Couch to 5K
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The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly: Part Two (The Good)

Ran in my fourth ParkRun today. I was really chuffed about last week's run, as it was the second time that I ran 5km in under 30 minutes... and the first that came with an official record!

(I ran 5km in 29:11 nine days ago, but I had timed it myself. Two days later, in the ParkRun, I managed "only" 29:38... but having it be "official" made me very happy!)

In today's ParkRun, I found myself struggling a bit. More huffing and puffing than usual -- actually, a LOT more. This surprised me, as I had imagined it would feel a bit easier by now. My previous run, on Thursday, had not gone well (read Part One of this mini-series) and I began to wonder if I was perhaps in a small rut.

Of course, a 5km run gives you plenty of time for thinking, so I decided to set up an objective scale of 0 - 5 for how good I would consider my performance in today's run. The scale went something like this:

0 = Did not finish the course

1 = Finished in over 30 minutes

2 = Finished in under 30 minutes and over 29:38 (last week's time)

3 = Finished in under 29:38 and over 29:11 (personal best)

4 = Finished in under 29:11 and over 29 minutes

5 = Finished in under 29 minutes

As I was chugging along, trying hard to take deep breaths through the nose (rather than panting through the mouth), I knew that a "5" was impossible and a "4" was possible but unlikely. Honestly, I was pretty sure that I would finish the course -- having managed to not fail a run yet -- but that's about it. It wasn't at all clear to me that I would break the 30 minute barrier again... and I had to remind myself that progress isn't a straight line forward. Taking two steps ahead and one step back is not as satisfying... but it is more realistic.

Towards the end of the last kilometer, the people I had been tracking pulled ahead of me. I found myself unable to give the final boost that we all hold in reserve. However, Laura still had not given the "one minute warning", so perhaps another sub-30 minute run was possible!

I rounded the last corner and did my best impersonation of a sprint towards the finish line. STILL no 60 second warning. What the? Even when I crossed the finish, Laura still hadn't spoken up.

Turns out today's time was 28:36 -- over a minute faster than last week's ParkRun and thirty-five seconds faster than my personal best! Wowza! That gives me a perfect "5 for 5" score for today! Plus, I have broken the [less ceremonial] 29 minute barrier. Holy macaroni!

Looks like the reason I was huffing and puffing the whole time -- and had no reserve to tap into for a speed boost at the end -- was that I was zipping along at pretty much the top of my capacity the entire time. Isn't that a nice surprise!

Four weeks ago, I ran in my first ParkRun, with a time of 34:44. Today, I ran in my fourth ParkRun with a time of 28:36. That's over six minutes faster -- or 21% -- not a bad improvement for four weeks! (Now if only I could keep up the rate of improvement -- it would have me down to 22 minutes by mid-January! *grin*) Looks like my current speed is about 10.5 km/hour... or a 9 minute 9 second mile.

Well whadda ya know? Apparently, like these Speed and Stamina sessions really do help! And proper running shoes make a remarkable difference, too! With my final Couch to 5K goal met (5km in under 30 minutes), I am planning to finish out the year with one Stamina, one Speed, and one free-running 5K each week. Then, come January, it is on to the Bridge to 10K plan! Anyone care to join me?

(See? Isn't this a much more optimistic entry than the first half of the series?)

15 Replies

Wow fantastic what a dramatic improvement from your first Parkrun and that time was pretty good if you ask me. I'm still only a 1 on your scale so I won't be joining you yet on the Bridge to 10K but look foward to reading all about it! :-)


Aw, thanks! :-)

The biggest single improvement came from my first ParkRun (34:44) to my second (30:59), just one week later. I credit this large jump to buying proper running shoes, which I did to reward myself for completing a ParkRun. After that, it's been a more incremental improvement.

By the way: Don't worry too much about the scale I came up with -- the numbers on it are aren't at all objective. They're just based on what my PB and my ParkRun PB were before today. If I do the same again, the scale will shift -- probably getting below 28 minutes will become the new "5" (though there's a case to be made for 28:07 being a better milestone -- that's an average of nine minutes per mile).

