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Training for a 40 minute 10km

By Roch Frey

The sub 40 min 10km, similar to the sub 4-min mile barrier in the 50's, is one of those times in running that seems impossible to break, but once broken is easy to accomplish time and time again. Training for a 40 min 10km, whether in a straight up 10km road race or at the end of an international distance triathlon, is achievable if the goal is realistic for you and if the proper training is performed.

The first step in achieving a sub 40 min 10km is to ask yourself if this is a realistic goal. This is a 6:26 pace per mile. Is your P.R. for a 10km around 41 or 42min? If so then yes, breaking 40 min with the correct training is realistic. On the other hand, if your best 10km time is 48min then you may want to key in on breaking 45 min first. After determining that sub 40 min is achievable then you need to pick a race that suits your strengths. Pick a flat course if you have more leg speed than strength or a rolling course if you feel strong on the hills.

Following is a 6-week training program that is specifically geared toward a sub 40 min 10km. Throughout the schedule you will notice that the harder training sessions are on the track and road and the intensity is determined by heart rate or pace. Just running on the track or only training with a heart rate monitor is not the best way to train. You need to use a combination of different running terrains and different ways to determine your intensity and pace. Track sessions will give you direct feedback as to what pace you are running and intervals on the roads or trails at certain heart rates will allow you to train the proper system without worrying about pace. Try not to always get caught up in what pace you are running (especially on easier or longer days) and / or always watching your heart rate. There are days when you need to head out the door and just run going by feel not worrying about what pace you are running or at what heart rate.

Try to follow the schedule as closely as possible and if a workout is missed, try not to make it up later on in the week, just get back into the program. If you have been running consistently over the past 2-3 months then you should be able to get right into the program. If not, ease up on the first few harder sessions until you feel comfortable with faster running. It is extremely important to remember that gains in athletic performance come from consistent training over a longer period of time. Last weeks hard training sessions won't do you any good if you have to take a full week of to properly recover. Consistency is key and in this case 6 weeks of proper training will help you achieve that sub 40 min 10km.

If you have yet to do a first race of the year, its best not to use this 10km as that race. Try a shorter race such as 5km on the weekend of week 2 or 3. This will not effect your training or preparation for the 10km. Just make sure you get a slightly longer warm-up of 30 min and a good cool-down of 30 min after the race. Try to hit your goal pace of 6:13 for two or three miles of the race.

Race Day Prep:

Get to the race at least 60 min before the gun goes off. Drive the course if possible to become familiar with it. Warm-up with 20-30 min of easy running followed by 4-6 accelerations (similar to a proper warm-up before a track session). Keep jogging lightly right up to the start of the race or until you are corralled behind the starting line.

Pacing for the race is important.

To many times people start out to fast only to feel the weight of a couple pianos on their backs around mile 4 or 5. Start out feeling a little conservative. This will still probably take you through the first mile slightly quicker than 6:13. Don't panic if you are slower than your goal pace. Pick it up slightly being cautious not to run a 5:30 second mile. Even pacing, or better yet, negative splitting the race (running the second half faster than the first) is the best way to reach your sub 40min 10km. If you know of another runner who consistently runs 39min 10kms and is known to even pace there races, then stick with them, but still keep track of your pace and effort incase the person is having an off day.

6 week Sub 40min 10km Training Program:

Week Mon Tue Wed Thurs Fri Sat Sun
1 Day off 60min Track 60-90min X-train or 30 min easy run 40 min Easy +accel 40min Intervals 60-90min X-train 80 min long
2 Day off 70min Track 60-90min X-train or 40 min easy run 50 min Easy +accel 50 min Steady 60-90min X-train 90 min long
3 Day off 70min intervals 60-90min X-train or 40 min easy run 40min Easy +accel 60 min Track 60-90min X-train 105 min long
4 Day off 70min Track 60-90min X-train 50min Easy +accel 60 min Steady 60-90min X-train 90 min long
5 Day off 70min Track 60-90min X-train 50min Easy +accel 50 min Intervals 60-90min X-train 70min long
Day off 50min Track 40min Easy 40 min Easy +accel Day off 30 min Easy RACE!
  • Easy- 60-75%of Maximum Heart Rate,
  • Long- Long aerobic runs at 70-80% of Maximum Heart Rate,
  • Steady- 80-90% of Maximum Heart Rate,
  • Intervals- repeats of certain time (each Interval described in detail below),
  • Track- repeats of certain distances performed on a running track (each track workout described in detail below),
  • Accel- accelerations performed at the end of an easy run,
  • X-train- Cross Training in a sport other than Running,

Trust your instincts in following the schedule. The workouts are not etched in stone. Use your own cognitive intuition when performing a workout. Injuries, unfortunately, do occur. If time is taken off at the first signs of an injury, time off is kept to minimum. Consult a health care professional if unsure.

