Couch to 5K
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Has anyone got any tips on speeding up to reach the 5k in 30 minutes?

Hi everyone, I graduated (yes, not bothered with the badge I know) in the summer, and for me the achievement was to run the 30 minutes without stopping.

Since then, I've continued to run regularly although not quite with the rigid application of the C25k programme. However, I'm having real trouble making significant progress in the distance I am covering.

I was achieving around 4k by the end of week 9, now I regularly achieve around 4.3k. I use a mixture of Stepping Stone and Stamina (not doing the last 5 minutes on stamina, so I get 30 minutes at a slightly higher steps per minute), and I also use Speed about once every 3 runs to try and work on achieving and sustaining a faster pace (i find the last interval very hard still), but I can't seem to break this barrier.

I may just be a bit of a plodder, but has anyone got any good advice on this? I'm beginning to think that maybe I am just not pushing myself hard enough or at the right points in the run to make an improvement.



16 Replies

Hi Andy, It's a conundrum for sure as everyone is different. In theory, if you're not too overweight, you should be able to do a kilometre in around 6 - 7 mins if you graduated in summer last year, but it depends on so many things. I can shuffle along and comfortably do 5K in between 30-32 minutes depending on how I'm feeling and very occasionally if I push like a mutha, can clock in under 30.

The thing with C25K I believe is, that it's more stamina based than speed based. The fact you are running 4K is still fantastic. Try slowing down ALL the way through your 4K and mentally tell yourself "I'm gonna do 5K today" and then keep slow and steady. A lot of it is mental. I thought that I would NEVER EVER EVER run past the 5K barrier until a lot of folks on here gave me encouragement to try - and it worked. I did 6K a couple of times, though to be frank I have no interest in lonnnnng distances cos half an hour suits me fine for my work / life balance.

Let us know how you get on.


Thanks danzargo. I'm not too overweight - I'm about 100kg, 41 years old, and 5' 10". So overweight yes, but not to the extent that my body falls apart at the end of the 30 minutes.

I did - and still do - have a bit of a hang up on the 5k in 30 minutes thing, and I wasn't sure if I was best finishing 5k and working on moving the time down, or if I should work on speeding up in the 30 minutes. Maybe I should try and do both?


Are you running on your own, or with others? Some say that running in amongst others can help you push yourself further - have you tried doing a Parkrun?


Hi weighty80 - all running on my own, and to be honest, that is the way I prefer it. The reason I took up C25k was because my middle daughter is quite good at cross country, and we have a flat park "field" near us where she could train and I could be there to keep an eye on her. I tried running round with her and it ended up with me being very out of breath and not really enjoying it. I appreciate that a Parkrun could be different, but I just dont think I'm overly social in the running situation.

Also, I have specific times I am free to run - evenings really - and I don't think there are Parkruns then? Maybe I will try in the summer with the longer daylight...


Not sure if I have "good advice", but these are my thoughts... first of all, targets are great, but do remember just to enjoy being out running. Having said that:

If I use the stamina podcast I take about 32 minutes to run 5km. (My pb is about 27:40). As I'm just under 5'8" then I'd imagine that my natural stride length is a bit shorter than yours. I find the first 10 minutes "too slow" and am not very patient so overdo it then, and then find I'm regretting it later - but I KNOW I can keep running for 30 minutes or more, so I make myself keep going. I'd stick with the stamina podcast once a week, and try to get to the end without worrying too much about the distance.

I'd also recommend doing the speed podcast once a week.

Then I'd suggest adding 10% distance (or 10% time or just a minute or whatever you are comfortable with) to the third run you do each week (obviously not indefinitely).

Once you've got the confidence to know you (a) can cover the distance and (b) could keep going for longer, I think the time will come down.

My time is always significantly slower when I run a hilly route - the downs don't seem to compensate for the ups. If you normally run somewhere with hills then this will help increase your strength - so if you can find somewhere flatter than you've been running on for the occasional attempt at 5km, you might find a pleasant reduction in time! I also use endomondo, which gives times for every km I run (or you can set it to run 5km and it'll also give estimated finish time, so it can spur you on if you're close to a target time).

Finally, I'd also definitely recommend trying a parkrun. You need to pace yourself and not get carried away at the beginning, but having other people around can help.


Hi runningnearbeirut.

I get the bit about knowing you can keep going, and that is certainly the case for me - I've always concentrated on completing the steps throughout the C25k and also in the podcasts after. In fact, the only one I didnt do was the first time I did Speed and I couldn't complete the last interval. So what I am thinking is that maybe I am being too conservative to make sure I complete the 30 minutes.

My route is deliberately fairly flat - there is a minor hill but I tend to front-load the uphill so I can get the benefit of going down later in the run. I actually have 3 routes, and of these the flatest is the quickest, but I would say I am achieving around 200 to 400 metres more at best.

I'll try your suggestion about extending the time/distance and see how I get on over a few weeks.




Increasing your duration will have a knock on effect and probably improve your distance covered in 30 mins simply by further improving your cardio vascular system. Also, the more miles you have on the clock, the easier it all becomes. I swear by hill training to improve my general ability to push hard, when I am chasing a PB, along with interval training. Finding the fastest pace that you can sustain is difficult, but I base it on my breathing. If I push too hard the breathing becomes difficult and I tire quickly, so I just ease back a bit until my breathing is manageable (but on the limit). If you do this with intervals you will learn about how your body feels at different paces. Theoretically, you should run slower in the first part of a run, to get all the muscles, joints and breathing settled and working at optimum, then up the pace to take advantage of your efficiently purring running machine of a body. It is known as negative splits. Easier said than done. As the others say, Parkrun is a great incentive to reduce your 5k time and is accurately measured.

