Couch to 5K
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Me and Laura are back together again, skipping over the Stepping Stones. So why am I still not happy?

I was quite convinced when I started C25K that I just wanted to run and swim three times a week. I really wasn’t too concerned about speed. I know I can run for 43 minutes and I don’t care that I only cover 4.3k in that time. (Only? If you’d told me that a couple of months ago, I’d have collapsed on the sofa with a fit of the vapours.)

So why, just a couple of weeks after graduation on a grey, grim day did I find myself heading for the Heath having just downloaded 5K+ Stepping Stones? (I’d thought the name was a bit silly – it sounds like jumping lightly from stone to stone across a gurgling brook – but yesterday the Heath was covered with gurgling brooks that had spring up from the sodden ground, so it was quite apt really.)

I haven’t run with Laura for over a month; nothing personal but I couldn’t bear the music so I ditched her in favour of my own soundtrack as soon as the long runs began. Yesterday there I was back with her voice in my ears, feeling a bit guilty for having been off having fun with Springsteen and Handel while she was stuck inside. I was dreading it. A little voice reminded me, "You don't have to do this. You're a grown up, no-one will ever know if your give up.'

To my surprise it wasn’t as bad as I’d expected. I could keep up with the beat, though there were a few times when I had to slow down because of slippery leaves, steep downhill slopes or mud up to my ankles. I pretended I was dancing in a club rather than running under a leaden London sky, which definitely helped and I always run with small steps, so that bit wasn’t difficult. I made it through with energy to spare and by the end of the 30 minutes I’d developed enough of a warm glow to brave the Ladies’ Pond, where the water temperature was down to 7.5C and raindrops pitted the surface.

Back home entering my route into mapometer I confirmed, as I'd already suspected, that I’d only (‘only’ again?) run for 3.15k, so I’m still stuck at around 1k in 10 mins. I’m not sure how I feel about this. Does it matter? I'm not looking to do marathons or even park runs. I'm not competitive. Why do I even want to run faster? I think that like a lot of people on this site I still have a nagging doubt that I can’t be a real runner if I don’t, which I know is crazy but that’s the little critical voice of self-doubt that nags away at all of us, I suppose.

15 Replies

It took me a few weeks of stepping stones and speed to start seeing my speed increasing. I generally feel much stronger and fitter when I'm out running although the speed interval training is a bit of a killer. The first time I did it I stopped as soon as Laura told me (17 mins) but the next time I slowly jogged on for another 5 mins and have started to notice a quicker recovery between the faster (its all relative!) runs. Now I need to tackle the stamina one! :) Good luck - it makes a change for you to be having all the rain while we're having dry, cold weather with some sun! Won't last, I'm sure.


Thanks for your words of wisdom, Oona. I'll have a go at Speed tomorrow and see how I get on. After all, I don't have to do this, do I?


Noooooo Londongirl - you don't HAVE to do anything that doesn't do it for you otherwise it'll just feel like those grey skies.

Anyway, just did Stepping Stones for my 1st PG run. It was odd BUT... I was really pleased with it because I was reminded of riding and swimming lessons as a child....:

Yes - by all means get confident on the horse, in the water etc. BUT then... okay you know you can do that so now we get to work and sort out your form. After that it's gruelling repetition of posture techniques etc. which of course means I went slower but eventually it made for more graceful (well... sort of) posture on a horse and speedier times in the pool.

Soooooooooo.... I'm applying the same philosophy to Stepping Stones. It's making me think about how I carry myself, what my feet are doing etc. and I think I'll keep at it for a little while until I really feel I can carry all that I've learned from it into Speed and Stamina - that's the plan anyway.... we'll see.

Good luck with WHATEVER you decide fits with your idea of what is right for you, Sara :-)


I like the idea that now we are finessing (sp?) our running style and will become more graceful I n the summer there was an exhibit called Blasphemy touring the country as part of the cultural Olympiad. It was basically a bouncy castle int he form of a half-sized Stonehenge. A neighbour and I queued in the hot sun for 20 minutes to go on it and it was the best running experience ever. Neither of us are spring chickens but it felt like being a gazelle - springing into the air as each foot touched the ground. Perhaps that's the image I need to keep in mind as I run. Excellent advice, Sara - thank you so much.


