How much training for the sub-35 minute 10km?

How much training for a sub-35 minute 10km?

Just before Christmas I ran under 35 minutes for 10km twice in the space of a month having not done so for around 12 years. There are many forms of learning but I think one of the deepest is when you can apply learnings to yourself as it requires you to over-ride your emotional being or as some call it ‘the chimp’. In this weeks blog I thought I’d share the training data which led to the outcome.

The First Time Running Sub-35 Minutes

I ran 34:40 in the WLR FM Waterford 10km race. I was 17 years of age and always running or attempting to get to 70+ miles per week (I peaked at 77). In those days, everything was high volume – the long run, the tempo run, even the strides. A day off was 5 miles easy. I was never >80kg and at 195cm, that was pretty light. There was no supplementary training only running and mainly on the road. This approach worked and the scientific literature has confirmed that high volume endurance training leads to physiological changes which ultimately result in performance gain. The only trouble is that when the training which brings about the physiological gains comes at a very high musculoskeletal cost, eventually you (I couldn’t at least) can no longer train due to injury and as such, the physiological and performance gains are unattainable. A summary of the journey to reaching the training plan which led to the same performance gain 10 years later can be read on this site.

The Second Time Running Sub-35 Minutes

The table below summarises the 8 weeks of training I did between September and November 2016 allowing for a 1 week taper (9 weeks including the race). Pre that time I was travelling in America for the month of August and ran 35 – 40 minutes on mornings it suited me. This was mainly due to my advancing age and training years which means a) it is harder to regain full fitness if you let it completely slide and b) tendons don’t like load to change too suddenly in either direction. Running as and when it suited, without routine and not for very long – allowed me to recover mentally and physically.


The 8 week training routine carried out between September 2016 – November 2016.

How fast did I run?

First race, 34 minutes 20 seconds (note: this is 17:10 per 5 km’s; I did not train faster than 17:25 per 5km) in the Leeds Abbey Dash November 6th, 2016. Second race, 34 minutes 45 seconds Sheffield Percy Pud December 4th, 2016.


Running in the Sheffield Percy Pud 10km, December 4th, 2016.

Differences in Approach

First thing is first. The approaches cannot be compared directly as they essentially compare a teenager to a grown adult. I was stronger and heavier (86kg) at time point B. Had I been capable of sustaining approach A or adopted approach B from early on – who knows – we never will.

The approaches should be taken as they are and allow for reflection. The most recent approach was designed to maximise physiological gains and minimise musculoskeletal costs. Therefore, what you will have noticed is that there was only 3 really key run days, probably unheard of in running circles. In other words, unless I thought there was real gains to be made (from running) I cut it from the programme. The second thing you will have noticed or I would like to point out is that it is full of variability – a runners best friend when it comes to avoiding tissue overload. The third thing that might surprise some is that there are no complete rest days. Rather than working excessively hard and resting (with a higher risk of injury) I worked consistently well and tried to see each day as a chance to improve an aspect of performance. Friday was the closest thing to a rest day but yoga while helping to maintain range of motion was also where I learned to relax and switch off. It was probably the only time in the working week other than sleeping where I would lie still at some point. This in turn helped my performance.

There was no periodisation rather a consistent effort. The majority of the running load was on the weekend. People will assume this is due to greater availability for recovery and it is to an extent. A better reason is that there is greater flexibility in terms of the time restraints for accomplishing tasks – in other words more head space rather than physical recovery. On Saturdays, I am a pitch-side therapist for a local rugby team. The idea of being on your feet all afternoon after a good workout in the morning might appall some runners. In reality, it was a welcome distraction and maintained low level load through my tissue which perhaps made getting going every Sunday morning easier. The last thing that might surprise committed amateurs is that I drank beer every weekend. Never more than 3 pints but at least every Saturday and sometimes Friday I had a pint. You should be picking up a ‘consistent’ theme at this point – moderation, boring I know.

Where does sub-35 rank for me?

The race in Leeds includes international standard runners and ranks me 174th. Competing in proper races like this keeps you humble and prevents you from losing the run of yourself when you win a local event. I think it’s decent. I don’t have any obvious juvenile pedigree (1500m: 4min 16 sec; 3000m: 9min 17 sec) and I spent much of my 20’s injured (although always exercising). The best thing about the approach is that the elements within it have allowed me to run in some form for about 60 weeks now. This is something that when using approach A was not possible for me. Some of you may have lots of questions about components of the programme above. I intend to use this blog-site to discuss many of the concepts that arise from the programme above. Hopefully, I will be able to share the training data in a blog entitled ‘How much training for the sub-34 minute 10km’ in the not too distant future.

All the best, Peter.