Couch to 5K
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Out of the Game

This is a bit of a long blog, dear friends. But I hope you will bear with me, as it is likely to the be last one that I write for some time.

What's that phrase Laura likes to cite on the podcasts for the later weeks and on 5K+? Oh, yeah. It's "If you're new to running, or if you've been out of the game for awhile..." Well, I'm no longer new to running, but it looks like I'm going to be out of the game, at least for a little while.

My Couch-to-5K started five months ago, in late August. Running every other day (as opposed to three times per week) meant that I graduated in mid-October. I spent the next couple of months building and consolidating on what I had achieved -- upon graduation, I could run for 30 minutes, of course. I then went on to run a full 5K, participate in some ParkRuns, work my way through the 5K+ podcasts, and -- finally -- get my 5K time under 30 minutes. Personal best, thus far, is 28:36.

Along the way, the benefits were many. Alongside the running, I cross-trained by swimming a minimum of 2000 meters on my "rest" days. Between the running, swimming, and dieting, I have lost three stone in the past seven months; my BMI has dropped from nearly 35 (rather obese) down to 28 (somewhat overweight), and I am more than halfway to my eventual goal of 23 (healthy and normal).

With the new year, I started the Bridge-to-10K plan. I want to complete an Olympic distance triathlon. The running portion is a 10 km race. Therefore, the B210k programme was the natural choice after I had consolidated my Couch-to-5K gains. I started on New Years Day and was moving along steadily. Last week -- in Week 3 -- I passed 9km for the first time _while_ also marking a new record for average speed: 10.7 km/hour. On Tuesday, I started Week 4 and reached 9.2 km in 54 minutes of running.

All was going well... until the last sixty seconds of the run. I broke into a sprint to "finish on a high note", as Laura likes to say... and experienced a searing pain in my right calf. Web research has led me to a self-diagnosis of "calf strain". Not good.

I am currently away from home, travelling for work until next week. I land in the afternoon of Thursday January 31st; I already have an appointment scheduled with my GP for the following morning.

Until then, I am making myself a promise not to run. Not even a "light job". This is a hard resolution to keep -- especially when the weather here in Japan is perfect for running! It is cool, clear, and crisp with bright blue skies. Absolutely lovely conditions for a run!

It wasn't so long ago that it took a supreme effort to get me out the door running. Now it takes an equal amount of willpower to stop me from going out for a run. My, how things change! I may not be all that amazing a runner at this stage, but being a runner has become part of who I am. And runners? Well, they run! Which is what I want to be doing right now.

To be honest, I could probably manage a slow 5K if I were careful. But I'm not going to try. The web is filled with warnings about not running with a calf strain, and how pushing too soon could ultimately end one's career as a runner. So I'm going to refrain until I get home and see the GP; I won't start running again until she says it is safe to do so. As much as I want to be running NOW, I also want to be running in one, two, five, ten years time.

This week is particularly difficult, for a couple of reasons. As I already mentioned, the phenomenal weather is one. For another, being away from home, I've not had access to a pool and, thus, I have not been swimming. Without running, I am temporarily without exercise. Feh. And, of course, there is the fact that I last ran on Tuesday; if I were running today, I could pick up with the 10K training from precisely where I left off.

So, yeah, it's hard right now. When I get home next week, it will be a bit easier, as I can resume swimming. Also, from what I've read, cycling with a calf strain should not pose a problem for my recovery, so I will start working on this previously neglected portion of the triathlon. I do hope that I won't be out of the game for too long -- I really don't want to go all the way back to Week 1 of Couch-to-5K! Still, if it happens, then it happens... and I will work my way back up again!

After all, five months ago, running for 60 seconds was difficult for me. And now, prior to Tuesday's injury, I was on the verge of a 10K! To channel the Terminator for a moment: "I'll be back!" Even if I have to go all the way to the beginning, I can work my way up to where I am now... and beyond!

