Couch to 5K

I graduated! (Thank you Laura!) but can anyone advise re my stride length? I'm still so slow

Hi. I followed Laura's plan to the letter, and bar one blip, and went from struggling with 60 seconds running at Christmas to graduation last month - a huge sense of achievement :-)

However in my 30 min runs at the end, I was only just covering 2 miles and I know 5k = 3 miles. So twice recently I kept running, beyond the podcast 30mins, until I hit 3 miles (using runkeeper) and it takes 45 mins to do 3 miles - ie a 15 min mile - slow.

I assumed I was running at a slow pace - so I used the 5k+ podcasts for pace but realised I was struggling to run at the slower paces (150/155 beats per min) and naturally am already running at 160/165.

So I can only assume my stride length is very short!

Lots of steps and still covering a short distance in the time. Lengthening my stride feels quite unnatural - does anyone have any tips?

Thanks lots

17 Replies

I think lengthening your stride will help but you need to be careful. Try a longer stride when on the flat or on a slight downhill. However you need to take care and not heel strike which there is a tendency to do, I am guilty of doing just that. Your not that slow either, there are not a lot of new runners just off the couch that manage the 5K in 30 minutes by 9 weeks unless you have long legs and are young and fit. Its one of the goals to work towards once you have graduated. Build up your running time until you can do the 5K then you can work on reducing that time by speeding up and lengthening your stride but only to a point that is comfortable or you make cause shin splits and heel pain. Its still a learning curve even after you have graduated, but set yourself little goals to aim for and you will find it much more rewarding and doable, but most importantly enjoy it. Happy running and congratulations on your graduation. :)


What great advice from oldgirl (again :) ) . I have got little, short legs and reckon that I may always struggle with stride length. it is the same scenario for me, I am doing the bpm's on the C25K plus and am now doing 4.12 km in 30 mins. Hoping I just get faster as I get fitter. who knows, just trying to remember to get some enjoyment from it! Good luck :)


There is one good thing about having little short legs for runners DD (which I have) and that is its not so far to fall if you trip over :( :)


hahaha!!! :D x


Yes and we can get up quite quickly so the fall may go unnoticed. :-)


First of all, don't push yourself too far too fast, and be proud of your achievements so far!

If you try the C25K+ podcasts, you'll hear Laura say at one point that your feet should be going round in a cycling motion. I think if you combine that with pushing forwards with the foot that's on the ground then it might help you stay in the air slightly longer and therefore go further forward with each step.

I've also read that "dynamic (or walking) lunges" are good for strengthening the muscles you need for pushing off the ground.


Thank you runningnearberuit - good tips. Also I found Laura's tips about the arms helped a little - I realised mine were crossing my body and pushing them forward help push me forward... so will focus on that too


Thanks Oldgirl and DD - it's a relief to hear I'm not that slow for a newbie :-) I did just as you said Oldgirl - I decided to get myself to 3 miles first and then worry about speed. The first 3 miles took 47 mins, and the next 43.5 mins, so already I can see time coming off that.

I'm thinking of doing 1 x 3 mile run a week and then doing 1 or 2 x 30 min runs where I focus on the pace - and hopefully the 2 will meet in the middle - does that sound sensible?

Maybe my first target is just to run 3 miles in 40 mins, then 39, 38 etc?


Have also thought... I find some of the podcasts slow to start with and find myself almost running in "slo-mo" to keep to the beat. But that might actually help you work on your technique a bit and push yourself forwards a bit further. Also try some exercises to strengthen your glutes so that you're running from the hip more and moving your whole leg.

Have you tried the speed podcast? The first 5 mins will probably "kill" you as the bpm seems so slow but the intervals might help. I know your problem isn't so much with bpm, but you might find that you stretch your legs out further to run faster in the fast bits. Even if you don't find that the speed podcast suits you, you can do intervals by distance (fast to that lamp post, then slow to the next one - or whatever works for you).

I think 1x 30 minute run, 1x20 (ish) minute intervals (or even hill?!) session and 1 x 3 mile run a week would be a good plan.

