Couch to 5K
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Becoming a runner

I did it.

The much anticipated and dreaded Week 5 Run 3 of the NHS Couch to 5 K running programme. Every novice runner’s Everest.

I haven’t written here before because I wasn’t sure how far I would get. Now I can come out of the shadows where I have lurked, reading other people’s stories, and declare that I can now call myself a runner.

I run on beautiful Hampstead Heath – woods, hills, meadows, streams, ponds, big sky and wonderful views – I can’t imagine how anyone gets through this plan on a treadmill with nothing to distract them. The only problem was that this run fell on a Saturday, when the heath is most crowded. Walkers, pram pushers, fishermen, birdwatchers, kite-flyers, couples who only met the night before and are trying to figure out if this is the beginning of a beautiful relationship or just a one-night stand, dog walkers, swimmers, cyclists and, of course, lots and lots of runners (many of them also doing Couch25K, I expect).

I was really anxious last night. I’d done the Week 5 Run 3 twice because I got crippling calf cramp the first time, and hobbled to finish it. (I read later that I shouldn’t have continued – so much for ‘no pain, no gain’.)

I drank lots of water beforehand to prevent stitch. I have two secret weapons: to run really, really slowly, and to run up a gentle hill so that for the second half of the run I can turn around and run slightly downhill - this makes it so much easier when I’m tired.

I followed a path across a meadow (shoes immediately soaked from the wet grass) along a stony, mud track (my favourite running surface) through woods turning gold and amber. I skipped around several dogs, including one carrying half a tree in his mouth which almost tripped me over.

I’m so old that I have no idea who any of these people are on the soundtrack but I listened to that nice young man boast about how many fine woman he has had, and the girl who turns red because she has so much love to give. I’m looking forward to making my own running track but for the time being I really need Laura’s encouragement.

When darling Laura said I was half way, I turned around and the gentle slope just carried me forward. There should have been a real Rocky moment when the London skyline appeared around the side of a hill, but it was so misty all I could see was the Gherkin and the Shard and a few towering skeletons of cranes looming out of the gloom.

And then Laura said it was over, and I really didn’t want it to stop, I could have run on for another 10 minutes. (Very, very slowly of course.)

I nearly cried I was so happy.

Six weeks ago I couldn’t run to the corner of my road (about 50 yards) and when I started this plan I’d thought that I’d be perfectly content if I could run 20 minutes a couple of times a week. Suddenly 30 minutes seems quite possible. I’m almost tempted to cheat and skip the rest day tomorrow but I’m sure Laura would find out and chide me in that stern but kind way of hers.

In a week’s time I’ll be sixty. Completing this run is the best birthday present I could give myself.

15 Replies

Very nice blog. The Heath sounds like a great place to run, only ever having walked there. Perhaps I should head down over a weekend sometime. It's great to get that run under your belt a it shows you just how far you have come. Good luck with the rest of the programme.


Well done londongirl19 :-) Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner that I love London town and hence really enjoyed breathing in the atmosphere which you describe so well of a Saturday morning on HH. Very well written, top marks ;-)

And happy, happy birthday xox


Well done you! I was exactly the same - my initial aim was W5R3, I reckoned after my years of back trouble I'd be quite happy with a 20 minute jog a couple of times a week... and as you say you get there and realize a lot more is possible, even for those of us who can remember when the Beatles split up... :-D

Good luck with W6 - take it nice and slow - and let us know how you get on!


Excellent work. So nice to hear that there are other teary runners out there! I disgrace myself most mornings by welling up with sheer joy. Best of luck with next week. x


I am definitely jealous. Running on Hampstead Heath sounds wonderful. When I win the lottery ....

Interesting the mechanisms we adopt to succeed at this - I went public straight away so that I would be shamed if I copped out. Not sure that I ever actually thought I'd be very nearly a graduate.

Happy birthday! Don't you feel brilliant?


loved your blog london girl, and well done on such a successful run. Sadly, I don't have anywhere nearly as scenic as HH to run but I agree about how boring a treadmill run must be! Am ready to tackle W6R3 tomorrow :-)


congratulations :) 20 mins is an amazing achievement ~X~


I really enjoyed reading that! Have a great birthday, and good luck with week 6, I look forward to hearing about it :-)


Lovely blog , welcome and well done. Pat :-)


Great blog a pleasure to read. Well done on the run and now you've found your voice do keep us updated on how you're doing.


Well done you. Wonderfull blog, really enjoyed it. You are doing amazing, please keep is informed how your doing, oh and have a super smashing great birthday :-) xx



I really enjoyed reading your blog, and could almost picture myself back in London. Really well done on what you have achieved so far and a big happy birthday for next week x


Thank you all so much for your positive comments, encouragement and and birthday greetings. What a brilliantly supportive group you all are. x


For some reason when I read your blog the soundtrack in my head was 'Misty Morning, Albert Bridge' by the Pogues. If you don't know it, google it! You can save 'Transmetropolitan' for when you are running a bit faster!


Thank you so much for that, mabbers. I love the Pogues and thought I knew all their stuff but just found this on youtube, and loved it.

Shane McGowan lives about a bar just up the road from me apparently, but I've never seen him there.


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