Other than checking replies to this entry, I am likely to vanish from this forum for a bit, until I get home next week and talk to my GP. In the meantime, I hope that everyone is doing well... and happy running! :-)

[Addendum: After posting this blog, I was reading the news. As chance would have it, I happened upon an article about running in the New York times (see It was mainly about studies of running styles in indigenous peoples but there was a side comment on running injuries. If I am to take their claim at face value, runners have an injury rate of greater than 50% per runner per year. So perhaps something like this was only a matter of time; practically inevitable, being a question of when -- rather than if!]

42 Replies

Hey Matt, sorry to hear about your injury :-( but what you have achieved since October is really amazing, in fact Life Changing. You have followed good advice (laura) to get where you are today . I for one am really inspired by your spirit in the way you swim on rest days etc . I am sure that it won't take you too long to get back to full fitness . I myself have been a bit 'rubbish' with my running lately, but thanks to this excellent forum and the people on it , I am intending to go back out there on Sunday morning, and enjoy a slooooooooooooooow run. I'll keep a look out for your posts to see how you are doing , Kazz:-)


Hiya, Kazz! Thanks for the kind words! :-)

Getting injured is no fun. I'd much rather be outside running than waiting to recover. But all the lovely support on this forum -- including yours -- makes a big difference!

Very glad to hear that you are getting back in the swing of things this weekend. Hope your Sunday morning run goes really well!!


Really sorry to hear of your injury, Matt. It's an absolute pain in the neck to have to suspend your training and we all understand the frustration of missing out on the new obsession with running. You have done brilliantly and I am in total awe of your achievements. I KNOW you will be back, you won't give up on this now after you've won that fitness (and well done on the impressive weight loss too). If in the meantime you want to have a moan about how much you're missing running, this is the place to do it (I certainly did when I was off running for 6 weeks). Don't let it get you down - there must be some other forms of exercise you can do without aggravating the calf strain (swimming seems good but I'm not an expert). Best of luck, keep in touch! Sue


Hi, Sue! Thanks for a lovely reply! The support from other Couch-to-5K'ers on this site is invaluable right now. My family and friends are sympathetic, of course... but they can't really understand where I'm coming from, not being runners themselves. They mean well but, like you say, other runners will truly understand the frustration of having to take time off.

Really glad to hear that you're back, after a six week break! If you don't mind my asking, what happened? Also, at the end of the six weeks, how did you get back into it? Did you start at Week 1 and do it all over again? Or was there a level that felt okay to restart from? I'm quite curious -- especially since I'll likely be doing the same in a couple of weeks!

Thanks again!


Good to hear from you, Matt! I had shin splints but didn't realise at first so kept running with them (silly). Tried 2 weeks' rest but they clearly weren't better so I decided to bite the bullet and have 4 weeks off. Kept swimming and doing my usual Pilates and aqua fit and exercise biking. I started back doing 15 minutes, it felt OK so I did W6R1 and 2 a few times. Fortunately I upped it after about 4 runs and just did my own thing after that. I really sympathise with the 'desperate to run' feeling, I used to feel jealous of any runners I saw, even out in the cold or rain!

I haven't managed to start B210k yet, mainly due to the weather, I live in North Yorkshire and we've had ice or snow since Sunday 13th January, too slippery to safely run on, so that was my last outside run...

Come Spring we'll all be back out there - but at the moment you are definitely doing the right thing resting even though it's tough. Enjoy Japan! (I'd love to visit there).

Good luck.


Sorry to hear about the injury Matt. You have done awesomely well so far and I take my hat of too you... well I would if I was wearing one :p

I know how hard it is to not be out there, but you are doing the right thing. Good luck on the other portions of the triathlon as well as getting back out there, once you've seen your doctor that is.

Why do we all assume that injuries only happen to the other person? The only way that I can think of to not get injured is by sitting doing nothing, but then we've all been there and done that, and I for one would rather be out there risking life and limb (well certainly with this ice anyway) than sitting in front of a TV every night.

