Slowest runner on record?: Hi. Am on a high... - Couch to 5K

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Slowest runner on record?

36 Replies

Hi. Am on a high after just completing my first 28 minute run. Have got to week 8 after starting on New Year’s Day. Really pleased as I thought I couldn’t run previously. However, in order to keep my heart rate within safe limits, I have to run really slowly and am sometimes overtaken by pedestrians. I am only 49 and feeling pretty good - although pretty shattered too- when I run. I managed 2.55 km on my 28 minute run. Is this within the normal range of what people achieve or am I an outlier?

36 Replies
Instructor57 profile image

Well done with your progress!I am curious as to what you mean by this:

'in order to keep my heart rate within safe limits, I have to run really slowly'

what limits and defined by what/who ?

I wouldn't be concerned about what others are doing as it really doesn't define normal .

There is only really 'Normal for you'

Other people's normal is irrelevant.

in reply to Instructor57

general advice for a 49 year old is that the upper safe limit for heart rate is 170, and that for vigorous activity you should aim to be 75-90 percent of this, ie not above 154. I have been keeping to this. I slow down if my heart rate goes above 150 and stop if it reaches 155.

Instructor57 profile image
Instructor57Administrator in reply to

As you say , 'General advice 'And there is no one size fits all .

The HR you have quoted is based on the 220-Age calculation which is often far from accurate but used as a default setting for most wrist worn devices.

I wouldn't get to hung up on numbers,

You really would be better using 'perceived effort' as your guide .

ie, running at a conversational pace as referred to in the programme guide linked to by MissUnderstanding

A conversational pace will put you around 75 to 80 % of your Max HR

the important point here being 'Your'

Max HR!

Take a look at this FAQ post for more information on HR

in reply to Instructor57

I actually find heart rate to be a really useful guide as it allows me to keep a steady pace whilst saving some reserve for a really strong finish. The advice is given on several websites and I am happy to follow it. I haven’t been able to find the evidence it is based on, but unless I can find evidence that it is safe to go above recommended limits I don’t want to risk it. Thanks though for your viewpoint

Instructor57 profile image
Instructor57Administrator in reply to

It's not just my viewpoint, it's based on quite a bit of research and conversations with a consultant cardiologist.

However, if you are happy doing what you are doing and the numbers help you and you are not pushing too hard then great , keep at it 👍

Your best aerobic development will certainly come by making around 80% of your runs at a conversational pace .

Enjoy the rest of the program.

in reply to Instructor57

do you have links to any of this research?

Instructor57 profile image
Instructor57Administrator in reply to

There are links in the FAQ post I linked for you .There is also a lot of other information available that I don't have Links for if you wish to research this further .

Here's another that springs to mind

Cmoi profile image
CmoiGraduate in reply to

Hi Hidden , congratulations on your progress!

Provided that you have no health issues or personalised medical advice telling you not to go above that heart rate, you don't need to stress about sticking to it. The standard 220 minus age maximum heart rate formula simply doesn't work for many people, myself included. I'm 62, run a lot of hills and off-road, and would find it impossible to stay within my suggested maximum.

I'm not saying you have to go faster, or run further. Running at a comfortable conversational pace is good. In addition some runners find low heartrate training very helpful, so it it suits you then by all means stick to it. However if you feel fine when you're running - not breathless, sick or dizzy, or with a racing heart - then you needn't get hung up on the numbers.

Happy running!

in reply to Cmoi

thanks. I can’t say I’m running at a comfortable conversational pace - I can barely speak! I feel faint if my heart rate goes above 155. I’m also a person who tends to be motivated by the numbers so I find it helpful although I agree I shouldn’t get hung up on them

Cmoi profile image
CmoiGraduate in reply to

Ah, in that case it sounds like you shouldn't be pushing more than you are now, possibly even slow down a little more. Your body's getting used to running and that takes time.

When running I personally will always take what my body's telling me over what the numbers are telling me. If the numbers say I'm fine but I actually feel lousy, I'll dial things back. However, if I'm happily running uphill for several km, able to chat and generally feeling good, but the numbers say my heart rate's too high, I'll simply ignore them!

nowster profile image
nowsterGraduate in reply to

That makes a difference. The guidance numbers are just that: guidance.

Everyone's different. I regularly hit 175 bpm in harder runs, and I'm 54. My max recorded HR so far was 188.

You're best going by feel. That said, when I attempted C25K the very first time, exactly three years ago, on my third run I had an unplanned-for short climb of about six feet (in a cemetery of all places) and that completely knocked my system out and I had cold sweats, palpitations, nausea, cramps, etc.

Your fitness will improve through the programme. What made you feel faint in the first weeks may not do so now.

But it's best to ignore the numbers and go by how you actually feel. I only ever look at the stats after the run.

John_W profile image
John_WAmbassador in reply to

and how are you measuring your heart rate ?

in reply to John_W

I measure my heart rate using my smartwatch. I have considered buying a chest strap monitor, but consider the smartwatch to be accurate enough for my purposes at the moment. I’ve also had arrhythmias in the past so I find the smartwatch useful for it’s ecg function.

