The Age UK Leeds Abbey Dash has been a firm favourite for PB hunters across the UK. In this article we give you some top tips for whipping yourself into your best 10km shape. 

Now in its 34th year the super-fast course takes in Kirkstall Abbey and finishes in the centre of the city at Leeds Town Hall. The race offers something for everyone from seasoned club runners to those completing their first 10km. It’s a distance that requires respect – the perfect blend of speed and endurance.

“With thousands of spectators cheering you on there is no better 10k race than the Leeds Abbey Dash,” says event manager Rob Sambidge, who feels it’s going to be one of the fastest years yet. “With a new start site in the city centre and the removal of the Cardigan Fields loop we expect the course to be even faster”.

So to celebrate the Early Bird discount price (which ends on 28th July), for the charity event that helps Age UK support older people who have no one to turn to, we’ve asked expert coach Tom Craggs to give us his best advice for any 10k runners out there.

Progress the tempo

The 10km demands the endurance to hold a quick pace even as your body fatigues. Tempo and threshold sessions will give you the supporting endurance you need to hold you pace in the final few km of the race.

Try this: Include regular sessions where you work at a 3-4 word answer effort around 10km – half marathon pace. These can progress a little in pace, for example 12 minutes, 10 minutes, 8 minutes starting at half marathon pace and cutting down to 10km pace with 90s recovery. Two sets of 10 minutes at 10 mile – half marathon pace plus 5 minutes 10 km pace with 90-120s jogged recovery. 20 minutes at half marathon pace + 3 x 3 minutes faster with 60s jog recovery.

Build your engine

If you are going to run your best race it makes sense you’ll need to run race pace and a bit faster in training in order to deliver on the day. Look to include a harder interval session within your weekly mix.

Try this: Good quality sustained efforts between 2 minutes and 6 minutes working 5-10km pace are your Abbey Dash bread and butter. Simple examples include 8 x 1km with 2 mins rest, 5 x 1200m at 5-10km pace + 400m faster with 60s between efforts and 2-3 minutes between sets, 3 x 2km at 10km pace with 90s rest + 10 x 400m faster off 60s rest.

Power in the legs

Whilst the race itself is flat hill training can provide a great source of strength and power. Consider adding these in the earlier stages of your training before you get stuck into the more specific sessions outlined above.

Try this: Mix efforts on the flat with short quicker hills. 10 minutes of tempo running on the flat + 10 x 45-60s fast hills with a slow jog back recovery + 3 x 3 minutes at 5-10km effort on the flat. 8-10 minutes of tempo running on the flat + 10-12 x 60s hills + 8-10 minutes of tempo on the flat. 15-20 minutes of tempo running on the flat + 8-10 x 30s fast hills.

Photo credit: Leeds Abbey Dash

A Dash of speed

Keeping your legs and brain engaged with a bit more speed is sensible around the longer sessions and easier miles. Running fast doesn’t always need to be a huge stress on your body though. Strides can be a really useful addition to your training.

Try this: Strides are often used in a warm up before harder sessions. They can also be used to keep a feeling of zip after some of your easy runs. Run 4-6 sets of 80 metres or so around 80-90% of your maximum speed. Not sprinting, floating with good form and leg speed.

Tiger in the cat

From an energetic point of view the 10km places it’s greatest demands on your aerobic energy production. Just because the race feels fast to, for example, a marathon runner doesn’t mean you should neglect the main component of your training – easy and steady running.

Try this: Respect the space between your harder work outs. Not every runner responds to day hard, day easy. You’ll be getting fitter and stronger in your easy running so dont worry if you need two or more days between hard sessions. A longer run of between 10-15 miles is still also a really important element to include.

Plan to commit

Enter early and mentally commit to making the Age UK Leeds Abbey Dash an ‘A’ race. It might sound obvious but having key goal races will really help focus your year, and your mind. Allowing enough time to plan back for a good 10+ weeks of specific training will see you feel your best on race day.

Try this: Take advantage of the race’s ‘early bird’ discount and get signed up now. Plan back from the race to decide what components of your fitness you need to work on and how many weeks you’ll need to do that.

Getting comfortable with discomfort

Ultimately to race your best 10km you have to be willing to hurt a bit. Have you got the fight? Are you working to develop it? If you aren’t callused to the heart pumping, lung busting intensity of full 10km effort don’t be surprised if you find yourself drifitng back to your comfort zone on race day.

Try this: Consider adding some 3km-5km races or even parkruns into your build up to get used to racing that harder intensity effort before the big day. Be prepared to commit and even risk blowing up in these ‘B and C’ races if you want to find where your limit is. 

A strong frame

It’s no good sticking your new Ferrari engine into the body of a Micra. Your conditioning work will help you translate that cardiovascular fitness into sustainable power form your muscles.

Try this: If you are new to conditioning work simple bodyweight core exercises like plank, finger crusher, bridges and press ups are a great start. As you get more experienced squats, split squats, deadlifts and row based exercises can be included. Aim for couple of full sessions a week or a greater frequency of short 15-20 minutes workouts.

So good luck, train hard, respect your recovery and then spend that fitness in one of the fastest 10km races anywhere in Europe!

The Age UK Leeds Abbey Dash
When: Sunday 27 October 2019
Where: Leeds City Centre
Entry price: £26 (£23 until Sunday 28th July)

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