How to break 40min for 10km

Mike Trees - run 10km in less than 40 minutes

Triathletes like goals. And most triathletes I know like to have goals not just in triathlon, but in the individual discipline sports too.

10km is possibly the most popular, and easily accessible road-running event distance these days, with large numbers of events all over the country almost every week.

For many, breaking 40 minutes for 10km is a reasonable, but often elusive goal. To help you achieve that, Mike Trees (who has himself run under 30 minutes for 10km!), sets out a 12-week plan for you to achieve that target.

With the triathlon season drawing to a close for most, how about taking a mental break from the swim / bike / run with a bit of sport-specifc focus to spice things up a bit?

Mike is still a pretty handy athlete himself at 50 years of age – he’s just won both the ITU Aquathlon and ITU Sprint Triathlon Age Group World Championships in the 50-54 category!

Those that read my article’s regularly will know that I run Open Water Swim UK at Liquid Leisure, Datchet.

This year despite the cold and wet we had a record number of swimmers with us and it kept me busy all summer. However, for the next six months my focus changes to running, and I have written this plan for the many people that have asked me for advice on how to break the 40min 10km barrier.

Start with a plan

In order to achieve your goals you will need to plan, I have already planned my training for the next six months!

This is something that constantly amazes my wife, Rieko. I struggle to plan my work life schedule, but when it comes to running I know exactly what my athletes and I need to do every day. If not they have no chance of achieving our goals.

This does not mean that we will do everything on the schedule, because it is important to take account of real life factors, such as work, family, friends, illness and injury. However without a plan to work to, an athlete has no framework and so can not hope to make progress.

With this I mind I am writing this schedule for anyone who is desperate to break 40 mins for 10km, while holding down a busy job.

  • Firstly you will need to commit at least four hours to your running training a week, this is the minimum to make any real improvement.
  • I have based the training with the main load on Saturday and Sunday, when most people have more free time.
  • Finally I have split it into three “four week blocks” so that there is progression.

The theory

The training theory is based around the idea that speed is initially more important than endurance. In order to go race pace an athlete must run at race pace during training. If you can not achieve your target pace in training you have no chance in a race. Once you  have the right pace then it is time to build up stamina. In each block of training I add a bit more distance.

It is a mistake to start doing long slow running with this schedule, as this will just tire you and make it harder to run fast.

  • You will need to train to increase stride length, which is achieved by up hill running or up hill hopping.
  • You will also need to increase cadence, (leg speed), this is done by running with the wind on the flat for about 75 m
  • The stamina will come from track work or interval training, that gets progressively harder.
  • Between each short phase it is important to take an easy week.

The phases

The phases have been set as three weeks hard, one week easy. This is because the shortest time span that any physiological change can take place is three weeks. If you have more time before your 10 km race, you can repeat each phase of hard work.

This will double the length of the programme. If you repeat a “hard phase”, make sure that after every three weeks of hard running you take an easy week.

Do not train on one phase for more than six weeks as progress will not happen after that time, without change, our body adapts to the programme, and improvement stops.

Run 10km in less than 40 minutes training schedule

Below is a 12 week schedule aimed at runners trying to break 40 minutes. It can easily be modified up to a maximum of 24 weeks.

Phase One

Week 1 
MondayOff day: stretching, swim or easy bike – NO RUNNING
TuesdayEasy run with sprints: 15mins jog, 6x75m sprinting with a jog back, 15mins jog
Wednesday
Steady run 45mins: include 3,000m at 4min/km pace (if no track do 12mins at 10km race pace)
Thursday
Easy run 30-45mins
FridayOff day: stretching, swim or easy bike – NO RUNNING
SaturdayIntervals: 12x 400m at race pace i.e. 1min 30secs/400m on 2min 30 circle
Sunday75-90mins easy running
Week 2 
MondayOff day: stretching, swim or easy bike – NO RUNNING
TuesdayEasy run with sprints: 15mins jog, 8x75m sprinting with a jog back, 15mins jog
WednesdaySteady run 45mins: include 3,000m at 4min/km pace (if no track do 12mins at 10km race pace)
ThursdayEasy run 30-45mins
FridayOff day: stretching, swim or easy bike – NO RUNNING
SaturdayIntervals: 16x 400m at race pace i.e. 1min 30secs/400m on 2min 30 circle
Sunday75-90mins easy running
Week 3 
MondayOff day: stretching, swim or easy bike – NO RUNNING
TuesdayEasy run with sprints: 15mins jog, 10x75m sprinting with a jog back, 15mins jog
WednesdaySteady run 45mins: include 3,000m at 4min/km pace (if no track do 12mins at 10km race pace)
ThursdayEasy run 30-45mins
FridayOff day: stretching, swim or easy bike – NO RUNNING
SaturdayIntervals: 20x 400m at race pace i.e. 1min 30secs/400m on 2min 30 circle
Sunday75-90mins easy running
Week 4 
MondayOff day: stretching, swim or easy bike – NO RUNNING
TuesdayEasy run 30mins
WednesdayEasy run with sprints: 15mins jog, 10x75m sprinting with a jog back, 15mins jog
ThursdayEasy run 30mins
FridayOff day: stretching, swim or easy bike – NO RUNNING
SaturdayIntervals 12x 400m at race pace i.e. 1min 30secs/400m on 2min 30 circle
Sunday60 mins easy running

