Couch to 5K
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I am no longer a beginner!

Hi everyone, not been actively posting for a while - lots of work stress - think of this as a very long post to make up for that :)

First of all, as per the title - it's been 2 years since I graduated, and I believe that makes me "no longer a beginner" in running terms! So if you need any "expert" advice, just ask :)

It has actually caused me to reflect a bit on "my journey" (oh yes, coming over all X-Factor!), and I wanted to share a couple of things, the highs and lows to date, etc.

I started C25K as my middle daughter was picked for cross-country, and I wanted to support her training. She is 10. She is MUCH quicker than me. I felt quite ashamed - it wasn't about speed, it was about not being able to run more than 400 metres without having to stop.

So I began the C25K, I kept with it, completed all the podcasts - I made sure I didn't overdo the speed, it was all about completing the time.

I was a bit disappointed initially as I thought I would definitely run 5k in 30 minutes just by doing the plan, so when I worked out it was closer to 4.5km, that wasn't great, but the 30 minutes non-stop was.

The main things I did was:

1 - ran in a local grassy park - less stress on joints

2 - ran in the day - less people to look at my red faced puffing

3 - i didn't get any running shoes until about week 5 - they were my reward for keeping going

So post-graduation my goal was to do the 5k in 30 mins - I see a lot of posts about whether it's right to be disappointed, etc. - it's a personal thing, and for me the 5k in 30 minutes was the proof I needed...

I tried the stepping stones, stamina, and speed podcasts - speed is the only podcast I couldn't complete first time - that is tough from just graduating...

I worked down from 34:35 to 31:32 over the next year. Then through 2015 I got a bit stuck... until there was a really good article in Runners World which was pretty much aimed at me (aiming for 30 minute 5k but just over it? Try this 6 week plan type thing). The key point in this was a tempo run half way through the plan where you had to run 1.5k back faster than you went out. It helped me realise that I could run "comfortably" faster than I ever thought, and it removed the self-limitations I may have placed on myself.

I completed the 6 weeks with a sub-30 minute 5k (almost 21 months after graduating!) It was 28:31. I maintained the schedule and managed to get to 27:51.

The main things I did in this 2 year period was:

1 - get a garmin forerunner 10 - if you are aiming for speed/distance, i think it's probably essential to have some kind of accurate measure - I tried software on a computer and it was around 200m wrong...

2 - ditched music completely - this was strange initally because of listening to Laura, but after a while it was more rewarding and a better social experience for me...

So now I had completed my first real goal - what next? Obviously a step up to 10k of course! So I did this by the gradual increase in longest run per week by 1km no more (tested my patience that did), managed to get there in about 1hr 10m. I tried to use the 5km speed to get sub 1hour, but the closest I've come is an agonising 2 seconds over the 1 hour. I find speed over 10km hard because it feels a bit of a slog if I'm honest...

So I decided to keep moving up, and this year I had a target of the Leicester Half Marathon. We are around August time now, and that race is end of October. I continued working up, but - disaster! - for the very first time, I got an injury! This was IT Band related. I did a fair bit of research. I was a bit concerned to say the least.

The HM plan was binned, I just took it easy to try and recover over a couple of weeks of not running, stretching, doing that exercise where you swing your foot off a step - I did it all because I was actually quite scared I wouldn't be able to run again...

So now we'll fast forward to 19th November, back running for a couple of weeks, all going OK but I'm not pushing speed or distance (5.5km at present), just really really happy and appreciating that I can go out for a run and enjoy it. I know I've been lucky (or is that careful?) to not be injured before, and maybe 10km is my natural limit (or maybe I pushed it up a bit too quickly), but in some ways I'm quite pleased I had a minor interruption, because I was no way appreciating how far I'd come before that, and now I feel it a lot more.

Blimey - drone, blah, blah or what?!

If you made it to the end you've read the equivalent of 5k! Have a great weekend everyone!


16 Replies

Pleased I got "puffing" as a tag :)


Hi Andy. This is a really inspiring post. I've just completed my first 5k race and wasn't aware of the stepping stones and speed programmes. I'll have to look these up. I had an ITB issue early on in the C25k and realised I shouldn't have pushed myself so hard, so early as a completely new runner. I too did a lot of research and was given exercises by a physio, which I think really helped me to carry on. I've no doubt you'll be able to do a half at some point. Sounds like you have the right attitude for it. Good luck!


Ah and what a place to race - in Vegas, baby!

I think you can get the podcasts for stepping stones/stamina/speed here:

You might need to click through again, but should help

The ITB was strange because I had been doing 10k building up to 13k and time from 1 hour to 1:30 over a few weeks. I think what actually did it was that I did quite a hard interval session and then next time out tried to go fast again.

I saw you had a post on pacing - not had time to read it yet, but I'll give you my tips if you need any



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Yep viva Las Vegas! 😎

Thank you for the link, and offer of advice. I think this is just what I need to keep going when I've finished week 9.

I was getting worried about my pace pre-Vegas as I knew I was slow and had no idea how long it would take me to run the 5k. However now I've done it, no more pressure and I can just build up slowly.


Thanks for this - great perspective.


Thanks Rainbowsmurf


Loved reading your story Andy, and there's a lot of wisdom there for us all to learn from.

As for the injury - maybe it was "just one of those things", it's rare to hear about runners (even top athletes) who never gets an injury. But you overcame it sensibly like everything else you've been doing. And that's probably also a lesson many of us can learn from. So thank you for sharing.


Thanks Tomas. Sensible isn't usually my middle name, so I'm pleased I managed to be so rational at the time. To be honest, the injury did have me in a panic about not being able to run again - it was my Joni Mitchell moment, as in "don't it only go to show that you don't know what you've got till it's gone"

I'm fortunate that I've had no problems now I'm stretching more/better, so fingers crossed for the future!


In my expereince it is always when one is pushing pace in training that one picks up injuries, rather than distance. Sounds like a good couple of years though, and a good attitude towards enjyoing your running.


Thanks Rignold - I think you are spot on there!


Well done Haggers !

I enjoyed reading that , top man ! :-) xxx


Thanks PP - I think it was one of your posts that said about the 2 years, so I'm blaming you for going on about it :)

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Ha ha ! Its all my fault ! :-D xxx


Great post. A very inspiring journey. Just the thing to get me running today. I have just graduated so I am still very slow but I am confident that I will get there eventually as you have. Well done


Hi Cath - thank you. It's really just about keeping going. There are some good posts from Bazza1234 on this - the research is all about 80% of your "training" should be slow and steady (as in well below your best pace, being able to hold a conversation while you are doing it), it's only 20% where you should be trying to go fast(er), then it comes anyway.

The first year improvement for me was just about keeping going with the 3 runs and you get a bit better over time and practice. Also, if you were like me, there is a lot of inactivity to overcome. In some ways I think of it as being a smoker - you can give up (or start running), but it still takes a while for the effects to be reversed.

Good luck!

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What a gorgeous story of perseverance, tenacity, determination and grit. Thankyou for sharing, and it shows that plans do work if we stick with them... I think you will get to that HM, and further should you decide you want to. You've proved that you are capable of anything you put your mind to... Well done 😎


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