Couch to 5K
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Advice on achieving 2.4km in 13.23mins

Basically a few months ago I was struggling to run for five minutes so finding this plan was a godsend and I'm now on week 8 :) however my ulitmate goal is to join the Air Force and my entry fitness test requires me running 2.4km in under 13.23, I was wondering if any one had some advice at how I can get my times down. I'm looking at the distance/time when I'm doing my planned runs and I'm doing it at just over 14 minutes on level 9.5 on the treadmill. My test is done on a treadmill but know I should be running outside more too as I'm sure that'll help. Any advice would be greatly appreciated so I know what to work on once I've completed this programme :D

9 Replies

Look up 'Fartlek' training on Google. Sounds humourous but is just crazy Swedish name for speed training.

Perhaps also alternate with doing some hillwork to build strength. I have been incorporating one hill run day and two days of Spin a week to improve my leg strength and general fitness, and my running pace has improved dramatically as a result - to my great surprise, in fact, as I was not intentionally working on that.


Hi Flower that's quite a fast time they are expecting but at least not too long a distance. I would increase your level on treadmill to higher % gradient and if it's a fancy machine try doing some faster intervals. Other option would be to do intervals of sprints outside using lampposts as markers. Wishing you all the best, let us know how you get on, be careful upping the speed though in case you injure yourself.


Wow that looks AMAZING!! And do able....thank you so much I'm definitely going to give them a go :) thank you!


Yeah it's a toughie...!! I did consider upping either the speed a teeny bit at a time so it wouldn't be a huge shock to the system but the sprint intervals are the way forward when I'm completed the 9weekly runs :D thank you guys


I'd say you are doing all right at the moment. You are not too far off your goal. Once you complete the program, and have been running for a few weeks, your fitness will just consolidate, and your time will improve.

I would strongly suggest though you start running outdoors. I have never run on a treadmill, but have heard it is not the same as running outdoors.

Oldgirl's advice to try some intervals is a good one, never thought of running from lamp post to lamp post. I might try that myself.

Good luck, and be careful don't push yourself into an injury.


They say the best way to improve your 5k time is to run 10k. So this programme seem like a perfect set up, because you'll be running "about" double your target distance once you have done week 9.

I'd also highly recommend interval training. Also do a couple of longer runs in the week (which for you could be 5k, or you could work up to a bit more than that, but don't overdo it). Your longer runs should be at an easy pace - where you could talk - so that you are consolidating your fitness and get really confident that you can run much further than you need to.

You really don't sound far off, so please don't push yourself too much, and don't go flat out on every run... and do go outside and run sometimes. Hills will do wonders for your fitness, strength and stamina too - just treat them with respect and don't expect to maintain the same pace as you do on a treadmill.


I'm so grateful for all your help :) excited to see how it goes


Get outside and run. Even if you pass the fitness test if you've never run outside that's the next thing they'll expect you to do, no point getting across the first hurdle if the second one will scupper you.

Other than that I'll basically be repeating what others have said. Where are you in your C25K journey? How close to graduation (or have you just not got your graduate badge yet)?

2 ways to go faster or further (whichever you prefer).

1) run further

2) run faster

It's not as simple as that makes it sound, there is logic behind it. As Beirut says the best way to improve your 5k time is to run 10k, basically if you know that at your steady pace you can run 6k, 7k, 10k, 15k then you know that there's enough in reserve for you to be able to run 5k at a faster speed. The converse is true also, if you know you can run 5k pretty fast then you know that you are fit enough that if you slow your pace you will be able to complete 6k, 7k, 10k however far you want to go.

So how to do it?

1) get outside, running for an hour is much easier when you have to get home again if you give up, the treadmill in the shed is no good, it's too easy to say 'that's enough'.

2) run further, just increase your time incrementally as you have been doing on the C25K programme, not too much all at once, they (whoever 'they' are) reckon adding 10% distance a week is good. If you try to go too far too soon you'll end up with possible injury problems. Or get a Bridge to 10K plan and follow that.

3) run faster, lamp posts, fartleks, intervals whatever. Personally even though I don't like treadmill running, but this is the thing where they come into their own (outside doing intervals isn't the same, I can feel myself getting slower during the fast runs). You can set the pace and you have to run at that pace, no slowing down. I have an app which counts down time for interval training. I have my ipad attached to the front of the treadmill with elastic bands, programme the app to beep (or ring, or sound the horn, lots of different sounds available) at the end of the intervals, then I increase or decrease the speed manually (my treadmill is a cheap second hand one that's not programmable or fancy). Start off with finding out how fast you can go, can you run that for 30 seconds, how long to recover? That's your first session, warm up run (5 mins slow), fast interval (30 seconds fast), slow recovery interval (same as warm up speed or maybe a bit slower, maybe a minute), repeat the fast and slow intervals x5 (start with a short time), then 5 minute cool down run (slow again, same as the warm up). Leave it at that, go rest, relax, knowing that although it was probably only a 20 minute run it was a good workout. Once you can do that comfortably (won't take long) either increase the time on the fast runs, or the speed, or decrease the time on the recovery runs, or increase the number of intervals. Back when I first started 8kph seemed fast, now my 10kph warm up run seems slow and I've been thinking that maybe I need a newer bigger treadmill which goes above 12kph (though I'm not that daft, not going to spend money on that if I don't need to, and I don't need to)!

So once you've graduated your weekly running will consist of a 5k outside for 'fun', a longer run to increase your distance/stamina and a treadmill run for speed. Don't forget rest days, especially in the early post graduation months.


right...I would ditch the treadmill, get outside, increase the duration of your runs and also do Laura's speed which will really help improve your speed...good luck :)


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