Phase Two

Week 1 
MondayOff day: stretching, swim or easy bike – NO RUNNING
TuesdayHills: Hopping: 6-10% hill is perfect (5hops left leg 5hops right leg twice) do 6 times
Wednesday
Steady run 45mins include 4,000m at 4min/km pace (if no track do 16mins at 10km race pace)
Thursday
Easy run 45mins
FridayOff day: stretching, swim or easy bike – NO RUNNING
SaturdayIntervals 6x 800m at race pace i.e. 3min-3:05secs/800m on 4min 30 circle
Sunday75-90mins easy running
Week 2 
MondayOff day: stretching, swim or easy bike – NO RUNNING
TuesdayHills: Hopping: 6-10% hill is perfect (5hops left leg 5hops right leg twice) do 8times
WednesdaySteady run 45mins include 4,000m at 4min/km pace (if no track do 16mins at 10km race pace)
ThursdayEasy run 30-45mins
FridayOff day: stretching, swim or easy bike – NO RUNNING
SaturdayIntervals 8x 800m at race pace i.e. 3min-3:05secs/800m on 4min 30 circle
Sunday75-90mins easy running
Week 3 
MondayOff day: stretching, swim or easy bike – NO RUNNING
TuesdayHills: Hopping: 6-10% hill is perfect (5hops left leg 5hops R leg twice) do 10times
WednesdaySteady run 45mins include 4,000m at 4min/km pace (if no track do 16mins at 10km race pace)
ThursdayEasy run 30-45mins
FridayOff day: stretching, swim or easy bike – NO RUNNING
SaturdayIntervals 10x 800m at race pace i.e. 3min-3:05secs/800m on 4min 30 circle
Sunday75-90mins easy running
Week 4 
MondayOff day: stretching, swim or easy bike – NO RUNNING
TuesdayEasy run 30mins
WednesdayEasy run with sprints: 15mins jog, 10x75m sprinting with a jog back, 15mins jog
ThursdayEasy run 30mins
FridayOff day: stretching, swim or easy bike – NO RUNNING
SaturdayIntervals 12x 400m at race pace i.e. 1min 30secs/400m on 2min 30 circle
Sunday60 mins easy running

Phase Three

Week 1 
MondayOff day: stretching, swim or easy bike – NO RUNNING
Tuesday45mins easy run
Wednesday
8,000m at 4min/km pace aim 32mins
Thursday
Easy run 30mins
FridayOff day: stretching, swim or easy bike – NO RUNNING
SaturdayIntervals 4 x 1,200m at race pace i.e. 4:30 to 4:40 /1,200m on 7min
Sunday75 mins easy running
Week 2 
MondayOff day: stretching, swim or easy bike – NO RUNNING
Tuesday45mins easy run
Wednesday6,000m at 4min/km pace, aim 24mins
ThursdayEasy run 30mins
FridayOff day: stretching, swim or easy bike – NO RUNNING
SaturdayIntervals 5x 1,200m at race pace i.e. 4:30 to 4:40 /1,200m on 7min
Sunday60 mins easy running
Week 3 
MondayOff day: stretching, swim or easy bike – NO RUNNING
Tuesday45mins easy run
Wednesday8,000m at 4min/km pace aim 32mins
ThursdayEasy run 30mins
FridayOff day: stretching, swim or easy bike – NO RUNNING
SaturdayIntervals 12x 400m at race pace i.e. 1min 30secs/400m on 2min 30 circle
Sunday45 mins easy running
Week 4 - taper week 
MondayOff day: stretching, swim or easy bike – NO RUNNING
TuesdayEasy run with sprints: 15mins jog, 6x75m sprinting with a jog back, 15 mins jog
WednesdayEasy 45 mins run
ThursdayEasy run 30mins include 6x75m sprinting walk back
FridayOff day.
SaturdayJog 20 mins
Sunday10KM sub 40 mins race!!
Week 4 - taper week 
MondayOff day: stretching, swim or easy bike – NO RUNNING
TuesdayEasy run with sprints: 15mins jog, 6x75m sprinting with a jog back, 15 mins jog
WednesdayEasy 45 mins run
ThursdayEasy run 30mins include 6x75m sprinting walk back
FridayOff day.
SaturdayJog 20 mins
Sunday10KM sub 40 mins race!!

Your expert

Mike Trees was a professional triathlete based in Asia. He won the Japanese triathlon championship twice in the 1990’s and was a multiple duathlon national champion.

Unknown to many, he also held the British record for Ironman in 1994. However his background is running and amongst his many titles we was British Universities 1,500min champion before starting triathlon and after retiring he won the 10,000m Masters World Championships in 2004.