MissUnderstanding profile image
MissUnderstandingAdministrator in reply to

If you’ve had arrhythmias in the past and are now finding you’re getting lightheaded while you’re running, this is something it seems would be sensible to discuss with a real life medical person just to make sure all’s still well. We’re not able to offer medical advice here, but what you’ve said would send me to my GP. That’s just my personal, non-expert view.

in reply to MissUnderstanding

Thank-you. It’s interesting that my post has generated so much well-intentioned advice to ignore the numbers. I’ll continue to monitor as I have been doing.

John_W profile image
John_WAmbassador in reply to

ok, so that fact you've heart issues previoulsy puts a very different and understandable spin on your replies above.

Kiai profile image
KiaiGraduate in reply to

Hi Lenny9, to answer your question, when I was doing C25K a couple of years back I was doing a pace like yours.  Yep, I’ve had pedestrians overtake me!  2 years later, I go only a little faster now (mostly between 6km/h (10:00min/km) - 7km/h, with the occasional and relatively brief strides a little faster at the end (~8km/h).  

I’m similar in age to you and, despite having a strong heart, I have to exercise within ‘safe’ HR levels (as you call it) due to heart valve stenosis which was identified a few years ago (a GP heard a heart murmur during a health MOT and an investigation found this).  Annoyingly my HR goes higher than it would after a certain level of exertion, because the required oxygen needed by my muscles doesn’t get delivered due to the blood flow being restricted by my valve (and my valve is then at risk of tear under the higher pressure).  For ME, my cardiologist says ideal exercise HR is between 120-130bpm but I should at least keep consistent HR under 150 to prevent risk of tear; everyone has their individual health circumstances.  

Given that you get dizzy if you over-exert yourself, knowing what I know now, it might be an idea to ask your GP to listen to your heart (and anything else they want to check) just incase the dizziness is symptom of something relevant.  

Anyhow, if you want to, or find you are restricted to, slow running, then as you might have already discovered, it is still great fun!  Infact it’s probably more fun because you can enjoy the experience more since it’s more relaxed!  I never imagined I’d be able to run, and I feel like a super hero being able to do it (and we’re lapping everyone still on the couch :-D).  A few months after completing C25K, I did my first Parkrun and finished in 46:16 which was nowhere near last and there were half a dozen running club members who finished after me too; it’s all good. As you like to be guided by the metrics like me, Zone 2 HR training (~conversational pace) is very good for improving fitness & endurance… Have a read of the benefits online/YouTube.

I do a lot of my running indoors (Zwift is FANTASTIC!) and FYI I’ve found the treadmill both a little gentler on the knees and significantly easier physically (and so less demanding on the heart), as the treadmill does some of the work for you (you don’t have to physically propel yourself forward like you do outside).  

Good luck with the rest of your C25K and keep enjoying your running! 

in reply to Kiai

thank-you and good luck with yours too

MissUnderstanding profile image

EDIT: In light of further information, this is the now the response I’d like to give to this thread. My original reply is below the update which in in bold.

If you’ve had arrhythmias in the past and are now finding you’re getting lightheaded while you’re running, this is something it seems would be sensible to discuss with a real life medical person just to make sure all’s still well. We’re not able to offer medical advice here, but what you’ve said would send me to my GP. That’s just my personal, non-expert view.

Congratulations! That’s a great run to have under your belt. No wonder you’re feeling elated-totally deserved!!

The great thing about c25k is that distance and pace really don’t matter. It’s all about spending time on your feet, building up your fitness and strength. I don’t know what the average distance covered but there was a survey here a while ago which showed most people don’t cover 5k by graduation-only a very small minority do. You’re in good company wherever you fall on the spectrum. The main thing is you’re running and enjoying it!

The programme guide here might help explain but slow and steady is best and allay any fears about not running far enough. Ideally you want your breathing to be such that you can hold a conversation in full sentences out loud without gasping. You can slow down if that’s not happening for you, although maybe watching your heart rate may have helped you run at that comfortable pace by accident!

You’re doing brilliantly. Onwards to graduation now!

in reply to MissUnderstanding

Hi. I’d just like to reassure you that I am well, I have not viewed anyone’s opinions on here as medical advice, and also that I will visit my GP if I have any concerns at all about my health. Thanks

backintime profile image

Congrats, you're pretty much in line with my "snail with a sore foot" running.

I don't remember my distance for the first time I did C25K 28 mins, but I do remember my first 5K took me over 50 mins, but I was so happy I got there I didn't care about the time :D

Celebrate your milestone, speed doesn't matter imo, although that depends what your personal aims are

in reply to backintime

thanks so much

NettieNoo profile image

I've had similar worries about my pace and been advised on here to go slowly and not worry about pace or distance (tricky for me because I like to know ... I don't know why, I just do 😁) I've done 2 runs in the last few days though, with no Strava, no Fitbit, nothing but keeping a vague eye on the time. I'm 58 and just accepting that, for this to be sustainable for me, I need to enjoy it. Do you know what, when I wasn't fretting about distance / time, I did really enjoy it more! I know (from when I did measure), I was doing not much more than 3k in 30 minutes. I've decided that's ok. It's better than ok, because it beats sitting on the sofa 😃 I think maybe because of the C25K name, it's easy to have an expectation of 5k, but I guess it's just a snappier title than couch to a bit of a run, dependant on your personal circumstances 🤣🤣

in reply to NettieNoo

in my case it’s couch2 2.5K ! But I am also happy as I feel like I’m getting a really good cardiovascular workout whilst also boosting my muscle strength. Am aiming for 3K within next few weeks so watch this space!