Enjoy Japan, even if you are there for work. Sharyn


What?!? You don't run with a hat on?! I'm shocked, I tell you -- shocked! ;-)

I like what you said about assuming that injuries are things that happen to _other_ people. I think I was guilty of this, too. Not consciously, of course! I don't think anyone does it _consciously_. But in the past few months, I've been on top of the world, making new personal records all the time -- for distance, for time, and for speed. Guess in all that elation, it just didn't really sink in that an injury could really happen.

As you say, though, tis better to be out there risking life and limb for a good run than to be sitting at home. Injury or no, I'm delighted to be on the "5K" side of things and no longer on the "Couch" end! :-)

P.S. The Japan trip is for work... but I've reserved a couple of days at the end for sightseeing in Tokyo! Yay!


Haha, very funny :) Definitely glad to be out of the couch side. Enjoy your sightseeing


Dear Matt.... I hope my response might be of some comfort.

I too have been out of the game while getting treatment for spurs growing into my Achilles tendons - as you say, not good. I tried to come back to post but as i wasn't running (having got to 5kms in 30 after only 8 weeks of running) it felt too difficult.

Matt.... After 6 weeks off, i have started back on week 5 - slowly. Matt it is sooooo frustrating BUT.... i decided that it was better to be back out running (i had a false start but only just started properly this week) no matter how badly compared to where i left off. I think the thing that has really helped is using everything I'd learned and putting it into my slow and humble W5 attempts. Weirdly enough I'm discovering a better form :-).

Matt, all my heartfelt thoughts and wishes are with you. I totally know what this feels like for you (as do others on this forum). You have achieved so so much and gained the admiration of all of us.... This, sadly, is part of learning about being a runner. A running mentor of mine said right from the beginning ''if you enjoy this sport and get into it, then be prepared for the times when you have to take breaks because it will happen''.

Good luck at the doctor's Matt and i hope you can still take comfort in some swimming which will also help your calf.

Hope i haven't gone on too long!

Best wishes and thoughts for a good, strong recovery

Sara. :-)


Matt, you are doing fantastically well and have made brilliant progress, well done! Hope you get good news at the doctor's and you can get in a bit of cycling, and surely the swimming will help your rehabilitation. Your post is inspiring ... wishing you a speedy recovery :)


Thank you, RR! I'm really pleased with where I am now, compared with one year ago. In the past two or three months, I have been hitting personal records for distance run (and swum), speed of my runs, and so on. Whereas, twelve months ago, I was hitting personal records for weight gain and highest BMI! Definitely a change for the better!

Thanks again for the good wishes! I can't wait until I can be back with you amongst the ranks of the running! :-)


Hello Matt, So sorry to read about your injury but what an inspiration you are and what an amazing journey and objective you have set yourself for the future. I wish you a speedy recovery from your injury and I am sure you will be sensible and back in your running shoes just as soon as it is safe for you to do so. My fear is always ending up back at the beginning especially with all this weather we are having which makes running outside virtually impossible where I live. Running machines don't do it for me I am afraid and I too want to get from 5k to 10k. Can't wait till the lighter mornings (I am an early doors runner) and I hope that by the time spring is round the corner you are injury free again and up and at it. Best of luck. As I say, your blogs are inspirational, not only from your running diary but also the journey you have taken from what one might classify as "unhealthy" to "healthy". Keep up the good work and keep your spirits high.


Hi Matt

What an amazing transformation. A couple of points I wanted to make. I am a GP myself, and think you should really see a physiotherapist asap, and preferably one who has an interest in running. I don't know where you live, but in my area it would be worth paying privately, as NHS physio has a 3 month waiting list, and they are more used to seeing crumbly old people with arthritis, rather than keen fit runners. And GPs don't necessarily really know much about running injuries so we just advice rest!

The second point is that there is a book called Chi Running( can't remember author's name, but amazon will have it), which all my running friends absolutely swear by, running like that is meant to significantly cut the injury rate.

Also, since you are in Japan, there is a book by Haruki Murakami, called2 What I talk about when I talk about running", which is just lovely.

