Running: how to get from 5k to 10k in nine easy steps

For all 5k runners: use these easy tips and you’ll be running your first 10k in no time

Run five minutes extra before your Parkrun this Saturday. You get the ‘extra’ distance done early and have the camaraderie of the group to carry you around the last 5k of the long run. Photograph: iStock

Run five minutes extra before your Parkrun this Saturday. You get the ‘extra’ distance done early and have the camaraderie of the group to carry you around the last 5k of the long run. Photograph: iStock

 

If you have been hanging out at 5k distance for quite a while and wouldn’t mind setting yourself a new running goal, could I tempt you to try my Easter 10k experiment? We have eight weeks until the chocolate eggs will be unwrapped and between now and then you have the potential to build up to 10k. I promise to guide you every step of the way.

Why run longer?

Remember back to when you first started running and those doubts you may have had about your ability to reach 5k. Those initial months of running were wonderfully motivating as you conquered your fears and ran an extra few minutes each week, building slowly to 5k. Each week brought you the longest run of your life and as your fitness improved, so did your confidence. You now have a chance to reclaim those amazing feelings – 10k is waiting for you and once again you can run the longest run of your life each week this spring on your journey to 10k. Running doesn’t get much more rewarding than that.

What’s involved

If you are already a consistent runner, you don’t need to make any major changes to your running routine. In fact, as a 5k runner who is already in a regular routine of running three times a week, you will hardly even notice a difference to your week of training. The only real change is the addition of an extra five minutes each week to your weekend long run. You can maintain your two midweek runs as they currently stand. Sound too good to be true?

The endurance runner

It is amazing how our body adapts to consistent training and how endurance builds even when it is just once a week that we move into unknown territory in our ‘long run’. The trick to getting to the 10k distance without getting overwhelmed is to concentrate only on completing your current week of training. After a few weeks, you will be a different runner and what seems intimidating now will be much more manageable when you have a few longer runs under your belt.

How long does it take?

Running your first 10k does take longer than an hour for most recreational runners and the one-hour barrier is certainly daunting when your current ‘long run’ is 5k. I can still remember the exact road junction I was at when my watched beeped to tell me I had crossed that magic one-hour barrier. I never thought I would be able to run for one whole hour. But I did, and you can too. You are one of the lucky ones. Ahead of you is the moment where your watch or phone will beep to tell you that you have run for over one hour for the first time. It’s pretty special and you will always remember the moment too.

Make it easy to do

I often recommend that runners use Parkrun as part of their long run. Start by running five minutes extra before your Parkrun this Saturday. You get the ‘extra’ distance done early and have the camaraderie of the group to carry you around the last 5k of the long run. By the end of the programme, you will be running 30-40 minutes before Parkrun. 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?

Mind your pace

Combining Parkrun with a long run does require you keeping the running ego in check. Your pace should stay slow and comfortable in these long runs. The focus of the long run is on endurance, not speed. If you do enjoy a bit of speed, include that in your midweek runs or when you are training for your next 10k.

Find a race

For those I have convinced to dive in, you can plan to celebrate your success by signing up to a local 10k in April. There are plenty all over the country. If you really want to make an occasion of this milestone, look further afield for your race. The possibilities are endless – 10k runs are as popular all over Europe as they are here. While medals and race tee-shirts are motivating for some people, others would prefer to run their 10k solo on a quiet country road. Whichever you prefer, put a date in diary for the day you will run your first 10k. A deadline always focuses the mind.

Don’t rush in

If you are reasonably new to running, I would suggest you enjoy the 5k distance for at least six months before you decide to make this step up to 10k. Give your body time to adapt to running, build a solid fitness base and experiment with speed, hills and new routes over your 5k distance this spring. There is plenty of time to try longer distances in the future, but skipping past the first steps will make your journey to 10k much harder. Only decide to join me on the path to 10k when you know the time is right.

Let me help you

I have a (free) guided online eight-week programme waiting for you to access any time from The Irish Times Get Running page. Combining videos from myself and a weekly training plan, it will handhold you all the way to 10k. The programme assumes you can run 30 minutes slowly and builds you up to the 10k distance sensibly and gradually, building in technique tips, flexibility and general running advice.

It’s up to you

You don’t need me to tell you that the next eight weeks will fly by. Having a focus and a plan will help keep your fitness and your motivation in the right place in these spring months. Who knows, you might be celebrating Easter running a local 10k before you head home for a post run Easter egg. I’m pretty sure that chocolate would taste better than ever.

Mary Jennings is founder and running coach with ForgetTheGym.ie. Her new book Get Running, published by Gill Books, is out now 

Sign up for one of The Irish Times' Get Running programmes (it is free!). 
First, pick the eight-week programme that suits you.
- Beginner Course: A course to take you from inactivity to running for 30 minutes.
- Stay On Track: For those who can squeeze in a run a few times a week.
- 10km Course: Designed for those who want to move up to the 10km mark.
Best of luck!

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