Running your first 10km

Written by Tim Matthewson 07 August 2021

Last modified on 02 November 2023
Entering a 10km trail race on a Tracks and Trails running camp in Chamonix, France Entering a 10km trail race on a Tracks and Trails running camp in Chamonix, France

Having worked out with Joe Wicks in the living room, completed couch to 5km and participated in the local Parkrun it’s time for the next challenge, running 10km.

Doubling the distance can be intimidating but it’s a fulfilling distance to train for, it won’t take over your whole life and following a few simple steps you’ll be able to see huge improvements quickly. 

So, what better way to enter the autumn than with a plan ready to challenge yourself, push your limits, and explore new areas outdoors.  If it's been a while since you last exercised or you have any health issues or concerns, talk to your doctor before starting a new running routine.

Read on to find out how to progress safely through the stages of running your first 10km.

Increasing weekly Mileage and Duration

The best way to train for a 10km run having never run further than 5km before is to increase weekly mileage. Maximising time on your feet by running 3 to 4 times a week for an 8-week training schedule will help you reach the finish line. Aim to go longer each week, adding no more than 10% of the previous weeks distance on to the next week and only pushing yourself if you feel comfortable. For example, 20km week 1, 22km week 2, 24.2km week 3 and so on. 

Look at doing one long run a week. (This could be starting with a 5km, then 6km, 7km the next week and so on). This will help teach the body efficient running form for the length of time required to complete a 10km run. It’s important to go slowly during this run and take care not to do more than one long run a week, pushing yourself too hard could increase the risk of injury.

Another way to maximise duration is to mix walking and running during a session, the similar movements will make for efficient conditioning. Try experimenting by using interval training, many short 30 second bursts of high intensity running will increase your aerobic capacity and help ensure you have the endurance to finish your first 10k.

Towards the end of your training schedule – 10 days from when you’re going to run your first 10k, consider tapering your training by running less. During these days don’t push yourself, this will eliminate the chance of fatigue and muscle soreness before the main run, while maintaining the hard work you’ve put in in the previous weeks. The most important thing to do is trust your training plan and stick to it, this will keep you positive for the next week.

Recovery and Relaxing during the training programme

A few days a week take rest days, not only will this help avoid injury but will also allow your muscles to repair, recover and boost confidence.  Doing too much work will quicken the rate of fatigue in the muscles, so relax and fill muscle stores with glycogen to provide energy for the next days run. If you don’t like the feeling of being stationary during a training programme, try cross training IE: go for a gentle walk or bike ride, but don’t overwork as this may reverse the progress you’ve already made. 

Improving flexibility on rest days is a good idea, just 10 minutes of run specific stretching or run related yoga can make a huge difference in speeding recovery and preventing muscles which you’re using more than normal from getting tight. Try focusing on the runners 5 muscles; Calf, Hamstring, Quad, Glutes and Hip flexor, stretching these main muscles used during running will decrease recovery time, there are lots of videos online about how to carry out stretches effectively.

How to enjoy training

Try bringing in variation to your training programme, this will make the hard work easier and can reduce boredom during runs. Running with friends or family offers encouragement and planning to have a coffee or do something after the run will give you something to look forward to while running. 

Running with music or listening to a podcast can make the time go quicker and allows you to loosen up and focus on something else when running. 

Experiment with cross training, a cycling or swimming session each week will continue to increase endurance while offering a day with less stress going through the legs. 

Varying the time of day and place you run will help make runs more exciting, being able to explore new places nearby will give you the drive to stick at it and not give up.

Planning your first 10km run

When the hard works done, it’s time for the fun bit, planning your run. Running isn't about racing but signing up for an event or run with friends is a good way to stay motivated, on target for your goal and also the camaraderie of running with others is highly addictive!

Consider where you’re going to do the run, it might be a good idea to do two 5k loops, being able to pick up some water halfway will be of benefit rather than carrying it with you which might disrupt running form. Pick a cool day and somewhere flat, if this is your first 10k, it will give you the best chance to enjoy the run. Consider an off road or trail 10km, arguably easier to immerse yourself in the scenery and not worry about waiting for the mile markers to go by.

Try not to change things at the last minute, wear the clothes and shoes you’ve been training in to stop minor things from undoing all the training you’ve done. There are lots of apps you might choose to track your first 10km run on, such as Strava. This will give you something to look at after the run and be proud of, as well as providing a benchmark to track future progress.  

Relax and chill out for a few days before the big day, enjoy the feeling that you’ve worked hard and are well prepared. Soon enough you’ll have caught the running bug and want to start training for your next run, race, bigger distance or maybe even a running camp!

The Tracks and Trails Peak District Trail Running Camp is open to all 10km runners looking for an opportunity to improve their running knowledge, and ability to run off road in a relaxed environment. Graded as 'leisurely' covering around 10km a day our running camp is an opportunity to meet like minded people. Packed full of information on training, gear testing, expert talks filling you full energy, motivation and advice for the trail ahead.

For further details about our UK and Chamonix based running camps and holidays visit our Trail Running website pages.

Written by guest blogger Tim Matthewson in the first of a series of 5 trail running articles. Tim is on the road to becoming a sports physiotherapist and during the Covid-19 pandemic has used running as his mental and physical escape. He's a keen fell runner and hill walker running his first 100km trail race in September 2021, and keen to encourage others into running and exploring the outdoors.

- Tim Matthewson