Emergency 10k Training Programme – The Result and the Finale!

“James, I’m doing a 10k run!” shrieked Jayne, her voice full of apprehension and anxiety.

She was not alone in feeling desperately nervous about being given a last minute place for this weekend’s Great Manchester Run and with only seven days to go was feeling totally unprepared and lacking confidence. Why shouldn’t she be? She has never run 10km before or taken part in any such event. But more importantly, she hasn’t had the time to properly prepare a progressive programme building up to the event.

“Don’t panic,” I assured her. There are certain advantages that come with having a personal trainer for a boyfriend! Only some! But I was certain, whilst she was certainly not, confident that she was more than capable of not only completing the distance, but doing reasonably well.

Jayne is no runner. Sure, she is slim and trim, eats relatively healthily and irregularly takes part in my outdoor fitness classes as and when her schedule permits. But other than runfit classes, she has never really taken the time to develop her ability to run and more importantly her confidence. She is not alone.

So many people see running and being able to run as a pinnacle of one’s fitness ability. There is an anxiety that sticks to it like a thick fog on a humid day, a trepidation that hovers over like the thunderclouds that encroach above. So often, getstartedfitters take self-inflicted blows to their confidence. They start running but as soon as the fatigue sets in, panic strikes, breathing goes and they stop, believing that it is due to their fitness level and not realising that they are simply running too fast for their level.

Jayne has taken part in runfit classes, so she is aware of this, of her technique, of her base pace and what she can push and how she can pull back and recover. But still, 10km?

It is not as far as it sounds.

And this is the trick, her emergency training programme must show her that she is in complete control and give her the confidence to complete the distance in a reasonable time.

“Under an hour?” she asked, wide eyed and unsure of whether this was achievable and realistic, particularly with limited training time before the event. Not a problem. What is key when constructing this emergency plan is still ensuring that is is progressive and that she can peak for her performance on Sunday. It needs to show her that she is MORE than capable of achieving her goals with sensible, progressive training and execution of an intelligent plan. Usually when training for an event, we should gently progress over a 6-12 week period. This week long emergency programme is not to advocate these longer mesocycles. But is is an opportunity to see the bare bones of any progressive programme and give ideas on how you can build up your own.

DAY ONE – Jayne needs to see that she can achieve her target time and quite possibly better it. She needs to learn the pace required, understand it and understand how she feels at that pace. We start her emergency 10km training plan looking at her target. To complete 10km in one hour, she needs to be achieving an average pace of 6minute/km. This is the foundation from which she can build over the week.

3 x 6min/km with full recovery periods.

Jayne run 3km in total in 1km blocks at 6min/km.

DAY TWO – Now we need to build on those 6min/km and show Jayne she can maintain this for longer in preparation for day three’s push. The workout needs to be longer in distance as well as longer in time spent at 6min/km. She will now run 2km in 12 minutes, before recovering and repeating. 4km in total in 24 minutes.

2 x 12min/2km with recovery period

DAY THREE – Now that Jayne has built confidence with her base pace, she needs to learn it is a platform from which she can push and return to if necessary. She must learn to run it alone, so she arms herself with the stopwatch and attempts a 5km best effort run, with an aim to complete sub 30minutes. This will show her that she can continually run for half the distance required at above the pace that is required and also give her confidence about pushing herself alone. Almost half-way through her emergency plan and she is completing half the distance.

1 x 5km best effort.

Jayne aces it, earns hugs and gets herself 28.02 for her 5km run. Perfect progress!

DAY FOUR – Since her event is only days away, it is important she doesn’t over-train in the week prior to her event. In a normal progressive programme, the week prior would likely be an active rest week, allowing the body to be fighting fit, fully recovered and ready to push for Sunday. Jayne does not have this luxury but she will benefit more from the rest day than continuation of her plan, especially having pushed so hard for a 5km the previous day. The main hindrance of many training programmes and the ability to constantly achieve training progressions is over-training. So give yourself a rest!

DAY FIVE – Time to banquish Jayne’s “distance” fears and show her how far she’s come even in such a short space of time! The furthest Jayne had ever conciously run prior to this week emergency plan was 5k and ofcourse, she isn’t giving herself credit for what she is already achieving. She needs to know that a couple of extra kilometers at the pace she has been training is not as scary as it currently seems and she also needs to start building a picture of what it feels like to get that extra distance into the legs. After a long long day at work, Jayne arrives home at 22:30. “Let’s go” she says.

Tonight’s distance is 7km route best effort broken down into timed splits to show the distance she is gaining on her target 6 minute/km. She will be given a short and time recovery between each split to note her ‘recovery period’ and also to run through technique and brief for each stage. The night’s training programme looks as follows.

7km route

6 minutes best effort (target 1km)

Recovery and brief

12 minutes best effort (target 2km)

Recovery and brief

18 minutes best effort (target 3km)

Recovery and brief on distance gained on top of 6 minute/km

Best effort race finish to home (<1km… hopefully!)

