Couch to 5K
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Looking for some speed tips

Hey folks,

I'm training to get into the police and to do that I need to be able to run 1.5 miles in 12-14 minutes (12 being the target and 14 being the cut off). They usually take you for a mile gentle run to warm up too, so realistically I have to sustain the higher pace after a mile gentle run.

I've worked out my target to be about 8 minute miles, but I currently operate more around 10. I just took a month off after my graduation due to injury so I was pretty worried the fitness would have faded, but happily managed 4.5miles in ~45 mins the other day doing run walk 10:1.

I've tried making my own fartlek and interval training plans, but to be honest they're a mishmash of all the random stuff I've read/heard about and I'm not sure they're really working! I was wondering if anyone knows of any clear training plans out there to improve your speed over roughly 2 mile distance, or if there are any easy(ish) to remember rules of thumb for speed training? Has anyone tried Laura's SPEED workout and is it any good?

There's a deadline coming up for the autumn intake that I'm sorely tempted by (would love to get out of my current job!) but if I fail the fitness test then I have to wait 6 months before I can reapply which is risky as it would mean being tied to my current job for another 6 months! If I could make significant improvements over the next 3 months I'd stand a chance of being eligible for the spring intake.

What do you experienced runners think? Am I being too ambitious in too short a time scale?

13 Replies

Speed podcast is good, I cannot follow the music beat and I go a little bit faster every time. Have you though of joining a running group, or an athletics club?

If you could find a group with a coach I reckon it would be really feasible to get to that speed in 3 months. Structured training is much easier that way.

Good luck!


Thanks I'll try that out, I've been tempted by the local gym's fitness assessment and personal trainers, but they're expensive! It's a university run gym so it's supposedly cheaper than normal, but it's still £300 a year so a fair investment! Running clubs should be more affordable.


Local jog groups are good! There's a WPC in my group!

You can only build up speed gradually. If you overdo it you'll pay the price. The Stepping Stones podcasts are great, and free! Plus you get Laura to help you along every step of the way. You can download the 3 podcasts them and run them to your heart's content.

I found that by downloading and following a myasics free running plan that I speeded up by doing quick 3 x 1 k intervals. You jog in between, don't stop.

I ran too fast downhill though and am now in real trouble with an injured leg so be careful out there!!! It's so easy to overdo things.


Oddly, the thing that did the most for my running speed and general fitness was not running at all, but doing surprisingly short intervals on the eliptical at the gym.

I took to doing 5 mins warm-up on a reasonably gentle level, then just 20 seconds absolutely flat-out maximum (high resistance and max speed you can achieve), then repeat after 2:40 back at gentle pace. After my number of rep's I then did 5 mins gentle warm-down.

I began on 3 fast rep's, giving a total time of only 5+3*3+5 = 19 mins but it's amazing how hard work those 20-seconds flat out can be. I'm now up to 5-6 rep's with shorter breaks and it's becoming too easy, so I'm going to have to push it to 30-seconds flat out, but the difference one session a week doing this can make has been unbelievable.

You can do similar things running or on the treadmill but the great thing about the eliptical is that you control the speed completely and it can offer whatever resistance you want at any time.


PS this is the only training for speed I have ever done and two weeks ago I tried a 1.5 mile run a the start of my session as a V02max test - got 11:33 and still completed an hour's run after so it has def' helped!


Wow! That's amazing! I might have to give that a go, I went and scoped out the local gym recently and they have some pretty cool kit for creating your own workouts so this might actually be a great way to do it.

Out of interest, how long ago did you start running and how long ago did you start speed workouts?


I've been running since Jan 2014 (needed to get fit for a big hike last summer and then caught the bug) but I only did around one run a week (usually 1x10k, occasionally two runs) between Sep and Dec 2014. In Jan I joined a sports centre and added a session playing badminton or on the eliptical each week.

I discovered intervals around Feb/March so they have had their effect in 3-4 months and I never do more than one set a week. At the moment I am on 1-2 runs, one night of badminton and 1 night intervals & a few weights per week. That seems to be enough for 11:33 1.5 miles or 1h27 10-miler. And I'm 42, so no spring chicken.


Wow I'm seriously inspired! I am definitely going to add some gym work in.


Oh, and something I noticed while comparing my runs: my fastest 10 k happened a week after doing a Half Marathon - and my best splits a day after walking up a steep but short hill (1.2 km) at a quick pace


I've been trying to not over train on the speed stuff and keep doing my longer runs in the vain hope that the strength building I'll do on longer runs will help me during the shorter, faster runs, but actually I think it's messing with my pace perception!

Another thing I should have mentioned above is that you're not allowed a watch, so I have to REALLY learn how my pace feels because the trusty old garmin isn't allowed in with me!



No watch is difficult because it will be easy to go off too fast at the start. You need to be able to do it reasonably easily to allow for imperfect pacing.


I know it's a pretty harsh rule... Apparently they have some crims to chase (aka: pace setters) but everyone does the test at the same time and there are different pace targets depending on your age/gender, I don't want to end up catching the wrong crim!


Ha, judging by the chubby coppers that I see on a regular basis, the test that you have north of the border must be damn sight harder than the English bleep-test. Lol!

Anyhow, 12-14 mins for 1.5 miles is entirely achievable without sprint training - IF YOU WANT IT. The following plan is pretty much how I got fit, apart from the longer run bit. I jumped from 5km to 8km and then to 10km in a couple of weeks and lived to tell the tale. This plan will absolutely work-I'll be 50 this year and my PBs are 23:18 for 5km and 5:49 for 1 mile.

First off, ditch all of the junk in your diet. Second, start dropping any excess pounds-nothing should be flabbing around. Third, schedule 3x 30 mins runs per week and don't skip the rest days. Fourth, run hard. That means beyond conversational pace but not flat out (and forget about walking-burglars don't walk). Fifth, noticeably crank up the speed in the final 5 mins of every session (the last km) and run flat out for the last 30 seconds. Do all of this for a month and then think about fitting in a longer run, say at the weekend. Nice and easy to begin with, increasing the distance by 500 metres a week. This should be a slow run-the endurance gained will help your speed over shorter distances. You could also vary your midweek sessions by doing some hill work-plenty of advice online about this.

If you feel that you can't do this on your own then join your local running club. They'll soon lick you in to shape.

Good luck!!!


It's a fairly silly test to be honest, you get tested 5 times over 2 years (if you get through the initial one) and after that you can start knocking back the doughnuts. Seems crazy! Thanks for the tips, I look forward to having such a good 5k time!


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