Oh and if you're anywhere near a parkrun, then why not have a go? You might find the company of other runners takes you along a bit faster.

BTW I don't know why I'm sounding like such an expert here. I'm blessed with long legs so do take all the above with a pinch of salt!!


Thanks again. I have entered a race for life 5k in June so it'll be interesting to see if others make a difference to my speed. If only I could grow long legs ;-)


Hi I know exactly how you feel, I think my stride length is tiny, but being only 5' 2" , I don't know whether I can lengthen it much, but I am trying. However, I just concentrated on running the 5k initially and have gradually increased distance too. My times for 5k have come down over the weeks from 43 mins to 36, so I am pleased with that. I am hoping that the longer distances will enable me to build up stamina and get faster over the 5k's. However, it is just amazing to me to run after struggling with 60 seconds at the start, so I do try not to worry too much about time/distance and just get out there and enjoy it. Good luck with whatever you decide to do. x


Thank you no-excuse, it's reassuring just to hear other people say they are also running 5k in 40+ mins. I think the 'couch to 5k' 30 minute podcasts made me think I should be nearer 30 mins for 5k. Now I'll just be pleased with the fact I can run for 40+ mins (something I thought was impossible only 3 months ago) and repeat and practice and it looks like the times will come down.


After graduation I mixed up my running, the C25K+ podcasts hadn't been released then so I was on my own. I did 3 runs a week:- Hill work were I mapped a short loop of 850m with 3 steep ups and downs and did 3 loops of it with run in and home. That gave me about 5K hard running but the home stretch was more a trot!. 2nd run was speed intervals and I used lamp posts. After warm up I sprinted for 1 then slowed to recovery for next 2, then repeated this for as many as I could, finishing with a cool down 5 minutes. My 3rd run was a longer run adding about 10% to my distance each time. By mixing up my running I didn't get bored and it really helped to build up my strength and stamina. It took me under two months to do my first 10K using this routine but I have to say I'm not a lover of long distances and I'm content to run 5 - 10K. Mixing up your running will build up your stamina which will help your speed too. Check out Parkrun to see if there is one in your area, its a great way to keep motivated and also meet loads of like minded people of all ages and abilities. Happy running.


You will find your speed increases as you keep running. Be careful about increasing your stride length. If you reach forward with your leg to increase your stride so that you land with your foot ahead of your body with your knee locked or straight this will cause a braking effect which puts strain on your leg. To increase stride length you need to be pushing off more eg bounding. I find that I am quicker if I increase my cadence (I run at about 170 bpm) and it prevents me from overstriding. If you have a smart phone you can download a metronome app which you can set to your preferred cadence and try keeping pace with it. This article may be of interest:


Thanks kittih and all. I did my 3rd 3 miler this morning and my times have been 47m48s, 44m20s and now 43m0s so I can see the speed picking up without too much effort, just practice. The C25k+ stamina podcast helped today I think, I hadn't tried that one before.

I really like the podcast for the occasional advice and encouragement, I just wish they lasted as long as it takes me to run 5k, so I didn't have to keep running through the warm down walk tracks :-)


i agree thumbyhelen, I wish Laura went on for longer,,, I have been using some ancient audiofuel podcasts that were free, and i just set them back to the beginning again if I haven't got to where I want to stop. I haven't consciously tried to get faster, just amazed i can run at all, but I definitely have done so and managed to keep up with my ;'real running' friend earlier this week who admittedly was saving herself for a 10K next Monday but it felt good!

I only ever manage 2 runs a week at the moment with a busy job and elderly relatives to sort but I am happy with that for now.


almost everything I have read about running always seems to suggest that shorter stride and higher cadence is the best technique for sustainable distance running (as opposed to sprinting etc). I certainly found that when I consciously reduced my stride my range and stamina increased dramatically. Admittedly my speed dipped a bit, but I would rather ran further, longer, more efficiently than shorter, faster, and the speed catches up again as you get stronger.

Although whether I am in any position to give advice I don't know, as my 'further, longer' resulted in too far too long and I am sitting out a week waiting for my knee to get better from overdoing it. LOL.


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