It’s probably fair to say that I’m at least as surprised as anyone – but here I am, two thirds of the way through the nine-week ‘Couch to 5K’ NHS podcast plan. This is my third post about this adventure; there are easy links to the first two parts at the bottom of this post.
In terms of gear, preparation etc, nothing has changed since my last post. One plus note is I’m not getting as much pain in my shins, although I’m not sure why. it could be taking more two-day breaks between runs, trying to change to the mid-foot strike, or my shins just manning-up as they get used to running – or a combination of all three! Whatever it is, it has certainly given me more confidence.
One thing I did do at week five was change my route. I’m still covering about the same distance each session (about 4K), and doing roughly a figure of eight street course, but I changed the direction of most of it. This made a real difference; it’s amazing how something as simple as running on the other side of the road, or reversing hill sections, can refresh your run in a very simple way.
Week 5: You expect me to do WHAT?
In week five you see a break from the ‘three identical runs per week’ routine of the first four weeks. There are three different runs to download instead, which is a bit of a pain in the arse, but once you see them you understand why: things are ramping up, big time.
The first two podcasts are relatively straightforward and I did them confidently without any problems. The first is three five-minute runs, the second two eight-minute runs – similar progressions to the previous week and about what I expected.
But the final run of week five is the big one – a straight 20-minute jog with no walking breaks. So not only is it four minutes more in total than any run so far, but its more than double any single run up to this point – which seems like a really big step!
Thankfully this isn’t lost on podcast voice-over girl Laura. She reassuringly recalls how worried she was when she first did this, but that if you’ve done all the runs up until now then your physical side should be up to it; it’s more a psychological test. Hearing this certainly made me feel better and away I tentatively went…
…To success! It was certainly a thrill to make it the full 20 minutes, even if the last few were pretty damn slow. And when I slowed down to a walk at the end, boy did my calves ache. For a minute I thought I was going to cramp up, but I kept walking and it calmed down. I’d done it! Twenty bloody minutes! And five weeks without injury, or even a stitch – another big surprise. And unbelievably still no rain, despite the whole area being flooded.
The close of week five’s last podcast was also the first mention of failure. this is clearly a place where some may stumble, as you’re encouraged to repeat the entire week if you couldn’t quite make the whole 20 minutes. As I had made it, this of course added to that sense of achievement; I’d succeeded where others may have failed – or maybe they just put that in deliberately to make you feel better!
Week 6: The light at the end of the tunnel
I gave myself three days off before week six, then headed out for the first of the week’s three runs. Week six is essentially week five but with slightly longer runs; the first being a five, an eight, and another five-minute runs.
I went into this a little overconfidently, having achieved so much the week before, and went out on the first five minutes a little quicker than usual. This proved a big mistake, as despite the rest the 20-minute run was definitely still in my legs. I really needed the recover time at the end of it and took the middle eight-minute run much easier. This made the five-minute run at the end to be much simpler, which helped restore my confidence a little.
Learning my lesson I eased into the first 10-minute run of the second week podcast. Despite doing a long uphill stretch I finished confidently and after a three-minute walking break did the second 10 minutes running with very little effort. It felt great to be able to do this, but the joy was tempered by a closing comment from Laura: from now until the end of the nine-week Couch to 5K podcasts, there would be no more mid-run walking breaks!
Oddly, in this last break, she also mentioned drinking water mid-run for the first time. I’d had some dry mouth moments already and have seen some people running with water, but simply hadn’t considered it. It just seems like something else to carry, which can’t be a good thing – and surely I’m not really going far enough to actually need a drink? I shall have to look into it.
The final run of the week was 25 minutes straight – another milestone. But with the 20 under my belt, I was now more confident I could do it. It went without a hitch and I felt I had a bit left at the end, which hopefully bodes well for week seven; three more runs of the same. At the end of this run our Laura announces that, in her opinion, you’re now a ‘runner’. Go me! But still no wet runs – my luck is holding.
I mapped the 25-minute run section as 3.57km, or 2,21 miles. This was a little disappointing, as it means I’m still quite a way from running 5k; a 30-minute run would be just over 4k at my current pace, while running 5k would take me 35 minutes (maths, ladies and gentlemen – and with no safety net) . Hopefully the next couple of weeks will see me work on my speed a little.