I would say the most important thing is to enjoy your running, so forget about time and distance on at least one run per week and take it easy, with a big smile on your face and remember where you were before you did C25k.

Keep running, keep smiling.

1 like

Hi Iannoda Truffle.

Yes, I've been reading a bit about hill training (not done any yet), and I did find that integrating the Speed podcast into my 3 runs a week did have an immediate positive effect on the next run, so I think the suggestion to go for the extra time is my next step.

I wouldn't mind a bit more advice on breathing, since my major problem "in running" has been keeping my shoulders back/relaxed to allow my breathing to be better.

I tend to find I am most comfortable breathing in and out to 2 steps for each, although it sounds like I may be going a bit too fast and should aim for 3 in/out or even 4.

Without coming over all American and emoting everywhere, I am quietly proud of what I've achieved by completing C25k, and I think reaching 40 did make me take stock of how shockingly out of condition I was, so I do enjoy the running and I'm definitely going to keep going, but part of the fun - for me at least - is to see some improvement in speed/time/comfort.


I'm not sure my advice is very practical but I was in the exact same position as you. I graduated last summer and began running 5km three times a week but never managed to increase my distance or speed over the next few months. I started to lack motivation and my running turned into a two or sometimes once a week event. At Christmas my husband bought me a garmin and I can't tell you what a difference this has made. For some reason because I can see the distance ticking by I have found it much easier to set a goal and stick to it. I started by telling myself I would run for 5.5km and I had to run past my house twice in a loop watching my garmin until it reached my goal before I stopped. I never would have done this before even though I was using run keeper on my phone. I have done this every week and have just run 8km!!!. I'm not necessarily faster but feel so amazed with myself for being able to cover such a distance. The garmin was about £89 so not cheap but there maybe cheaper versions out there but sorry if this is not a realistic purchase for you at the moment


Hi Tgilhooly - thanks for this.

I have thought quite a lot about a Garmin (especially as there are regular threads here about garmin/fitbit, etc.), and it is definitely something I will buy, but I can't afford at the moment.

At present, I have to rely on doing a run and then using software to work out how far I've run. Of course once I've run a route (I have 3), you get an idea for where you are and at what time, and my goal to date has been to try and go further than before. However, I do confess that the first time I try a new route I tend to over-estimate the distance I have gone, and end up slightly deflated.

Maybe some kind of "in running" technology is the answer to try and keep me on the pace during the 30 minutes. Unfortunately I have a WindowsPhone, and I'm not sure there is a decent app for that device, so I'll have to get saving!


I've been using the free version of the Runkeeper app for the last two weeks of c25K ( I graduated yesterday), and I'm finding it great for my needs right now. It'll download onto any android phone, the only problem may be a pocket to fit your phone in, but you can get an arm strap. I'm not sure yet how I'll manage with music etc., but I'll find a way :-)


Hi Andy, not much more advice I can add other than what worked for me.. I didn't do 5k in under 30 minutes until 7 months after graduating! I made the decision on graduating last April that I wanted to be a long distance runner because I love it so much!!! So I worked up to 10k and then did a HM in October. I then managed to do a 5k in 28 minutes on Christmas Day. It is only because I do longer distances I'm training my body , I have just started to do speed to get my HM time down. So I would suggest: 1. Go out there to enjoy yourself 2. Start building up to longer runs 3. Join a parkrun... Nothing like a sprint finish and beating someone who always beats you!!! Good luck and just enjoy it :)


Hi juicyju.

Yes, I think I'll try and build up a bit more stamina and see if through a combination of the stamina and speed podcasts I can take it on from both ends as it were.

Thanks for the advice



Just a thought but do get the graduate badge for here for successfully completing C25K. It isn't just as a pat on the back for yourself but helps others reading, especially those in need of encouragement. I can see that the fundamental reason you've not done it is because you've decided that it isn't a real graduation until you can do 5k in 30 minutes.

Arguably, one strategy towards reaching that goal might be to get your weight down with dietary control, and adding in other forms of exercise on non-running days. I'd have some concerns right now that you might be making yourself more vulnerable to injury.

Sometimes your body and circumstances dictate whether it is speed or distance or just getting out there that counts... my own personal goal is to get back to doing 5k more regularly and work up to 10k (have done 7k.... in 1h 21 mins....) but yesterday I ended up for various reasons not doing 5k but achieving my fastest speed yet (by some definitions I'm still not even jogging)


Hi GoogleMe,

I think like many other people, I did think the weight would drop off by starting/completing the C25k programme, and of course as has been mentioned in many other threads, it isn't so much weight loss as firming up that is the result of that programme.

I agree about the diet, but I'm not sure I have the willpower to really stick to something meaningful




I think some people have found that the running creates the motivation so it is a virtuous circle. Of course, knees aside, the evidence seems to be that overweight and active is healthier than 'healthy' weight but inactive.

I find that intervals give the best boost to weight loss although I have sometimes found them too hard on my body.


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