Couch to 5K

Self-Limitation, Cadence, Slow runs, new PB?

Hi everyone,

For the last 6 weeks, I've been following a Runners' World plan with the aim of finally (FINALLY!) cracking the 30 minutes for the 5k.

I graduated back in October 2013, and at the time I was a bit disappointed I didn't make the distance. In fact, it took me a couple of weeks after that to make 5k in 34:35, which I got down to 31:32 by the end of 2014.

Since then, I plateaued - and although I was/am proud of continuing with the running, where I've got to from where I was, etc., the time did become a bit of a monkey on my back, because for me the 5k in 30 minutes was the point (I appreciate this is not the case for everyone).

Anyway, cue Runners' World plan aimed at getting down to the 30 minutes mark in 6 weeks from around my starting point.

What I've learnt from this is:

1 - running longer but slower makes a surprisingly big improvement

I found it initially hard to get over the mental contradiction of running slower for a long time making me faster, but it's definitely worked. Longer in this programme means 6.4km easy runs (easy = conversational pace) and/or longer runs of 60 mins to 80 mins once a week.

I've thought about why this is the case as I run (I don't run with music, so have to fill the time!), and I think it is to do with strengthening the repetitive action of running with better form. And this last point is what I was really thinking about last night - the easy running keeps me relaxed and my form is good without having to try, making it easier to run, etc. - bit of a virtuous circle going on.

2 - my cadence has naturally improved and when I do ramp up the speed, it's easier to keep going faster for longer

Before I started this plan, I would plod around 158, now at an easy pace its closer to 164 and if I'm trying it's more like 172-174. My feeling is that going slower makes you take more, smaller steps.

Combined with 1 above, this means that the longer runs don't wear you out (easy breathing), but are more gently taxing on the body (pleasantly aching muscles, normal recovery no problem).

3 - I can do better than I thought I could if I'm not obsessed with measuring time

This is the self-limitation bit - in my head I set times that I would expect (e.g. conversational pace = 7:00 to 7:30). Then there was a run about 3 weeks in where you had to do an "in and out", aiming for faster back but at a 10k pace (so not trying to go flat out). Without looking every km at the Garmin (Gary Garmin to me, Mr Garmin to you lot), I was gauging effort by ability to utter some words - and from this I had a bit of a revelation that I could do 6:20 and still be "conversational". So I was seriously under-estimating what I could achieve within a sliding scale, because I had pre-accepted that this was the best I could do.

Since then, I feel mentally much stronger and positive, and tomorrow evening is the big day - i.e. the "race" for the 30 minutes.

I know I can do it from the training - I'll let you know how I get on!

6 Replies

All great points but if there's anything that will ultimately get you under 30 mins it's motivation and you already have that! Even so, a few tips if I may a) if you're carrying any excess pounds then get rid of them-there's seconds in the bank right there. b) aim to sprint at the end of every run, even if it's just for the last 10 seconds. c) build some hill work in to your training plan. d) go along to your local parkrun-the extra adrenalin will give you a speed boost (but be careful not to get carried away at the start).

Onwards and upwards!

1 like

Nice post, Andrew and good luck with your attempt at 30 mins/5k tomorrow.

I am also working on the basis that, for maximum benefit, the vast majority of training runs should be at a very easy pace intermixed with the occasional hard - very hard effort.

It is far too soon to say whether it will work for me though given that I only graduated from c25k three weeks ago.


I'm sure it will - I'm a convert to this slow running, and maybe that is why Laura likes to focus on completion of time rather than distance covered during the 9 weeks of C25K itself?

From the plan I've been following it seems important that the distance/time is considerably over 30 minutes - the short runs are 6.4km, so ultimately you still do 3 runs per week, but they are more like 50 minutes, 70 minutes, and some kind of hill session/variation...


Thanks for posting this, I slipped in my running & have recently got back on form but being a lot slower than my 5ks last year and even then never quite reaching 5k in 30mins (which is a goal for me too) has left me a bit dispondant (best was 31:23). I keep reading slower is better so I definitely need to get my head around that as I am a 1 speed runner! Going to definitely give this a go - how much slower do you need to go vs. your usual pace?


Hi - I would aim for something like 7:30 per KM. There is a calculator here: and if you click on the training tab, it shows the splits for easy runs, intervals, etc. I think this is the one Bazza1234 uses, he's done several posts on the subject.

If you are like me, you will find the first 1km especially hard, as this is the one that I have to rein myself in on (full of energy, raring to go, etc.), after that just find a nice easy (slow!) rhythm.

BTW I did a separate post on this, but I did break the 30 minutes yesterday, so I would say it definitely works

Good luck!


Congrats on breaking the 30 minute barrier! Looks like I've been going a tad too fast on my easy runs (around the 11:30 min per mile mark when I should have been doing 12:01-12:40) Mind you the rest of the list Threshold, interval and repetition there is no way i'd manage those, too quick! Will concentrate on running slower for my long ones and hopefully the rest will improve :) Thanks!


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