Couch to 5K
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Now can run 30 min - how to run faster?

I am starting week 7, so no, I haven't graduated yet. But at the end of week 6, I felt good and was able to run both the 25 minute run, and the full 5 minute cool-down, for a total of 30 minutes. I could have kept going even then, but didn't want to hurt myself in my exuberance.

Here's my challenge: in 30 minutes, I managed a blindingly fast 3km. At that pace, I am looking at nearly an hour for 5K. My partner can literally walk alongside me. I am not looking to win races, but I do want to improve my speed so I will be able to run 5K in 30-35 minutes, or even 40 minutes.

The program is simply fantastic at getting me out there and moving. But I haven't encountered much info telling me how to run even a little bit faster. Any suggestions? Any good links?

7 Replies

Hello there!

The programme is all about building stamina and endurance, which is why even though in week 6 you feel you can and you know you can (because you've done it) run for 30 mins - the target - you've still got to give it time.

Maybe set yourself the target of picking up the pace for the last 5 minutes to see where that gets you. If that doesn't appeal to you what I have found lately trying to get back after an injury has got me running slightly faster than last year. Go for short runs - 20 mins of under - you know you can always go a bit faster on these than a full 5k (last year I was 32mins for 5k, this year with a health break followed by ankle injury you could add 10mins to that). Once you've got to what you consider a good speed gradually start to add on time - one minute here, two minutes the next week, trying to keep up the same speed.

So far it is working for me, but since you are going through C25k for the first time I would reccommend not worrying so much about speed for now and concentrate on completing each run - one question though...when you finish a 30min run do you still feel like you have more in the tank? I think a lot of the first time were thankful to be at the end...if you feel you have more in the tank you could definately pick up the pace, something mentioned in another question was that by pumping your arms faster your legs normally follow suit and move faster also.


On my last run, where I went 30 minutes for the first time, I definitely could have kept going, perhaps another 5-10 minutes I imagine. I stopped because the podcast ended, and I had just run 10 minutes longer than my previous run and was afraid I might overdo it if I kept going.

Except for this last run, I usually try to do a full proper "fast" run for the last couple of minutes of each podcast - I think of it as bonus preparation to make sure I can progress to the next run.

It sounds like you are suggesting I do more of that. I can do that for longer periods than my customary 1-3 minutes during my C25K runs. That seems like fantastic advice.

I like your idea of short, faster runs too. Sometimes on my rest days I feel all antsy and cranky because I can't do another C25K run. Do you think I could tide myself over by doing really short, faster runs on those days? I don't think I could go quickly for much more than 3-5 minutes now, although I expect that would eventually lengthen.

If (only on days I really feel good and want to) I were to do 2 sets of fast 5 minutes with a couple minutes walking in the middle, would that be bad for me because it is a rest day? I figure that if I did those a couple times a week (I am sure I will occasionally want a day with no running at all), by the time C25K is done, I will be up to 10-15 minutes on the faster runs and can seamlessly transition to those.


Hmm that is food for thought...

I completed the program in March and it took me a full month or so of running 3/4 times a week for 30 mins to get anywhere near the 5k mark. I think it is something that comes over time. When i noticed the run feeling a little easier i picked up pace a little. In the gym i was originally running at about 8 or 8.5km per hour, then picked it up to 9. After a month on that i started on 10km/h and boy that was tough at first. Now i am aiming for 10k in 60min so something must have worked.... the trick is to take it slowly and do it gradually. And expect some runs will be easier than others!

ps. going for a 12k run tomorrow morning so you can see the distance comes with time too (albeit not at a tempo pace!)


Thanks for the encouragement. :) I am currently going at a pace of 6-6.5 km per hour, so I definitely want to improve on that, but I can try to be a little more patient with it and see if it comes naturally. Maybe I can be near 8 km per hour over the next 3 weeks automatically, so that in the month after graduation I can get up to approximately 5k.

Patience is not a virtue that comes naturally to me, but I will keep at it. I appreciate the sage advice. And that's fantastic about your 10K too.


Hardly sage... But thank you. Cool runnings!


Have you tried lengthening your stride a little bit. The reason I ask this is, I did C25K last year and completed it in December, I was running 5K in about 32 minutes. Then I had to stop due to sciatica. Now I am back and have just completed C25K again but I find I am a good 2 -3 minutes slower and this I'm sure is because I have shortened my stride to save too much pressure on my hip that had the problem.

I now am trying to stride a bit longer which should cut the time, its not a lot but over 30 minutes it could knock 1 - 2 minutes off my time.

With regard to you running on rest days I would advise against that for some time your muscles need time to rest and recover. If you feel you need to be active why not swim or do some strength building exercises or even a zumba class it can be great fun and you may meet other joggers there too.

Good luck with the rest of the programme.


Thanks for the sage advice, Oldgirl. I really do want to start running more often, but also want to stay healthy and avoid injury. As it happens, I am doing strength training already, but perhaps I can look at something fun, like the zumba you mentioned.

My natural stride is very short, yes. When I run, I place my feet almost where I would when walking. (Going uphill is even smaller steps.) When I try to push a bit harder, my stride does lengthen a bit. I find it tires me much more quickly. Does that mean I am doing it right? Should I be pushing to take bigger steps to improve my speed?


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