Easy Runs:

  • Are just that- easy relaxed runs at 60-75% of your max heart rate. To determine Heart rate training levels you can use a simple formula of 220- your ages (226 for women). This will give you a predication of your maximum heart rate. It is best to determine you're training heart rate zones without the use of a formula. You can do this by performing a max heart rate test, but this is extremely hard to do and can also be dangerous. A better way is to determine your Anaerobic Threshold rather than Max heart rate and then determine your training levels from this. This can be performed as easily as wearing your heart rate monitor at your next 5-or10km-road race. Most athletes can maintain just at or slightly above there AT throughout a 30-45min effort. There are also several coaches and physiology labs that can perform a simple AT test running on a treadmill. Your average heart rate throughout the race then corresponds to 85-90% of your max heart rate.


  • Short 60-100 meter accelerations performed towards the end of an easy run, with a walk-back recovery between. Find a flat stretch of road, grass, trail, or on a track and accelerate throughout the distance up to 90% top speed; slow down, walk back and repeat 4-10 times. These help tremendously with leg speed and should be performed weekly throughout the year.

Steady Runs:

  • A steady run on varying terrain (hilly and flat) at 80-90% of Maximum heart rate (within 5 beats below and above your AT) or between 20-30 sec slower than race pace (6:43-6:33 per mile). Be sure to warm-up and cool-down for the first and last 10-15 min of these runs.


  • -Repeats of certain durations ranging from 1-4 minutes in length followed by a rest interval of moderate running. All intervals will be at certain heart rates. The recovery should be easy enough to allow the heart rate to drop down to70% of Max. heart rate or about 20-30 beats. Warm-up and cool-down 15min before and after each interval session.
  • Session #1- Week 1 - 4x 4min at 80-85% of Max. heart rate/ 2-min recovery after each, 10 min cool-down.
  • Session #2- Week 3 -7x 3min at 80-85% of Max. Heart Rate/ 2-min easy recovery after each, 15- 20 min cool-down.
  • Session #3- Week 5 5x 1min at 80-95%of Max. Heart Rate (start the first 1 min at 80% and progressively get faster on each one making the last one the fastest)/ 2min easy recovery after each, 10 min cool-down.


  • - Repeats of certain distances ranging from 200-800 meters on a track. Each repeat is followed by an easy recovery run. Start all track sessions with a 15-20min warm-up and 4-6 accelerations. Finish all track sessions with 15-20min cool-down and light stretching.
  • Session #1- Week 1 - 6-8x 400m followed by 200m easy jog recovery. All 400's run at 5 sec faster than 10-km race pace (1:31)
  • Session #2- Week 2 - 4-5x 800 followed by 400 recovery. All 800's run at 5 sec faster than 10km pace (3:08).
  • Session #3- Week 3 - 8x200 with 200 jog recovery. All 200's run at 10 sec faster than 10km pace (38sec)
  • Session #4- Week 4 - 8-10x 400 followed by 200 easy jog recovery. All 400's run at 5 sec faster than 10km pace.
  • Session #5- Week 5 - 3x 800m followed by 400 jog recovery run at 5 sec faster than 10km pace (3:08), 4x 400m followed by 200 jog recovery run at 10 sec faster than 10km pace (1:26), 5x 200 followed by 200 jog recovery run at 10 sec faster than 10km pace (38sec).
  • Session #6- Week 6 - 4x 400 followed by 400 jog recovery. All run at 5-10 sec faster than 10km pace (1:26-1:31).

Repeat times for track sessions:

10 Km Time200m Repeats400m Repeat800m Repeat
40:0048 sec1:363:13

Long Runs:

  • Long runs at 60-80% of maximum heart rate. Important not to run faster than 80%. This should be a relaxing, non-stressful run. Try to perform these long runs off road on the softer trails, which are easier on the legs.

Strength training:

  • If you are already performing weight workouts, maintain the sessions twice a weekly and stop two weeks prior to race day.

Cross -Training:

  • On Wednesdays and Saturdays you should cross train with activities other than running. Cycling, Swimming, Inline Skating or almost any other physical activity that you enjoy is a form of cross training. Performing another activity besides running will give you a mental and physical break from running while still strengthening your cardiovascular system and condition the overall body. Cross training will substantially reduce the risk of a running related injury. It is important to keep the Cross Training activities at an easy effort so you will have energy to perform your run workouts properly.

Roch Frey

Roch Frey is a former professional triathlete from Canada whose coaching expertise is becoming renown among the very best in the sport of triathlon. Currently the coach of UCSD's Master's Swimming and Triathlon programs, Roch is also on the staff of the Multi-Sport School of Champions, runs his California Dreaming Triathlon and Two Men Will Train You Training camps with Paul Huddle and works throughout the year with his own person stable of clients including Heather Fuhr (Ironman Hawaii Champion and Japan Ironman winner), and Peter Reid (Fourth place Ironman Hawaii)