of time, if it’s a big race, you’ll struggle to get close for parking, so make sure you have time to get parked, or if you’re using public transport, make sure you have planned for delays as it will possibly take longer to get into the town/city centre.
Start slow. You don’t want to peak at 5k and then struggle to make it from 5k to 10k. Have a great run, and enjoy the feeling of completing your first 10k!