Hee, I like finessing :-).

No spring chicken myself so I know I'd love that feeling of springing about in a childlike, no pain manner!

Anyway... I've only used my own music once but it was fun as I started to do a sort of running dance and with Abba's Dancing Queen I really had no choice!! So, yes... the more I'm doing this the more relaxed I'm becoming, especially since that 1st PG run where, obviously, no-one could get anywhere near 5kms!!!

BUT... Londongirl... MORE IMPORTANTLY.... you talk about 'only 3kms in ?? mins' BUT excuse me... no-one short of those who undertake IronMan challenges would be braving outdoor swimming in London's wintry weather.... GET YOU!! HOW DO YOU DO THAT???

I have questions: a) d'you take towel etc with you or b) is it just a total strip of au naturel? But then how would you dry yourself which leads me to c) do you run with a back pack? Surely your bathing requisites wouldn't fit in a bumbag!!!

Sooooooo get the message - you are showing so much grit and determination, unless you particularly enjoy icy waters under grim grey skies??? So please do yourself a favour and drop the 'ONLY'.

You know... it REALLY DOESN'T matter how, when and for how long or how fast, what matters is that we are NO LONGER ON THE COUCH n'est pas? That deserves more in the way of real pride and self-congratulation than negating what we/you've achieved - and with that water!!!!!

Anyway, keep on enjoying being gazelle like - sounds fun :-), Sara


Ha! I run with my swimsuit under my running clothes, with a small rucksack with towel, hat, swimming gloves and shoes and lightweight towel and underwear.


You can see the pond here


All i can say is 'deep respect' :-).

I like the idea of swimming gloves and shoes BUT any thoughts about a lightweight dry suit - I'm feeling cold thinking of you - LOL :-).

My grandmother used to swim in all weathers and all waters - she just spread herself ask over with dripping - lovely!

Thanks for the link, not loomed at it yet but looking forward to an unrushed moment to savour it, Sara :-)


Dripping? that's fantastic. I'm vegetarian so it might have to be oil - but extra virgin olive is a bit pricey for rubbing on all over


Hmmmmm and it may not stick so well!?! Hee Hee :-). Just looked at the link... It is really elysian, lucky you to have such a finale to your runs, a dubious motivation in the cold but i really can see the joy it would give at any time - Ohhhhh how idyllic and thank you :-)


I think that I am more in awe of your swimming than of anything else I have ever read here. With running exploits I know I could also do it one day, but not swim in a pond in November.

Have you got a Garmin or phone with GPS which you could use Runkeeper on? You are running over ground which might be considered fight or slow going by orienteers and cross country runners. A GPS device would give you an idea of what your climb is. I suspect that on the flat Thames route that I use, where I consider the climb to a bridge to be a major obstacle, you would leave me standing.


I've often swum in the pond on gorgeous summer days and this year decied to keep going until my 60th birthday. That was a month ago now and I'm stil going. The women who swim every day (and have done so for years) say the trick is just to keep going - a bit like running. According to them, if you can continue after the water drops below 12C then you've cracked it. I've enjoyed seeing the seasons change - the oak leaf litter all over the surface and now the bare branches. I'm not sure I will brave ice and snow though. I wonder if the cold water has prevented my knees from giving out - apparently rugby players have ice baths after games. Don't have a Garmin - just use mapometer at the moment but I know it's altitude isn't accurate as it doesn't show Parliament Hill as a hill, and I think it is one of the highest points in North London. I'l check GPS on my Blackberry but don't want to become a runtech junkie. I'd love to run by the Thames one day.


You are welcome to join me. I run between bridges and back.


OMG you are worried about speed when you swim in cold water outside? You must be one tough cookie! I bow before you.........!

Interesting to read this thread, I was trying to find out what stepping stones is all about, as I haven't tried it yet, will have to give it a try.


I find doing lots of short runs harder than one long one - I don't like being reliant on Laura to tell me when to stop - it seems to make the time go much slower for some reason.


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