Skip to main content

My Couch to 5k journey

Graduation Badge
Every year, after the 7s are done and the season finally comes to an end, I take a couple of weeks off, and then start thinking ahead to the start of the new season. Generally, this is accompanied by a certain sense of dread as, despite all my good intentions, much of the fitness gained over the season that has just passed, fades away over the summer.

Last year, I decided to do something about it and started my C to 5k journey in June.

My rationale was this: over the course of a game (80 mins), I cover 5-6km. Albeit this is very stop start and I probably never run more than about 1 minute before some infringement means I blow my whistle and bring things to a halt. Unless someone catches an interception on their own try line and then runs the length of the pitch (100m), it’s very rare that I run more than 50-75m in one burst.

I figured that if I could cover 4km in 30-40 minutes non-stop, then that would mean doing it stop/start over 80 minutes would be no problem. That was the theory.

Week one, I found soul destroying. Maybe it was just because I knew it was well within me, but the repetition did my head in. That last rep seemed to take forever, and I felt as if my podcast had got stuck and was just repeating the penultimate one over and over.

Week two, with longer runs and fewer reps was, perversely, much easier and more enjoyable. Then disaster struck.

I had a nasty flare up of tendinitis in both knees. I had to rest for 6 weeks before my physio put me on what she called an injury couch to couch to 5k programme. Basically, starting at 5 x 30 second runs and building up over 3 weeks until I was ready to move back to week 1 of Couch to 5k.

By this time, the new season had started and, once again, my fitness had drained. I slowly began building myself up through a series of school level games: U12 - 20 minutes each way, U15 – 30 minutes each way, U18s – 35 minutes each way.

Problem was, it was winter, the weather was awful, and during the week, by the time I finished work, it was pitch black. Running was not on my “to do” list.

It got to March, and the evenings were beginning to stretch out and I decided to give it a try again. I started from week 2 (I just couldn’t face doing week 1 again) and found I was fine, so moved on from there.

Week three was fine, as was the first run of week 4. As I mentioned before, I enjoyed more the longer (and fewer) the runs became. I had a niggle on the final 5 minute run of run 2 and had to stop. Re did it a couple of days later and it was fine. Marched on through week 5 (and was overjoyed when I got the 20 minute out of the way).

The return to intervals on Week 6 was fine, but 17 minutes into the 25 minute first run, I bombed out again. I’d gone too fast. My first km was 6:12 and that is still my personal “best” for a single kilometre. Regrouped, rested and re-ran at a much more sensible pace, and I was back on track.

Weeks 7 and 8 were fine although rugby and work commitments meant a 6 day gap between runs 2 and three.

Week 9 ended yesterday; almost 11 months after I started and just in time for this year’s off-season.

I learned a couple of things. The distance isn’t important. I knew I could cover 5km, I just wanted the stamina to run non-stop for 30-40 minutes. Couch to 5k has got me there.

The other is don’t fixate on 9 weeks. A “week” in Couch to 5k terms is simply the time it takes to successfully complete 3 runs. It could be 6 days; it could be much longer. My longest “week” was almost 8 months. It doesn’t matter. No one is judging how far you can run, or how long it takes to complete the programme (except ourselves), so just do what you can, when you can, and most of all, enjoy it.


Popular posts from this blog

So, this happened...

Back at the start of March, after an 8 month lay-off, I picked up where I left off on week 2 and restarted my Couch to 5k journey.  I completed the plan on 7 May, running 5k in a time of 39:21. Today, just shy of 4 months later, I ran 10k non-stop for the first time in my life with a time of 1:19:36. It hadn't been my intention to run that far tonight; I wasn't due to make my first attempt at the distance until next week. Tonight I was aiming for 8.5-9k but it just felt right and I kept going and, well, the result is what it is... Feeling dead chuffed with my achievement, but I need to thank everyone on the forum for their encouragement and support at all points along this journey and (I'm sure) for the continued encouragement on what is still to come. I'm off to give my poor legs a well earned rub down...

1 Year, 1,001 Miles

I realise that there are still a few days left, and I need to squeeze in a 30 minute challenge run before the year is out, so my total will probably edge up a little further, but yesterday I hit the 1,000 mile mark for running in 2020. It has, for all of us, been a very different year from the one we were probably looking forward to at this point last year. For me, I suspect running is one of the things that has helped most in getting me through it. Back at the start of 2020, I set myself some goals: See how much lower I could take my 5k PB below 28:38 Get my 10k PB below one hour from 1:03:49 Get my 10 mile PB below 1:45:00 from 1:49:29 Get my Half Marathon PB below 2:30:00 from 2:30:23 Complete the equivalent of John o' Groats to Land's End (874 miles) by the end of the year. As the year passed, my runs increased in length and duration, and I ticked the goals off one by one so that they now stand at: 5k - 26:36 10k - 58:19 10 miles - 1:34:29 HM - 2:05:46 John o' Groats -

The lockdown runner

Back in March last year, when parkruns got cancelled and lock down started, I was a year on from starting C25K and my average distance per run was around 8.75k. Skip forward to today and my average over May, June and July (so far) is now about 12.5k/run. It has, in fact, now been over 6 months since any run has been under 10k. I don't say the above to brag, simply a recognition of the fact that for someone who just wanted to keep his fitness up between rugby seasons so that I didn't dread August rolling around each year on account of increasing age and it getting harder to pick up again each season, I really am amazed at how far (literally and figuratively) I've come since deciding to give Couch to 5K a try back in March 2019. I have had the good fortune to be active and have a reasonable degree of fitness all my life, but it's fair to say that now, in my 50s, I'm probably in the best physical shape I've been in my entire adult life, and it's all down to me