Jayne starts with her 6 minute chomp into her 7km route. The pace is good and when it is over, though tired, it is clear she has gained a couple of hundred yards on her target distance. It takes Jayne around 90 seconds to recover, which is great and gives us an indicator that should she be pushing her limits within a race, start fatigue and need to slow down to her baseline pace, that aslong as she focuses on her technique and breathing, she may only need to spend that 90 seconds before being able to gradually push the pace again. The pattern continues with each split, recovery taking slightly longer each time but she continue to visibly gain ground on her target, great for building her confidence and showing her what she is capable of. This is shown CLEARLY when she completes the final 3km installment. She has easily gained between 300-400 meters leaving only 0.6km to go best effort. Time to teach race finishing as Jayne builds and build her pace, posturing up and driving with the arms. She looks like a runner!

Jayne touches the front door. She can’t speak. This is fantastic, noone should finish a race feeling like they could have run another meter or they haven’t pushed as hard or intelligently as they should have. I can see her confidence wavering as my praise glides over her head like the evaporating moisture that billows from her pours into the night’s sky. I show her the maths.

Target for 6 minute/km = 7km in 42 minutes.

Jayne’s actual 7km = 39.40 – meaning she has gained 2 minutes 20 seconds in total, 20 seconds quicker than target per km!

Translate this into pushing her 10km race that gives her an average of 5 minute 40 seconds/km or a 10km upper target of 56 minutes 36 seconds.

Compare this to her constant 5km best effort in which she achieved 28.02 minutes she has only lost 16 seconds per extra km. Now, for her final training tonight to maintain those 5.40 minute/km splits over a longer distance, her penultimate preparation before her endeavour on Sunday. Promising progress!

DAY SIX – “Can we not go early in the morning instead?” It is 11pm and another long day is reaching it’s climax. But heads cannot rest on pillows, eyes cannot shut for sleepy slumber, not until the final shift of the 7 day emergency 10k programme Jayne has executed perfectly since finding she had a place just under a week ago, is over. Unfortunately, we can’t go in the morning. With only one full day separating tonight from race day, this whole week would ideally be active rest and recovery for the run, after a progressive programme cycle on 4,6,8 or even 12 weeks training up to the event. Jayne hasn’t had that luxury of a normal preparation, but she will have Saturday, her 7th day to try and recover from tonight’s training and be fully prepared for Sunday’s race. Tonight will be her toughest challenge so far. A stones throw from her target distance, the longest Jayne has ever run and this time without the benefit of stoppages at each target split.

8.5km without stopping. A week ago our goal was 3km, stopping every kilometer to ensure we were reaching our 6 minute/km as efficiently as possible. It is a long way to come in one week. Jayne knows it. So do I, but I tell her tonight isn’t a problem.

“Go and enjoy yourself” I reassure her. The heavy rain that has been tantruming tropically over the North-West seems to have finally cleared the air and the temperature as dropped, our breathe spectres of each laboured exhalation as we begin our final pounding of the pavements before Sunday.

Luckily, I never had to teach Jayne to drive. We didn’t know each other back then. I’m sure many of you are aware that such a high pressure situation quite often can be the break of a relationship, so thank God we haven’t and won’t have that test. But for the first time in our near-year together, I got a taste of what that might have been like. The weather’s torrid tantrum might have ended but storms thundered in fits and starts as each kilometer was tallied off the chalkboard. The chalkboard was obviously as endless as the  night’s black sky, as Jayne’s tired legs passed 6km.

“Use that negative energy,” I repeated “as energy to finish this and finish it strong.” It is easy when pushing yourself beyond limits to begin to see all the reasons why you can’t finish your endeavour. But what is actually is happening, is through the process of convincing yourself this is the case, you are forgetting what got you that far in the first place. Every “I can’t do it,” is oxygen that would have been better served supplying the muscles with what they need to go on, what is needed to get that heart rate down and breathing under control. Every wide mouthed groan and growl is an opportunity missed to purse those lips and focus on taking control.

1 kilometer to go. For Jayne, it’s less than 6 minutes running. It’s 6 minutes flat out, best effort, using everything left in the tank to cross that line in the knowledge that couldn’t have physically gone any quicker. It builds. Jayne’s eyes are puffy and red, tears streaming down her cheeks, legs stiffening. Her head aches, her shoulder is cramping, her hip flexors are pulling. Only 6 minutes.

She touches her front door, reaching out ahead of her reluctant body with desperate fingers, in essence her nose crossing the line. I sweep her into my arms and pull her close, her buddy shuddering and overwhelmed with exhaustive emotion.

Her first words are full minutes later and perfectly capture the self-hindering brick wall we often build in front of ourselves when we engage on such endeavours. “I did crap didn’t I?” Her face creases and her head presses against my chest.