Everyone always says that the ParkRuns are about you versus yourself. It's the same for my little scoring scale -- it's a personal rating to see how well I did compared to my past runs. Of course, I am quite delighted that the result turned out to be "Really well!" *grin*

Right now, it sounds like you've got a pretty clear-cut goal ahead of you: Breaking through the 30 minute barrier. Sounds like you're making good progress, though. Can't wait to read your elated blog entry when (not "if") you get there! :-D


Congratulations Ironmatt! Fantastic time and a fantastic run. I think you shouldn't be so hard on yourself! Big pat on the back from me :-)


Thanks, Pingle! In the end, it was certainly all worth it -- and made much more sense! At the time, I just couldn't figure out why I was finding it so hard to catch my breath!

It's difficult for me to gauge time during the run, as Laura's five minute chats don't line up nicely with the kilometer markers on the course. (Or at least they won't until I can run 5K in 25 minutes! *wink*) So I really wasn't sure how fast I was going.

Once the final time came through, then all became clear and I realised that I was actually pushing myself to the limit of my ability the entire time.

Thanks for the pat on the back! It's one of the things I love about this forum -- everyone is so mutually supportive! Yay for us! :-)


Hey, good going!

Never mind about the end of Jan doing 22 mins, but give it until Easter and you'll be breaking the world record!!! ;)


Heh -- good point! And not long after that, I'd be breaking the speed of light, finishing the race before I start!

(Wasn't there some comic book character who could do that?)

I'm pretty chuffed about today, so thanks for the nice words. Being on the slower side, I'm getting a bit spoiled, with each ParkRun bringing a new personal best. Can't last forever... but may as well enjoy it whilst it does!

More realistic goal for 2013: Run 10K in under one hour. I'll leave lightspeed until at least 2014. ;-D


Well done, IronMatt. Great to see such a consistent improvement in your Parkrun times.


Thanks! I know that, on the grand scale, it's no great feat... but on the personal level, each time I lob off thirty seconds or a minute, I feel _fantastic_!!

How is you doing? I hope the recovery is proceeding well. Watching your 5x50 develop was inspirational, and I'll keep fingers crossed that your back in action again soon!


Upwards and upwards hey? You're doing so well. I agree that the "post grad" podcasts really work (as well as the magic shoes!) :)


Upwards and upwards, indeed! I'm having lots of fun with these post-grad runs!

How was your Santa run today? I was ringing bells at St. Giles Church this morning... and when we finished at about half ten, we were besieged by Santas in all their post-run glory! Looks like everyone had a fantastic time!

I'm not sure if I will be able to make it to the December 16th ParkRun, but I'm hoping to get to the one on December 23rd... and maybe even December 30th. They're great! After early January, I won't be doing them for awhile -- because I'll be doing the Bridge-to-10K training instead -- so I want to "stock up" now. (They always say that they need volunteers, so that will be a good time for me to put in my time instead of running) Any chance of seeing you back out there anytime soon? I think I was the only Couch-to-5K running there this week!


Hey, yes the santa run was great, I've written a blog about it. Such fun!

Possibly this week I could be there, to be honest I don't know!

My friend wants to do a 10K next year, so looks like I may be starting the B210K podcasts soon.I am still undecided whether I actually want to run that long though!


Ah, so you did -- somehow I had missed it earlier. *scratches head* Go figure!

Have gone and read it now. It does appear to have been an excellent event!

About running longer: I got motivated to run because I want to do an Olympic triathlon. The running portion of that is 10 km, so I pretty much have to get up to that distance to make my goal. As I keep running, I have to say that the temptation to try longer distances is strong. So I'm entertaining thoughts of a half-marathon someday, too. We'll see. When I get to 10 km, I may decide that's enough for me. Who can tell?

Have a great night!


One Stamina, one Speed, and one free-running 5K each week is exactly my plan, except that my free run is an hour to 90 minutes, with a gradual increase in distance. I'm up to 8k at the moment.


Ooooh -- very nice! I'm hoping to get there eventually. (Probably with help from the B210K plan) Right now, though, I think 60 - 90 minutes would be waaaaay too much for me! Go you!!


Once I get into my stride and relax it a bit it's not so hard. I am going a lot slower than you.


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