If you think you are too old, too slow or simply too out-of-shape to run further than a few miles, then prepare to be convinced otherwise. With the Great Manchester Run looming on the calendar (it takes place on May 22 in case it is not in your diary), experts are urging people in the city to lace up their trainers and surprise themselves. For the 10km route it covers is, they say, the perfect distance to challenge both body and mind. And you can achieve it with considerably less output of time and effort than you might think.
Much shorter than a marathon, the 10km gobbles up less of your time for preparation, yet will reap endless dividends in the form of better fitness and a leaner, more chiselled physique. “Running a half or full marathon require commitment to the training and getting the miles in ahead of race day will take up a fair amount of time,” says Nell McAndrew, the model and keen runner who is author of Nell McAndrew’s Guide To Running (Bloomsbury, £12.99). “If you have time constraints, it’s a great idea to focus on shorter distances like the 10km instead.”
And it’s easier than you think to get started. Top running coach, Paddy McGrath (paddymcgrathrunningx.com), an expert for Running Monthly magazine, says it is the natural next step for anyone who has managed to run 5km. “A 10km race represents a manageable increase in distance, with the additional challenges that entails, but without a huge extra demand on your body and lifestyle,” McGrath says. “In my view, if you can comfortably run 5km, you can prepare to tackle a 10km and experience the sense of achievement it brings when you complete it.”
However long you have been running, a few weeks of general preparation will leave you ready to tackle the 10km training programme. Build up the amount of running you do steadily and by no more than 10% per week and remember it is vital to take recovery days on board as you build up the mileage. Consistency is key, but so is keeping an element of variety in your workouts. “ In order to comfortably cover the 6 and a bit miles distance in May, you will need to feel comfortable hitting the 4 mile mark at feeling fairly fresh,” McGrath says. “And that can be achieved from a mixture of shorter and longer runs of varying pace as well as plenty of power-walking if you are new to running”.
As you prepare, watch your body shape transform. Running is among the best calorie-burners around and, even at a slow trot, the average person will burn around 600 calories running 10km. What’s more, your weeks of training for an event like the Great Manchester Run will build lean muscle in your legs and arms, creating a longer, slimmer silhouette. In short, any excess fat stored on your body will melt away. “Running is an aerobic exercise which means it improves the efficiency of your cardiovascular system, giving you a healthier heart and lungs,” says McAndrew. “Do it regularly and it can reduce blood pressure and cholesterol as well as your weight, of course.”
But it is the psychological benefits of completing a 10km that are perhaps most unexpected. Running is known to alleviate symptoms of mild to moderate depression, to release a flood of feel-good hormones that lift your mood. “Too many people are obsessed with think that the marathon is the only running challenge worthy of tackling,” says McGrath. “I would always advise people to tackle a 10km first as it brings its own sense of accomplishment without necessarily having to hammer your body with endless miles of training. I guarantee the effort will be rewarded.