Enjoy your running and thanks for your message

Mummycav profile image

oh my goodness…have you not heard that slow is good??? You are doing brilliantly, it’s not a race, you have to do whatever’s comfortable for you ..& it sounds like you’re doing just that!!!

Congratulations on your progress so far…look how far you’ve come??? Time, distance & pace are not important, what’s important is that you are enjoying yourself…

Dendev75 profile image

Well done on your progress so far - it feels really good doesn’t it? You’ll soon be running for 30 mins without stopping 👏🏻

I too used to get a bit nervous if my heart rate went over 170 as per what I’d read and done ‘the calculations’ but I was doing cardio classes so my heart rate was meant to be higher so I ignored my watch when it bleeped at me. I’ve always done cardio exercise and when I’m running as long as I can either sing along to my songs or have a chat if I’m with a running buddy I know I’m doing fine. Good luck on the rest of your journey.

SunnyCeleste profile image

I'm really glad I read this. I've recently completed c25k for the second time, I'm 46 and pretty chunky (BMI 31), I previously completed it ten years ago but have had 9y back on the couch. I'm pretty slow, run just over 3k in the 30minutes and though I haven't actually done a 5k again yet, it's likely to come in at about 45min. In my 30s when I was less chunky I was running 5k in 35 mins.

What interested me was the heart rate stuff. I've also read the 220-age thing and wondered why my Fitbit says I'm averaging 160bpm (and peaking way higher than that). I don't have any heart symptoms and don't feel like I'm pushing TOO hard, I mean it does make me slightly breathless but it's supposed to be an effort isn't it and I could still talk if needed? I had been flipping between worrying I'm driving myself to a heart attack with this high BPM/wondering if it actually means I have a "young" heart and that might be a good thing?

I couldn't run at 150bpm. Literally. If I walk fast it doesn't go that high, but the slowest jog shoots me up higher than that.

in reply to SunnyCeleste

I might do a literature review to see what empirical research there is behind these articles in the blogosphere. But until then, I’m going to run at my usual pace which is working for me, and allow myself a sprint finish which means I end on a high

KathBils profile image

Well done Lenny! I just have one thing to say, "embrace the snail in you" 😊 Seriously, it's all about perseverance, not speed. As others have said, it isn't a race. Just do what you feel comfortable doing. I looked up the slow jogging movement and while they use a different technique for running, they go really slowly but can keep going for ages. If monitoring and number crunching helps you, then carry on doing it. It's a good idea to understand what's happening to your body.

thanks so much - I also read an article suggesting that slow running may actually be better for you. Thanks for the tip about the slow jogging movement- I will look into it!

doggytail profile image

After reading this i am so glad I'm not tech savvy. I just put my strava on, on my phone and go.I am almost 72 started at 69 then again at 70, cos I fell whilst shopping and finished up on the IC.

I listen to my body and just go.

Congratulations on reaching week 8 and see you at graduation

Martlet76 profile image

Hi, thank you so much for raising this topic. This is exactly a question that I have been asking myself. I am in a similar situation to Lenny. I usually run around 150-155 but I would not be capable of holding a conversation. So thank you all for your contributions.


Ps I used to think that I ran so slowly that I need stabiliser wheels like a child learning ride a bike, if I were to take the wheels off, I would just keel over sideways

backintime profile image
backintimeGraduate in reply to Martlet76

That made me laugh, my username comes from the fact that sometimes I feel that I'm running so slowly that I'm going back in time :D

Sighthoundfan profile image

Well done for getting off the couch! I started running last year at 63, never tun before. Take whatever time you need. I now run 2 to 3 times a week comfortably and belong to a non competitive running group. Stamina takes time to build, but being a youngster you will be motoring soon 😀

Beachcomber66 profile image

I think that slowest C25k runner on record would be an accolade! Lots of people go too fast without realising it and then worry about lack of progress.

Starting at age 66 I needed to take things steadily….I didn’t look at my heart rate for a couple of years in case I scared myself! I don’t check heart rate “ in run” but do look at the average heart rate afterwards. I took the decision to increase distance slowly rather than trying to speed up. A bit of pace came later.

I am 71 now. My average resting heart rate is usually in the mid 50s. I can reach 150 average on a run (particularly if I am coming back from an injury break) but more often I am in the 140 to 150 range and in the 130s at my best. We are all made differently, have different underlying conditions and need to take care of ourselves accordingly.👍

Thanks very much - I will take that accolade!

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