How to progress from 5k to 10k – with a tip from Eilish McColgan

If you’ve got the running bug and you’ve ticked that 5k box, inevitably a longer distance event comes to mind.

The good news is that if you’re planning on how to progress from 5k to 10k, you’ll have almost certainly already run 5k. And from a fitness point of view, that means you are way beyond halfway in terms of being ready.

If you’ve run 5k (3 miles, 188 yards) then you’re just six weeks or so away from being ready to tackle the longer 10k (6.2 miles) distance.  

 You won’t need to make many changes to your running, but make sure you think about a few key elements to make sure your first ever 10k is one to remember for all the right reasons. 

An older couple running towards the cameraCredit: Shutterstock / LightField Studios
When you’re ready, increasing your run from 5k to 10k is an easy move to make

Progressing from 5k to 10k – key considerations

Allow six weeks minimum

Give yourself six weeks if you’re 50 and over. If you fit into an older age category – 60 plus – then eight-10 weeks is a better option. You’ll still see great improvements as you progress, it’s just that everything (as we know) takes a little longer to fit into place. 

Advertisement

Have a goal and write it down

That small move makes an incredible difference and can honestly be the difference between success and failure. Reading it every day makes you so much more accountable…and it works Kevin Young the 1992 Olympic 400m hurdles champion wrote he was going to win gold in 46.7 seconds on his mirror. And he did, in exactly that time. 

Make the most of rest days

Build plenty of rest days into your schedule, but on those rest days make sure you do something to help your body recover; do a little stretching, take part in a Pilates or yoga class, or perhaps do some bodyweight exercises such as squats, lunges, press-ups.

Rest your legs from running but use the time effectively. Strength training for runners really does help you recover more effectively. 

Play around with the distances

Run three times a week and go a little longer once a week. Never add more than about 10% to your longest run but gradually take your time and add a little here and there. 

Adapt your plan according to personal needs

If you’re following a schedule like the one below, modify it to your own needs and don’t be frightened to add a little more time to things. Improvement isn’t about rushing anything; it’s about taking your time. 

Advertisement

Try alternative recovery aids

Do take care to think about active recovery, by taking the likes of CBD oil or turmeric, which can help your body recover faster. Epsom salt baths are also great. 

Your 5k to 10k progression training plan

This 5k to 10k running training plan is just a guide – you must listen to your body, and everybody will react differently.

We’ve worked to a week here, but in realty the 70+ age group should work over 10-14 days, as you’ll need longer to recover.

However, that’s not a reason to take it easy. Everyone gets slower, but by working hard, you can still add faster sessions when you feel ready. Indeed, for a lucky but significant number you will get better!

Make sure you include plenty of other exercise in your running programme too, be that swimming, spinning or something like Pilates. Your goal is to run three to five times a week, depending on your age and personal capability.

50+  60+  70+ 
Monday  Easy run  Long walk  Long walk 
Tuesday  Easy run but include four short surges with two minutes of easy running between each  Easy run followed by 10×20 seconds working on form rather than speed  Swim or five minutes of jogging before Pilates or bodyweight exercises 
Wednesday  Mobility work such as Pilates  Mobility work such as Pilates  Easy run up to 45 minutes 
Thursday  Easy run  Short run but follow it with 10 minutes of mobility work  Short run but follow it with 10 minutes of mobility work 
Friday  Off  Off  Off  
Saturday  Easy run  Easy run  Off, or take part in a Parkrun but go easy 
Sunday  Longer run   but increase the pace after each 5k  Longer run. Go easy!  Longer run once every two-three weeks 

‘What 10k means to me’: a champion runner’s view

Eilish McColgan, the 10k Commonwealth Champion, loves the distance and uses that passion to not just run faster herself but also help runners of every age achieve their best. 

“I find the 10k is a distance I can really push myself in,” she told Saga Exceptional. “The 5k is a little too short and I’ve not quite found my limits over the longer distances like the half marathon.

“It’s an event that everyone can target and perhaps a lot more achievable than targeting a full marathon!”

10k runner Eilish McColgan running the trails near her houseCredit: Paul Larkins
Eilish McColgan says 10k is her favourite distance

“Mentally, I enjoy the fact it’s two 5ks. I can pace myself through the first half and then really give it everything I’ve got towards the finish line. 

“As you get older, it’s definitely important to adapt your training slightly. Recovery can be a little slower, so even at my age I do less high intensity sessions than I did when I was younger.

“My mother (Liz, the 1988 10,000m Olympic silver medallist) and I coach athletes from all over the world, the oldest being in his eighties, and the most important part of their training is balance. Having hard workouts but enough recovery scheduled afterwards. That is the key!” 

Great 10k races around the UK

There are hundreds up and down the country every weekend, but if you fancy a big city experience, complete with cheering crowds and loads of entertainment, take a look at these races. 

Asics London 10k

July 9 2023

Live bands, DJs and cheering fans will motivate you all along the route, which takes in Westminster Bridge, the London Eye, Regent Street, Piccadilly Circus and Big Ben. 

The Asics 10k takes in all of London's amazing sightsCredit: Asics London 10k
The Asics 10k takes in all of London’s amazing sights

Vitality London 10k

September 24 2023

The iconic 10k event guides you past some of London’s most famous landmarks, including Admiralty Arch, St Paul’s Cathedral, the Bank of England, Somerset House, Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament, and Westminster Abbey, so there’s plenty to feast your eyes on as you run. 

Cancer Research London Winter Run

February 25 2024 

You’ll start in Trafalgar Square and finish at Big Ben, passing incredible sights on the way. Plus, there’s some great entertainment on the course, including a jazz band and a choir to keep you inspired for the whole distance. 

Great Scottish Run 10k

October 1 2023 

This race starts in the city centre and as all the runs in the Great Run series, is a celebration of everything that makes the city great. You’ll enjoy a route that mixes urban architecture with green spaces and plenty of history. 

Run Bournemouth Supersonic 10k

October 8 2023 

The Supersonic 10k is a fantastic flat and fast course, great for setting a quick time. An increasingly popular race, this is a great step-up for those who have completed a 5k in the past.

Cardiff Bay 10k

March 24 2024 

The route takes in all of Cardiff Bay’s most iconic landmarks, starting and finishing in Roald Dahl Plass and passing the Wales Millennium Centre, Mermaid Quay, the  Pierhead Building, Senedd, Porth Teigr and the Cardiff Bay Barrage. 

Great Birmingham Run 10k

May 5 2024 

The AJ Bell Great Birmingham Run is the Midlands’ biggest and best running event. There’s everything you’d expect from a Great Run event – notorious start line hype, top on-route entertainment plus an event village that feels more like an after-party – but the carnival atmosphere and the passion and spirit of the runners is all Birmingham.  

Great Manchester Run

May 26 2024 

Manchester’s original running event boasts a city centre start and finish, with Half Marathon and 10k routes taking runners out of the city past the iconic football stadiums. 

Edinburgh 10k

May 25 2024 

Run in the stunning surroundings of Holyrood Park, the race starts and finishes near Dynamic Earth. This route offers striking panoramic views of the city and Edinburgh Castle. 

Advertisement
Paul Larkins

Written by Paul Larkins

Updated:

Paul Larkins has been a sports journalist for more than 30 years, covering two Olympic Games, one Paralympics, numerous World Championships and, most recently, the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham in 2022. He’s also been a magazine editor, heading up titles covering everything from running to cooking and buying tractors. But his real passion is running. As a former GB International athlete and sub-4-minute miler in the 1980s, Paul has a great understanding of life-long fitness and the benefits it can provide.