Never run a race before? Ready to achieve something you never thought possible? Here’s everything you need to know to boost your running progress and reach the 10k distance

Taking on a running challenge can seem daunting, especially if you’re new to it. The good news is that running 10k is more achievable than you think.

It sounds clichéd, but the journey really does begin with the first step, and you could end up with some life-changing results – from maxing your fitness levels and keeping your heart healthy to tackling stress and boosting your self-esteem.

Here’s how to get the most out of your running and your 10k challenge…

What is the 10 weeks to 10k challenge?

With the help of Jessica Ennis-Hill, we’re launching a running challenge for all ages and fitness levels. To help you run the distance, we’ve created a tailored training guide for both beginners and improvers. These will help anyone and everyone reach the 10k distance. If you need a ‘finish line’ to aim for, you can sign up to the Vitality London 10,000, which takes place on 28 May, where Jess will be cheering you on.

Can I join even if I’m a complete beginner?

Yes – our beginner’s plan is for anyone starting from scratch. This recommends you run three times per week at a time that suits you and suggests you build up gradually with a mixture of walking, jogging and eventually steady running. In week one you’ll start by alternating between walking for five minutes and running for five minutes. By week ten,  you’ll be running at a steady pace for 50 minutes.

What if I’m looking to improve?

If you have some running experience, try our improver’s plan. It includes four runs per week and helps you build on your stamina. You’ll master the art of ‘threshold running’ – running to about 80-85% of your maximum effort or pushing yourself to the edge of your comfort zone for short periods. It takes time to learn but makes a huge difference to your running results.

How do I get started?

Depending on your current ability, download one of our running plans. Decide when you’ll run – whether it’s early mornings, during your lunch break or in the evenings – whatever works for you. Plan a safe running route using a map or running app, such as Strava, and make sure you have comfortable running shoes and reflective clothing if you’re running in the dark.

How does the training plan work?

Both plans will help you build on distance and speed and you’ll see your fitness improve with every run if you stick at it – whether you’re progressing from power walking to steady running or working up from an easy pace to periods of faster running. You’ll always be in control and you’ll learn how to pace yourself to run your best 10k.

The plan also includes set rest days, which are equally important. “Taking rest days gives your body time to absorb your training and recover,” advises Lorna North, founder of Queen of the Mile fitness blog. “Getting a good night’s kip is also crucial, as the body grows stronger and rebuilds damaged muscle tissue when you sleep.”

Why should I set a running goal?

Setting a goal such as the Vitality London 10,000 can help keep you on track. “Having a date in the diary will give you a timeline to work with and keep you focused on your training,” says Lorna. For extra motivation, you can also decide to run for a charity. If you need a mini goal along the way, try a parkrun. You can use the 5k distance as a practice to boost your confidence and you can run with your friends and family for extra motivation.

What can I achieve in 10 weeks?

It’s possible to completely transform your fitness levels in 10 weeks. This is because running is an aerobic exercise, which improves your body’s cardiovascular system. The best news is that the biggest benefits happen to those with less running experience.

A recent BBC2 programme, ‘Famously Unfit for Sports Relief’ saw four celebrities take on a running challenge across 10 weeks. They went from being unable to run for more than five minutes to completing a running obstacle race and improving their fitness levels by 25%.

This type of vigorous but steady exercise has also proven to help us live longer. A study of 20,000 people in Denmark over 30 years found that those who ran lived on average six years longer than those who didn’t. The biggest benefits came from running between an hour and two and a half hours a week, at a comfortable pace – exactly the amount you’ll be running with either training plans.

“Don’t compare yourself to other people and always set your own goals. And above all remember that running is meant to be enjoyable. If you can run for the joy of running you’ll achieve amazing things!” says Lorna.

Feeling ready? Download the Beginner’s Plan or the Improver’s PlanSign up to the Vitality London 10,000 or find your local parkrun. Good luck!