Run Your Best 5-K or 10-K In 6 Weeks!

It’s no gimmick! There’s plenty to gain from racing shorter distances: improved fitness, more speed, newfound time for the rest of your life.

Bob Cooper |

The Drama of the marathon intoxicates many a runner, from starry-eyed newbies to PB-chasing veterans. But training for 42.2km isn’t the only path to glory. In fact, training for other distances – like the 5-K or 10-K – can be more challenging, and get you in better shape.

With the following six-week training plans, you can adopt a new target distance, ramp up your fitness, and simply enjoy the pleasures of running.

The 5-K: Fast Fun!

While it’s true that 5km is a race for the masses, experienced runners can treat it as a serious test of speed. “The 5-K requires a different mind-set to a longer race,” says Carol Rewick, a coach with No Boundaries, a 5-K training programme for beginners. “The effort involved is much more intense – but it’s also more temporary, because it’s over too soon for fatigue to creep in.”

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Weekly mileage in the 30s is adequate, with a long run of six to 12km.

Speedwork is more critical for 5-Ks than for longer races, because you have to get used to running with a quick stride while slightly out of breath. The emphasis should be on 400- to 800-metre intervals and short tempo-type runs at close to goal race pace. “You need to be physically and mentally prepared for the intensity of the 5-K, by expanding the threshold of what your legs and lungs can handle,” says Rewick.

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You can’t use the first kilometre or two of a 5-K to warm up, because that’s half the race. “Get your heart rate up and your muscles loose before the start with some jogging and 20-second strides, so that you’re perspiring,” says Rewick. Wear lighter racing shoes if possible, since cushioning isn’t as crucial for shorter distances. Break them in during speed workouts.

Download your 5-K training programme here.

The 10-K Speed Test!

Racing the 10-K requires more speed if you’re dropping down from the half marathon or marathon, and it requires a little more endurance and strength than the 5-K, says Ewen North, an elite 10-K runner and coach for BoldRunning. “You need to put out a hard effort and maintain it for an extended period.”


Good news for time-pressed former marathoners: you can cut your mileage almost in half. North’s plan (below) peaks at about 40 weekly kilometres, with a weekly long run of 10km to 13km.

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“As you push hard in the last 2km or so of a 10-K, you’ll feel the burn of lactic acid,” says North. “Doing repeats around your aerobic threshold delays your breakdown from lactic acid, and improves your ability to run faster for longer.” Adding intervals of 1km (2.5 laps around a track), combined with a weekly tempo run, to your usual running routine helps hit the sweet spot of endurance and speed.

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Be conservative when deciding where to position yourself at the starting line, especially if the race uses electronic timing. If you line up alongside faster runners, you might go out too fast and burn out before you reach the finish. “It’s actually an advantage to stand some distance back, where it’s less crowded,” says North.

Download your 5-K training programme here.

Prep for your 5-K or 10-K race with these steps. Start with a 15-minute jog, then complete six to eight strides, starting at 200 metres (accelerating slowly and gradually to race pace) and working down to 50 metres (accelerating rapidly to race pace). This warm-up series will prime you to start strong, so that when race day comes, your body won’t be shocked by what you’re asking it to do.

Also good for:
400- to 1 600-metre repeat workouts

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