Couch to 5K
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How slow is slow?

This question has been bugging me for a while. Am I going too slow? Am I going too quick?

I'm running on a treadmill, and have been guessing on how fast to go, and relying on what my body says I can do comfortably.

I read, with interest a post on natural running, and did some reading about cadence, and muscle dynamics.

With a tweak to my posture, stride pattern, shortening the stride (to keep pace down) and trying to stop bouncing, I got a massive increase in pace. Massive. And it felt easier than my earlier runs. And I felt I could have gone a bit faster...

i know it isn't about the speed, at this point in the program (about to start Week 4), but is it okay to run at your fastest pace, as long as your body can take it comfortably? I appreciate there is the spectre of injury, but if you have good form, and are comfortable, I take it that's okay? I understood you are more likely to have an injury with bad form?

Is the goal to run for 30 minutes non-stop, or to run 5k in that 30 minutes, or is the 5k goal a longer process?

I used to run frequently as a teenager (completed relay marathons and half-marathons), and always found it really hard work (even a 1.5 mile run was torture). I suppose as an adult, I stopped running with the mindset of if I found it hard as a teenager, then what chance do I have as an adult? Looking back, I think it was all about technique, and I had very poor technique then. If only I knew then what I think I know now...

8 Replies

I think the idea is to run for 30 minutes and not worry about the distance, it's a bit misleading that the programme is called C25K as I think most people don't achieve that distance by the end. I also find running slower makes my form not as natural so it's a hard thing to balance. I'm sure some of the more experienced runners will give you advice about the chance of injury but from what I understand you need to take things as slow as possible initially. Good luck with week 4, I've just started it again.

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Really great that you've worked out your form and I applaud the shorter strides - I did the same when doing C25k on the treadmill early last year.

I had a false start on the treadmill after a 25 year break from running - went too fast, too far, too soon and got painful tendinitis. I returned after 10 weeks, using the C25K specifically as a safe way to ease back into it.

Slow should = "conversational pace", ie slow enough that you can comfortably hold a conversation at.

Re: 30 mins/5k.... It's a bugbear of mine that the program should really be called " Couch to 30 mins" . Why? Because certainly on the NHS app, Laura never mentions distance. It's all about the time and for the vast majority doing the program, 5k in 30 mins is still a goal to be achieved once they finish Week 9.

So, IMHO concentrate on getting to and through Week 9 at a comfortable pace with no thought of distance just yet. You've clearly run a lot previously, so you know increased pace will come with time :-)

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The goal of the programme is to run 30 minutes continuously, not to run 5k.

Slow is good because it enables you to build your stamina, breathing, muscle and joint strength etc, and learn technique. When you are learning to drive, you drive slower than qualified drivers because there is a lot to to be thinking abot and getting right and that is easier if you are not bombing along at 70.

Having said all that, listening to your body is the key thing. We are all different, of different ages, levels of starting fitness etc. If you are comfortable at the pace you are going, not unduly puffed out or aching of knee afterwards then you are running at a good pace. You don't have to artificially slow down just for the sake of it.

Running 5k in 30 minutes is definitely not the goal of the programme and most people aren't doing that at the end of the 9 weeks, many aren't running that a year later, but some people do, and if you are one of them, then great. As long as you are running at your own pace, it's all good.


Slow and steady,it is all about, as the others say, stamina and running for 30 minutes.

do it your way and you will make it :)


It's definitely about elapsed time and not pace. One year on from graduation, I can easily run 5k but I can't run it in 30 minutes. As a short almost 60 year old female, I expect a bit more improvement in pace but I don't think I am destined to ever do it in 30 minutes. The right pace for you is the comfortable one that helps you build over the 9 weeks of the programme to being able to sustain it for 30 minutes. Not over-striding is key, as it allows you to land on the middle of your foot rather than your heel. You have probably uncovered the key to running well and have the ability to build good habits rather than ones that might be unhelpful and difficult to break!

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Speed is not important as you go through the program, it is all about getting your joints and muscles used to running at whatever pace your body dictates. You will want to be going at a pace that you can keep going at as the time increases. Run comfortably and if you find your running out of energy slow down, if you can keep going at that pace then its a good pace for you. The program is all about getting to run for 30 min, whatever your distance.

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Thanks for your comments everyone. Tomorrow am will be my first run of week 4. I know this is a big step in running time, so I will take the first one steady, and see where I go from there.


PacING is important, not pace. You need to be able to finish the run, as the runs get longer you might need to slow down, but if you're comfortable at the moment, you doing fine!


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