Setting people up to feel they've failed - Couch to 5K

Couch to 5K

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Setting people up to feel they've failed


I keep reading posts that say 'I haven't managed 5k in week 9 run 3' or 'I only managed to run 4.2km in 30 mins' etc

SO WHAT??? You're running!

I don't know where the idea came from that you have to run 5k in 30 minutes in week 9. Nowhere does it say that. In week 9 you are expected to 'run for 30 mins' - NO distance is set.

The whole C25k programme is about teaching you to run for longer and longer periods. When you have completed week 9 - you just carry on running, extending your running periods as you go.

Some people, me included, will never be able to run 5k in 30 minutes but....IT DOESN'T MATTER! Not all of us can be fast runners. I am 67 years old - hadn't run for 50 years and at my fastest it takes me a good 45 minutes to do 5k. I willl never be able to do it faster and I am not aspiring to do so.

The whole point of the C25k programme is to get us out there, get us moving and get us fitter and healthier.

Sure some of us will want to compete in 5k; 10k; half and full marathons and be amongst the front runners - and well done to them. For a large number of us we are just running because we want to be fitter and if we complete a 5k park run or a Race for Life then good on us but we should do it in our own time.

The only person you should really be racing against is yourself and if you want to improve your time then fine....but nowhere does it say you must! Pay no attention to the faster runners....this is about YOU. However long you take YOU HAVE NOT FAILED - you are running!

Please stop with the false target of 5k in 30 mins in week 9. It is only setting people up to feel as if they have failed because they can't do that.

28 Replies

I absolutely agree and there is no way I will ever be able to run 5k in 30 minutes; a rate of 9k an hour is about the most I can manage and then not for very long. but the reason why everybody is hung up about it is that Laura says in the first podcast "I will take you to running 30 minutes or about 5k in 9 weeks." It would be much better if the second half of that sentence were taken out; it does give false expectations.Indeed It is a pity that the programme is called couch to 5k- couch to 30 minutes would be more accurate. The name is in fact the only thing that is wrong with the programme which is otherwise fantastic.

RenkaGraduate in reply to Azores

I agree Azores - the programme is excellent and the main problem is the title and the false expectations it gives. 'Couch to 30 mins' isn't such a catchy title though :D


KittyKat... it's OK to have a target but my point is that people should not feel - or be made to feel - they have 'failed' if they can't do it.


I agree that people should aim to run at their own pace - it's about becoming runners rather than about becoming fast runners.

Having said that, it IS called C25K rather than C230m.

RenkaGraduate in reply to Tomas

Just to be clear...I didn't say you shouldn't aim for 5k - and yes, that IS the name of the programme. But it is not called 'Couch to 5k in 30 mins' and that was my point. If you can run 5k in 30mins - well done you! If it takes 45 mins - equally well done you!


I totally agree and always encourage anyone who seems disheartened that they've 'only' covered 3.5K or whatever the distance is. Covering 3.5K is better than being sat on the sofa stuffing oneself with pork scratchings, making no effort at all because they feel they can't do the 'full amount'. Any distance is better than no distance, in my opinion. :-)

Great post. I'm in my 40s, did the C25K last year and still go back to the later podcasts when I need encouragement. I will never do 5k in 30 minutes. I plod, I actually power walk faster than my run, but it's better than being sat on the couch eating crisps which is what I used to do. I usually cover 3.5k in 30 minutes and then I'm done, but that to me is amazing. Keep running everyone. Meant to add, I thought because I couldn't do 5k in 30 minutes, I thought I was a failure. But now I've got over that. I don't particularly care - some days I run better than others, sometimes I powerwalk half the time. I'm still out there. And I don't get out of breath now climbing hills.. I do it for me and not for racing/personal bests or anything like that.


It said Couch to 5k and that's what I wanted to do. That's what I have achieved and jolly pleased I am about it too, but I have ignored and will continue to ignore 30 mins in relation to my 5k !!!


I hadnt actually thought about failing should I not reach 5k.

I am doing the programme to get fitter, not to beat anyone in a race. I honestly thought thats what everyone was doing.

Each to their own however. If you want to aim for 5k who am I or anyone else to say you shouldnt?


I agree with you entirely Renka. Never a day goes by when there isn't at least one post (and usually several) where people are lamenting/worrying about the fact that they are not on track to do 5K in 30 minutes. Frequently, the posts are by people in the very early stages (W1 - W3, say, of the programme). The responses to these posts always tell the postee's that they just need to focus on completing each session and build up stamina to eventually run the 30 minutes in week 9 and anything else can be worked on after graduation. Nonetheless, the next day the same post goes up from another batch of C25ker's and so the cycle continues. I don't know what the answer is to be honest. For myself, I have reached a 5K (and that was a bonus) but including the warm up and warm down walks plus a bit extra walking on the first occasion and I did it in 41.50 minutes. All I need to know is that I can complete the R4L I am doing next month and in less than, say, an hour with extended warm up and warm down walks. I certainly wouldn't be aiming to run it all in 30 minutes at this stage - and maybe never. Interestingly, on the two occasions I have hit a 5K distance (the second time I did it in 40 mins inc warmup/warmdown walks) I wasn't looking for distance - I was just enjoying the run. Best wishes.

Hear hear !


I wonder a little bit if it is more a case of revealing how often people hear a message that is not quite what was said...

Hidden in reply to GoogleMe

Absolutely. Well said. Cheers.


What is c25k

'Couch to 5K is a simple running plan for beginners that will get you off the couch and running 5k, in just nine weeks'


'Each session will only take around 30 minutes so you may even be able to fit it into your lunch break'.

So, according to the above (taken from the c25k info pages) it states that the programmes intention is to have you covering a distance of 5k by the end of 9 weeks. It also states that each session lasts for around 30 minutes. Therefore, it's suggesting that you could be running 5k in 30 minutes by the end of w9.