“No Jayne, you did AMAZING!” And she had, although there doesn’t lie the point. She had done as good as she have possibly done. What more can anyone ever ask? We are too hard on ourselves.

“Was it a rubbish time?” She looks up with wide and pink eyes.

48.57. Her longest constant run so far and still, with only a hypothetical 1.5km to go, a whole 2.03 minutes quicker than the target 6 minute/km target. In fact, her average pace, in spite of finishing her run after midnight after a long work shift, without race nutrition and with plenty of valid reasons that might force many to stop and walk, she averaged 5.45 minute/km gaining 15 seconds every km (so over 10km two and a half minutes gained and therefore, potentially finishing 57.30 minutes)

It’s been a tough but incredibly successful week. Every target set has been reached and even over 7 days, Jayne has built a picture for herself that in fact, she can run this 10km under the one hour. All that is left is a hot bath, a good stretch out, a well earned night’s sleep and DAY SEVEN’s final preparation before Sunday…

DAY SEVEN – It is Saturday and we are 24 hours before race time. Today, Jayne’s focus is not only to rest those muscles but also to ensure her bodies energy stores are full stocked up. Below is a brief guide to restoring those glycogen stores pre-race carb loading.

Firstly, it’s important that you regulate your blood sugar levels. One of the best ways to do this is to eat your meals regularly over the course of the day. Five to six meals should allow you to appropriately space them out over the day and keep the blood sugar levels stable.  With atleast three of those, you want to include complex carbohydates. These will also help regulate glucose in the blood but stock up glycogen stores ready for race day. To work out how much carbohydrate to eat per meal, work out your bodyweight in kilograms and eat that number in grams per meal (so 60kg = 60g per meal)

Hydration is also going to be vitally important. With each meal drink 5ml of water for every kilogram in bodyweight (so 60kg = 300ml) plus sips throughout the day. On race day, this can be replaced by electrolyte drinks for the body’s essential salts to stay hydrated. In the morning, Jayne will be on more carbohydrates, atleast 4 hours before race time. 200-300g should suffice! Low protein and low fibre to avoid digestive troubles, just stick to carbohydrates! Pasta for breakfast then!

About an hour before the race, Jayne will have her final top up. Oatbars, electrolyte drinks and maybe a banana, all important to give her the energy she needs to get her through the race. Preparation is complete and the 7th day is coming to a close. Only race day and the conclusion of Jayne’s journey to come…


THE FINALE – “Pasta just isn’t a breakfast meal.” Jayne’s briefly awakened eyes look like they are caught in the headlights, as she glances towards me for expected sympathy. It’s early morning and four hours before the gunshot fires and the truest measure of Jayne’s endeavour will begin to be realised. There isn’t much sympathy. Her pasta in tomato and basil sauce doesn’t look like the most appetising breaking of fast, but low protein, low fibre, high carbohydrate; it’s the perfect start to her day and she’ll need it today. Her bag is packed, oatbars, electrolyte drinks. It’s a bag full of nerves and the journey to the station shows this.

“Good luck.” Her lips quiver briefly before she pulls away. Jayne will do fine. A week is not a long time to be training, nor to be genuinely progressing her fitness. But what Jayne achieves today will be as good as she could possibly have achieved anyway. What the week’s training will have done is show her just what she is capable of and give her the confidence to reach her targeted time.

She is meeting with some other participants of outdoor fitness classes in Cheadle. I’m kicking myself for not being there to cheer her on, but it was too short a notice and there are getstartedfit, fightfit, sportsfit and runfit sessions to run. The early start is killing my mobile phone and between classes I try and use the car charger to top it up, eager for news of her progress. It comes, the call. The fightfitters are post session stretching but have all followed the blog and are as keen as me to hear how she has done. They rush over. No pressure then…

“55.10,” she screams!

I can’t help but scream back and I seem to have gained a chorus to my orchestra, as the fightfitters punch the airwaves in delight. It’s an amazing time for a first time 10ker and even more astounding given she has trained for one week only!

But the best may be to come.

“The time could be as good as 53.00, as we didn’t cross the electronic line for a couple of minutes due to the crowd!” She cannot contain her pride and excitement. And why should she? It is a phenomenal achievement! I tell her how proud I am. And when she is delivered to me at Abney Hall Park, her smile is brighter than the medal across her chest. She had done it. I hugged her tight to my chest. Her 7 day emergency plan had helped show Jayne her potential and she had demonstrated it perfectly.

Nothing I can write for her final day can do her experience justice…

So to hear the account of Jayne’s experience first hand AND her official race time, keep checking the blog for updates this week as we hear from Jayne herself. (I’m proud of you baby!) If you are looking to improve your running times and techniques, why not join us for a runfit class at Abney Hall Park, Cheadle?