Six steps you need to take to get to 10k this spring

Mary Jennings: Here’s a proposal - can I tempt you out of your comfort zone and set you a 10k challenge?

To all of you who are comfortable running 5k but always stop running as soon as your watch hits that magic number, I’ve got an proposal for you this spring. Can I tempt you out of your comfort zone and set you a 10k challenge?

Before you tell me all your excuses, let me explain that doubling your long run distance can seem very daunting, but it’s actually more doable that you think. It won’t take over your life. In fact, you might be surprised at how manageable, enjoyable and rewarding your journey to 10k can be if you follow these simple steps.

Step 1: Start at 5k

Remember that buzz of your first 5k. If that memory is fresh in your mind and you are still in awe of yourself every time you complete a 5k, I would actually recommend you stay at this distance for now and not rush up to 10k. Save this project for when you lose a bit of momentum and enthusiasm for your running and need a boost. But if are you running 5k regularly and it has been a while since you felt that sense of achievement and pride in your running, then you are in the perfect position to set a 10k challenge. Become a beginner all over again experiencing all those wonderful emotions along the journey as you hit new milestones each week.

Step 2: Give yourself a deadline

I can still remember my first 10k run along the Thames path in London more than 20 years ago. Running for over an hour seemed like a crazy distance just a few months previously, but there I was, smiling along the river path. If I could do it, so can you. Picture where you might like to run your first 10k? We have got to dream and imagine it is possible. So let’s make it real. Create your own 10k route somewhere you love to run. Map out that route, print it out and make that your goal. If you prefer to run with a crowd, check out race calendars and find a 10k race 8-10 weeks from now. Nothing focuses the mind more than having a date in the diary. Now you know where you are heading.


Step 3: Structure your week

You will enjoy that grand finale run so much more if you make the effort to be consistent in your training over the next eight weeks. Now is the time to be honest with yourself. Identify three time slots each week when you will aim to run. Commit to these. Add a bonus training session in the calendar for those weeks when you feel like an extra run, or choose to keep this additional slot for some mobility and strength work. Remember that although we are building towards 10k, not all your runs will get longer each week. Most of your weekly runs will take no longer than they currently do – about 30 minutes on your feet.

Step 4: Build distance slowly

Dedicating just one time slot each week to building endurance will be sufficient to let your body adapt to the extra mileage. Keep it very simple, and aim to add just five minutes of running to your long run each week. Before you know it, you will have added 40 minutes in just eight weeks. Most runners I know choose to do this run at the weekend when time is on their side. You can make it easier on yourself if you tie it in with Parkrun. Run your “extra” minutes before Parkrun, and the crowd will carry you through the last 5k. If Parkrun is not a possibility for you, why not meet a friend for the second half of your run and let them distract you from the clock. Keep your place slow and steady on this run.

We cannot predict our future, but we can help ourselves to create an exciting one for taking an occasional step outside our comfort zone

Step 5: Give each run a focus

While the weekend run will build your endurance, all the other runs in your week should also have a specific purpose. Let your first run of the week be focused on improving your running form at a relaxed, comfortable pace. Your second run can be more physically challenging, involving speed intervals or hills to help build strength, confidence and speed. If you do have time for another run, resist the urge to do it but instead replace it with some type of movement outside of running that makes your body feel good. So whether you love to swim, walk, head to the gym or roll out your yoga mat, dedicate one training session per week to this type of self-care. It is so easy to skip this bit or just replace it with a few extra miles. The more we run, the more important it is to look after our body.

Step 6: Learn from the past

Think back to what made your journey to 5k a success. Can you build some of these habits into your new path to 10k? Maybe it was having a running buddy, a coach or indeed an enthusiastic family member cheering you on that helped you stay on track. Did you complement your running with a particular gym class or a stretching routine? Did you keep a training diary, log your progress on an app or listen to podcasts or music on the run? What can you apply from those days that might stand to you now?

Create your future

Before you know it you will be at that 10k finish line. There you will be with a smile on your face, proud of what you have achieved this spring. Maybe 20 years on you will remember the exact moment, just like I am, brought back to that morning in London as I write this. It may even be a stepping stone for you into a whole new adventure like it was for me. We cannot predict our future, but we can help ourselves to create an exciting one for taking an occasional step outside our comfort zone. Who knows where it might lead? You can tick along as you are now at 5k – or you could give this a shot.

What have you got to lose?

  • Mary Jennings is founder and running coach at Her spring term of running coaching for beginners and beyond starts March 5th