Good luck, I hope you manage to get some exercise soon, as it's horrible



Hi, Kateanna! Thank you so much for this response!

I've already found the "Chi Running" book on Amazon. It's under six quid, so I will order a copy right after sending this comment.

I live in Oxford, so if you know any physiotherapist that you could refer me to in my area, that would be excellent! They don't have to be in Oxford; I have a car, so nearby is also okay. If not, I can always go to Google... but a personal recommendation is always better. Turning to a web search involves a bit of luck -- sometimes you get somebody good, sometimes not so much!

Also, I am thinking of doing a daily "power walk" for about an hour from now until I get home next week. This way I still get at least _some_ exercise! It looks like I can burn off about 100 calories per mile, so if I walk for one hour at 4mph each day, then I'm still burning off as much as the roughly 800 calories I was burning every other day by running. Not ideal, of course, but it will keep me going until next week. Then I can start swimming again immediately -- I've got a swim in my diary for next Friday night! Plus, I can take up cycling to tide me over until I am healed enough to run again.

Thanks again for replying. I'll keep fingers crossed that you can recommend a good physio in my area!


Matt, In answer to that have a look at they are a sports & spinal physio on the outskirts of Bicester, I believe they are meant to be very good, although I've not used them personally Sharyn


Sadly I don't know any physios in Oxford, as I live near Brighton, but I quickly googled Oxford Physio and, looked very professional and talked about getting people back to professional sport. Goodluck ! Katanna


Inspirational! All that work, what a journey you have been on in just six short months! You have the drive now and the desire so well done, you will be back in no time Im sure just take it steady so you reach your goal. I look forward to hearing great things :)


Awwww -- thanks! :-)

With words like that, how can I not do my best to live up to them! Congrats on bringing a smile into my evening! (No easy feat after the frustrations of not running -- well done!)


Well I really feel that we have been on that journey you mentioned together and as you know I am gutted for you. I commend your willpower though to not run, especially as you have such tempting conditions. But in the scheme of things, this time out is a mere blip and you will be back out there before you know it.

I just read something you posted about power walking and can't decide if you're being naughty or not! ;) Don't push it! So what if your weight stays stagnant for a week or so? You wont put much (if any) on in that time and can always resume the weight loss once you have had the Dr's OK for certain exercises and just be more alert to your food choices until then?

I also read something about 65-80% of runners being injured each year, which i think is quite alarming, but also as you say brings a certain amount of inevitability to it all.. I think though that it shows how easily these things happen and how we really have to look out for ourselves.

Let us know how you get on with the Doctor and hope to see you back round here at the start of Feb with a positive outcome and plans for the next stage of your triathlon training!


Hi Matt well done you for achieving what you have done. I have read that a sports massage maybe of benefit in your recovery if you can get one. Use the time to do more swimming and learn some gentle exercise to help your calf ( lots on u tube).


So sorry to hear this Matthew and really feel your frustration at not running :( But you are doing the sensible thing even if it means harnessing every particle of willpower you possess to do so! ;)

Yes, we are runners and so that is what we want to do but as you say, better to recover now so that you can also be a runner in the days, weeks, months and years ahead.

So far I have remained injury free and yes, like you, it is something that I know may very well happen at some point so I am easing into the increased mileage and increased running time gently to try and avoid it but you just never know what is round the corner..... :O

You have been doing brilliantly up to this point and you will continue to do so once back, wherever you start from. You are determined, positive and know what you want and you will get it, I have no doubt about that! :D

Hope everything gets sorted at the docs and best of luck on your recovery and your swimming!

Sue :)


Go to a Sports physio Matthew, not an ordinary physio as they have a special interest in sports injuries-and go Private.


Really sorry to hear about your injury Matthew. I feel the joy, in your blog, for running. Its a thing a lot of us feel, so the disappointment of not running is cruel. I can empathise with you a bit due to a broken wrist. But i know you don't run on a wrist!

