Park run time driving me mad :(

Hi everyone, wonder if anyone could tell me what am i doing wrong, there must be something for sure. I did my first park run in May and didn't miss a single one since then so it will be seven months now, my initial time was something like 36 minutes and then very quickly i got to around 33. Every day I do something - monday, tuesday and wednesday i do hard 5K runs on the treadmill, thursday i run 5K outside, friday i do swimming, sunday i do nothing. Initially I felt good for it, all this running (which is still very hard and not that enjoyable apart from that amazing shower/coffee moment afterwards) keeps me relatively fit (in combination with healthy food), my leg muscles got stronger, i got myself into size 12 instead of 14 which is first time since school (i am 40 now), etc. However, I am not improving! I am reading stories of many people here and everywhere else, I can see my fellow parkrunners jogging effortlessly (similar weight / age) and making it under 30'' but I am just stuck on 32-33 minutes (it was 33 again last saturday). It is very annoying. How do I improve? Do i need to find a coach? Do I need to run less and replace 1-2 runs with something else (what exactly?) Do I just accept that I am a slow runner? Are you gonna say that I am just thinking about time too much and i should stop measuring myself and enjoy running more? I am naturally very competitive and doing the same thing over and over again without any improvement drives me crazy.


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13 Replies

  • Unfortunately it depends on the individual. Have you tried running intervals?

    When I was doing parkruns, the thing that improved my time was by running further on either Monday or Wednesday, 7-8k, I found my 5k times came down.

    A few hilly runs also helped bring the 5k on the flat time down.

    The best parkrun I ever did was after having a week off (legs felt very fresh), and having someone running beside me pushing me all the way.

    I hope this gives some ideas.

  • Your doing some hill work to boost your stamina? Have you tried running a longer distance? How about upping the distance from 5k by 10% each week, try reaching 6, 7, 8k it can help improve your time over 5k and it's something different for you to try..😊

  • I have had this same problem until 3 weeks ago where I gave myself 2 days rest (like doing no exercise except walking around the mall to increase my number of steps to 10 000) before a Saturday and went from 33 min to this Sat 30.45 min.

    Perhaps you should give yourself a few rest days and rather run outside twice a week instead of the treadmill? Another option would be to increase your distance to a 5.5 or 6km during the week so your body starts to build endurance. - intervals may work too though I haven't tried them yet (going to join a running club next year when the new licenses come out and they often have such sessions on a track)

    Hope this helps? I am 100% sure you will get to sub 30 soon! I am hoping for mine at this weeks Park run :D

  • You might not want to hear this but what first occurred to me reading your post is you're doing too much running. For someone who did their first park run in May you're keeping up a schedule that would challenge much more seasoned runners. No wonder your body is objecting - you're not giving it the days off it needs to recover and strengthen; it is on your days off that your body gets fitter, not on the days you exercise. Try days off between runs, even 2 days, as DiveMonkey says, and I'm positive you'll begin to see a difference. You may actually enjoy it more too.

    All the best!

  • There is some great advice above. Getting your time down is a complex issue. It is not just about continuously running. Like going through the program your body need time to adjust to new speeds. I have just spent the whole summer getting ready to increase my speed by 1-2 min off a 5km. I have done it with a combination of Stregnth, speed, intervals and stretching and rest days. Also diet. For parkrun you are going out in the morning to run your fastest so I would say preparation to really go as fast as you can for that run will start the night before with some good running fuel, no matter how much effort you want to put into the run if there is no fuel in the tank you won't have the reserves to pull it off. You will get there, good luck.

  • Where's the fire ? Don't panic. Lots of good advice from others here. I sometimes gat a bit frustrated about my time but it will come. Perhaps just need to introduce a bit more variety . Even do other sports. running might not be exiting enough. You will find that other sports to keep a basic fitness could involve running 30 minutes for 3 times a week. Perhaps use it as a basis for whatever you may want to do ? What works for me is increasing stamina by increasing distance and running up hill.

    For me , admittedly slowly, my 5K runs are getting easier because I now run 6K+ for 43 minutes and inch by inch increasing time. I have my first parkrun on Saturday and my best 5K time is about 32 to 33 minutes. It's possible that I may not get to 5K in 30 minutes for a long time. But where's the rush. Bazza put a video on of a 60 year old breaking records and experts reckon that even at his age , also my age, that we have about another 7 years of improvement in us !

    Important to remember what original motivation was. For me I said to myself " Aim was to get fit, lose weight, avoid potential future on medication and run for 30 minutes 3 times a week. Anything else is a bonus".

    I do like a challenge and variety. I cycle, I run to work for 4K as one of my 3 runs per week. Run more hills and change routes. I don't compare myself to others except as an interested observer. I don't want to be them ! The thing about running is that it can be flexible. I like playing football but cannot commit regular time etc. because of other life commitment , like most of us. I wouldn't want to be part of a team and not commit and let them down.