Having said that, I totally agree that people shouldn't feel that they have failed if

1. They don't cover 5k by the end of week 9


2. They don't cover 5k within 30 minutes by the end of week 9

Personally, my goal is to run 5k within 30 minutes by the end of w9 :)

carerofGraduate in reply to paul2014

don't think i would run in my lunch break, i get too hot and sweaty and have to wash my hair after a run. I suppose if you have showers at work and get an hour break it is possible but most people i know only get 30mins.


The same thing goes for the concept of non-stop running. Although I can do it ( up to a point) and have managed to get my 5k time down to 34 minutes by the tactic of following a Parkrun pacer ( and pretending to myself that I will catch her one day -- what I will do with her when I can catch her, I can't remember!) -- but I don't actually enjoy long periods of non-stop running. However I can get along at pace satisfactory and enjoyable to me by run/walking - and I find that to be a much more enjoyable pastime.. most of our life's "problems" exist only inside our own heads!!!


I have checked the website and the podcast for week 1. It clearly states '5K OR 30 minutes' in both cases. The key word here being 'OR'. Best wishes.

paul2014Graduate in reply to Hidden

It certainly does Fitmo, - 'The Couch to 5K plan is designed to get you off the couch and gradually work you up to running 5K or for half an hour, in just nine weeks'.

So, if you manage to be running 5k by the end of w9 then you would have to be doing it within 30 minutes because that's the maximum each session lasts. However, the other scenario is that you could be running for 30 minutes but not covering 5k.

Either way, 5k and 30 minutes are repeatedly mentioned throughout the programme so it's no surprise that people are quoting them and looking to obtain 5k in 30 minutes.


I totally agree as there is now way I achieved 5k in 30 mins when I finished. My last run of the programme was 35 mins to complete 5k. But I was really pleased with that. I have over the past few months increased my speed and can do 5k in 32 mins. I am just so pleased I could complete the programme in 9 weeks. Noone should feel dishearted. You are out there running and thats the main thing. Well done everyone


A very good point! The main thing as a lot of members have said, is that we're out there and doing our best!!

I hadn't worried much about this, because I've no way of measuring how far I'm running anyway - I haven't tried a treadmill because I'm fairly sure I would be bored, and anyway it would add an hour to each session in travelling to & from the gym. I run up the public footpath behind my house. (And I'm already amazed that I can get to the next village and back in half and hour, when I always considered it to be half an hour each way!) I've just assumed that when I can run for 30 mins I can probably run 5K - even if the latter takes a little longer.... PS I've done Week 5 Run 2 today, and am extremely nervous about Run 3. I suspect that the only thing that will keep me running for 20 mins will be the thought that I want to be able to come back and say so on here :)


Amen Renka!

I was all cut up on Weds when I flunked out of w7r1 on 18 mins, having bossed 25mins no problem on the previous run.

It hit me like a thunderbolt that I wouldn't have been able to run 18 mins if I'd been chased by an axe wielding psycho a few weeks ago.

This programme is all about building stamina. As long as you're taking it steady, all the work will pay off. Good things come to those who wait and god don't half love a trier ;)

I would just like to back up Renkas point it's not about "oh my god if I don't do a 5k in 30 mins I've failed" it's about the run, we may not be the fastest we may never get to 5k in 30 mins it's about lacing up those trainers and getting out there for however long you can or as far as you can personal motto "NO MATTER HOW SLOW YOUR GOING YOURE LAPPING EVERYONE ON THE COUCH" and that should be the message of couch to 30 mins ;-)


It's good to remember too that you inevitably slow down as you get older. That applies to even the top competitive runners. Also, the average woman is slower than the average man, So a 50 year old woman say should not set off on the C25K journey with the same targets as a 25 year old man. Personally I find the age-graded score a much better way of measuring my performance than time alone (and much more reassuring). There is a website that lets you calculate it. You enter your age and gender, then the time you take to do 5K and it tells you what your time would be if you were a fit young man! It also gives you a percentage score which tells you where you stand on the bellcurve for your age and gender . My aim is to be above 50 per cent, which even with a time of 40 minutes for 5K I am. Yeah! This is the link


Performance???? At my age, who cares about performance -- either absolute or comparative?? :)

It is more a matter of -- WHAT?? YOU CAN (and do) RUN 5 KLMS??? , say my contemporaries with utter shock and horror. I don't know what they are going to say when I tell them that I have recently run 10Ks TWICE!!! I suspect that they are actually starting to avoid me and thinking that I am some kind of weirdo who will try to convert them to my newly adopted religion.

For people to suddenly start running 5-10-21-42ks from a position of ill health, overweight or old age :) is totally abnormal and confronting to most rational beings -- so forget about how fast you run these distances , the fact that we can do them at all at any pace or in any time ( at the end or sometime after completing this programme ) is something to be proud of :)


Bazza. Your recent posts about your speed bely your claim that it doesn't matter! They are why I frequently console myself by consulting my age=graded score ;-)

Bazza1234Graduate in reply to turnturtle

My speed!!! ???? :) Well, I do run at a certain speed -- but it is nothing to get too excited about :)

I have to admit though that I did want to get my 5K time under 35 minutes (purely arbitrary really) - and I did , so there is no more goals to be chased in that direction (although I would like my 5K running to become" easier" ) and my longer distance running, well I have to admit to setting myself another completely arbitrary time to finish it in, but what will be on the day, will be -and I will be happy with that. Mostly I just want to avoid being part of the DNF crowd :)


I would get really excited if I could run under 35 minutes, but it's not realistic with my age and history. That's why I think age-graded scores are so great. They give you a target which is appropriate for YOU. I agree. DNF is the pothole to avoid!

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