Please get well soon, keep us posted with your progress. Take your time. I'm looking forward to your blogs and best wishes. Tricia


Ooooh! Look at you sporting your new cast!! I think you need to treat yourself to something new for running when it is off, just as a way of thanking yourself for being patient of course!! ;) :D

Hope it is healing ok Tricia and you will be out running again soon.

Sue :)


hi Sue, i am going to change that picture. I was feeling very sorry for myself when I posted it.

You will be happy to know I am already treating myself. I am going to buy the 'What I talk about when I talk about running' book, and have been looking at Chi running. Poor Matthew! His enthusiasm, though he is sporting a brand new injury, has made me realise how much i love running too.

Oh blast this one handed typing! Tricia x



Yes me too; the longest I have been out of action is about 10 days and that was due to a back injury that had nothing to do with running but that was bad enough..... it really is a bad bug we have caught!! ;)

Enjoy the books and nice photo btw!



there done!


Sorry to hear of your tale of woe. I'm not much of a blog writer, more a blog reader, and I really enjoy reading yours. Always inspired to hear of your new challenges and achievments. I've just started reading Chi Running myself, after being recommended it by a friend. She's convinced that changing her technique has stopped her from getting injuries while she has gradually increased her mileage.

Hope you get back to running fitness soon (and blogging!)


Hi Matt, I read your blog this morning and was really sorry to hear about your injury, I too am more of a blog reader than a blog poster but I decided to reply because it touched a cord. I started C25K back last May and was making good progress just about to complete week 9 and become a graduate when 10 minutes into a run my calf muscle sort of popped and the pain was immediate (rather like yourself) I hobbled back home and did the RICE (rest ice compression elevation) and took a couple of weeks off. Not long enough, as soon as I tried to go back to a run, the pain was back. I then went to see a physio who told me it looked like micro tears in the muscle and it would take a minimum of 6 weeks rest to recover.He said it was no problem cycling or doing the cross trainer as these use different muscles, so I went to the gym in the meantime.

I did what I was told and then went back to running starting a week 4 again, everything was going great for a while and I was running 5k three times a week and then the muscle went again in the very same place. I have just had another extended break and have been back running for a month or so (crossing my fingers!) . I am doing calf strengthening excercises in the gym now as well as going for new runners properly fitted. I hope it works out this time because the whole thing has been very frustrating.

I suppose I just wanted to share my experience and say to you that the first thing you should do is visit a physio and see what the advice is. If you have to quit running for a few weeks keep up the fitness by cycling or swimming and some calf excersises and above all try and be patient (its so hard when you want to get back at it) because the last thing you want is to start too soon and then be back to square one before you know it.

Good luck with the recovery, I am sure it won't be too long before you finish that 10k.


Matt, as in our last chat I am so sorry about your situation and really feel for you. I love your blogs and have drawn lots of inspiration from them. The best thing though is the amount of lovely support you are receiving, it's all, your good karma for supporting yourself and others so well!

Wishing you speedy healing and best wishes.....Jems


Really sorry to read this, Matt. It must be really tough, especially when you're away from home. You have come such a long way in a year - it really is inspiring.

I've read "Chi running" and would definitely recommend it, even if you're not into tai-chi sort of things (I'm not really) - and "Born to Run" (about the Tarahumara runners - and how their running style enables amazing endurance running over huge distances).

Another book to while away time when you can't run (or inflight?) - Gordon Pirie's online book about running, Running Fast and Injury Free - available free online:

The three of these convinced me that the 70%-or-whatever figure for runners injured every year needn't be happening, if people found out more about how to run safely and how to avoid over-training. I think it's a great pity that c25k doesn't have more about injury avoidance. I really don't think we should expect to get hurt.

(Incidentally, I too wondered whether power walking might not be just as bad for a weak calf muscle. Take care!)

We all want to make so much progress so fast!

Hope you're able to enjoy being in Japan, even it is for work, and you've got a bad leg.