    Main thing is to set your own goals and personal bests and be happy !

  • PBs come fast and furious at the start when we start running. Our fitness improves leaps and bounds and we learn the ropes - when to run faster, slower, how to do hills, the particular course etc. They become much more rare and special as you keep running, as then it needs serious dedicated effort, a day you're feeling particularly zippy or someone fast pulling you along.

    Also, stop worrying about other people's times. I'm 35. We have folks in the 60+ age group at Parkrun that bury me in the dust and we had an under 11 finish in 19 minutes. Age and body type aren't an indicator of speed. The important person to beat is whomever happens to be near the finish line with you :).

    I promise you'll get better. I find even certain times of year I'm faster than others. And as others have said, extra rest days really help. As do fartleks, but speedwork isn't really for the winter if it's icy where you are.

  • Intervals. Intervals. Intervals.


    Want some suggestions? Especially easy to do on the treadmill.

  • If you want to run faster , run further. Increase one run per week by 10% and your stamina will improve and you will overcome the psychological 5k barrier. I would also suggest not running on consecutive days. You are still a new runner and you need rest days. All that said, you may never get faster and you may have to accept that as a fact. Some people are just faster than others. There will always be somebody slower than you as well. Just relax and you will run better.

  • Does your parkrun do "pacers' day"?? I run 4 times per week and follow a plan which dictates paces determined by my 5K pb -- but I rarely ever run anywhere near my pb at parkrun . Why??? Because I don't try!!! I find that the only way I can really push myself is either in an actual race or when pacing with a pacer on "pacer day". I have broken the 30 minute 5K once - so I no longer really need to do that again. These days I mostly accompany slower runners than me around the course - usually around 35-36 minutes. It is more fun at the back of the pack!! :)

  • I reckon it may be the true test of all round fitness (which involves your mind as well as your body) if you can adapt to change, which includes ageing. If being active is taken as a lifelong project rather than the current 'kick' then inevitably there will come a time when the meaning of personal best is going to change. I am not saying 'don't try to get any faster or further' but have an eye to that long game, and look to the process rather than the product. The process needs to become its own reward or you are chasing an injury.

    As others have pointed out, frankly you are overtraining. You don't sound happy, you sound driven. Your self discipline is fabulous, your compassion for yourself is ****. How about swapping that Tuesday slog on the treadmill for half an hour's yoga or something else that will slow you down and help teach you to 'be'? And just taking a few moments every day to just 'be'?

  • I just wanted to add to this, you don't say whether you came to running via the Couch to 5K programme. One option for you which might serve you well is to give it a go... even though you certainly don't need to do it to know that you can run for 5K and you are clearly not a beginner. I feel it really helps build a sense of achievement with small steps (sometimes that will simply be clocking up another repetition of the same run) Most of us find it helps shape safe and productive attitudes as well as training our bodies.

  • Sounds as though you've got in to a bit of a rut so time to mix things up a bit. Here are my tips:

    1. Don't be hard on yourself. You're exercising regularly which is more than most people manage to do. Running is a tough game, especially if you're trying to speed up.

    2. Change your routine. Same old 5k runs week in and week out-boring!

    3. Reinstate rest days. Important for body and soul. If you want, do cross training on some of the off days. Swimming, cycling, or just brisk walking.

    4. Incremental goals. You already have a major goal which is sub 30. Break it down in to milestones, say 32 mins then 31 mins or make it even more granular. Reward yourself after you reach each milestone. By the way, sub 30 for a 40 year old is eminently achievable provided you've got no underlying health problems and aren't carrying too much extra weight. Speed has a genetic element of course but a serious runner in decent shape can get under 30 mins so tell yourself that you are going to do it.

    5. Run faster. To improve your parkrun times you need to run faster in training. The way to do this is with intervals. Ideally you'll need a running watch or a Smartphone app to help with the timings. If you haven't got a watch already then make the investment. Head over to and check out the reviews. I only know Garmin so can't give you any wide-ranging recommendations but my FR220 is a great watch-the latest iteration is the 230 if you can afford it. I've heard good things about the FR20-35 models too.

    6. Hills. Painful but short. Hill sprints are one of the best ways to build strength and stamina.

    7. Long and easy runs. Aim for a long slow run once a week. The important thing is the distance-speed doesn't matter. If you're only running to 5k at the moment then aim to get your long run out to 10k over the course of a couple of months. Long runs build endurance and are proven to improve speed over shorter distances.

    So, putting it all together, here is a sample plan. The internet is awash with all kinds of training plans so feel free to do your own research and come up with something that suits you. Good luck!

    Mon: rest

    Tues: intervals

    Wed: rest or cross train

    Thurs: hills

    Fri: rest

    Sat: parkrun

    Sun: long and easy

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