Hi Matt. Sorry to hear that you're out injured :-(. I can really sympathise as I have also managed to aggravate my dodgy hip flexor this week, so I'm currently taking a week off from my B210K endeavours to try and rest it again. Keep your motivation up by reading some good running books and getting out on your bike and I'm sure you'll be lacing up those trainers again before you know it!


Hiya. If the pain was very sudden, you maybe should just check it isnt a ruptured achilles tendon which would be an emergency a google for the signs, or the website is pretty reliable. You would be able to diagnose it yourself if it has happened....

Good luck


Hey Matt, sorry the running is off. What can I say, but time and rest are a great healer even if its frustrating.

Some postive thoughts though. I reached my greatest runs after recovering from an ankle injury in october. Worked up from week 6 podcasts to runs in about 7 weeks.

Don't despair.


Wow! Well done....that's fantastic to know!


Sorry to hear about your injury Matt. I too am laid up and unable to run due to a knee strain. You have made me think seriously about doing some swimming though. I'm desperate to get out there again but as walking is painful enough I'm going to have to be patient. Best of luck at the doctors.



Dear Matthew, I am so sorry to hear about your injury, but you'll soon be back in the game I'm sure. I know it's tough -- I broke my wrist during week 6 but soon caught up with myself. Right now I'm in a terrible mental crisis as my mother with dementia (age 85) is suffering in hospital with a severe brain hemorrage while Dad (demetia same age) wanders round my house looking for Mum while I'm trying to sort out care for him too. Meanwhile I too have work, kids and a life that I cannot keep on hold forever. Inspired by you and James I wanted to go for the 10K program this month but life is in the way and I am running badly (see Garmin) -- but it's not forever, I'll get there one day and so will you!

LIFE IS A MARATHON, NOT A SPRINT! Good luck, Delia xox


Hi Matthew, what terrible luck! :( As everyone else has said, do try to be patient and give your calf the best possible chance of recovery. (And on the bright side, it delays the day you have to face Headington hill!) I'm sure you'll be back setting PBs in due course when it's all better.


Hi Matt. Really bad luck and I guess we'll have to postpone that Feb run for a bit.

I have the name of an Oxford physio recommended by a friend who's been a serious runner for years and has had a succession of injuries over time: she says ' I don’t think that she necessarily calls herself a sports physio but she does know her stuff. I was referred to her via the sports injury clinic (on the NHS initially) so she deals with lots of sports injuries. She has done wonders for me and has treated almost my entire body. I have dealt with many physios over the years and she has been the best'. Will send contact details separately as I'm not sure it would be right to post info given me privately , but of course if anyone else round Oxford needs it I can send it to them too



so sorry to hear that Matt, especially after all your achievements, but hopefully you won't be out of action for too long. I would definitely see a sports physio, the GP probably won't have specialised enough knowledge (unless they are a runner/super fit) and what they do have could be outdated.

Well done on the weight loss. Although cycling is very efficient, you can really maintain or continue to lose weight through it - when I trained for Palace to Palace 45m race (not really that hard, just a few times a week) I lost quite a few pounds, so not all is lost :-)

I will keep everything crossed for you being back on form soon! xx


Matt, I'm so sorry to hear about your injury. As you know, I too am another of our club who sailed through C25K, then enjoyed a lovely smooth progression up to running 10K with ease. Then was struck down injured! It is annoying; it is frustrating; and I even felt "it is unfair"!

My leg is not 100% recovered yet, and although my physio has said I can run, I'm not to try sprinting (not that I wish to anyway!) and I'm not to try long runs. Yes, this is still frustrating, but I am feeling more optimistic and hope I can retain most of my fitness through cycling.

If you've not done so far, I'd recommend you see a Sports Physiotherapist. I found a lovely physio, who although is not a runner has treated many runners- as well as skiers, hikers and her local (top of the league) hinty team.

All the best with your recovery, Matt.


Hi Matthew, hope all is well with you? How is the injury?? I do hope you have recovered and are fighting fit. All the best. Tricia x


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