This is a follow up to a post I did in January talking about my first few weeks, which largely talked about what the Couch to 5K podcast didn’t tell you. Having now completed weeks three and four (go me!), I felt it was time for an update.
I stand by my previous claim that the only thing you need to get going is a pair of ‘proper’ running shoes. However, since then I have spent a few quid on a running jacket and top. There wasn’t really an excuse for the top – it was crazy cheap in Sports Direct, a nice colour, and a ‘proper’ running T-shirt. There’s certainly something to the ritual of getting ready to go out, and however surface and ridiculous it may be having the top makes the whole thing feel a bit more real.
The jacket was more important, as I’d started running at night (in the dark) and had been in all black – so I didn’t exactly stand out. So I went from being the wheezing assassin to the glowing gasper in one easy move, thanks to a super light yellow high-vis jacket. I’m sure I look fabulous as I lurch past worried dog walkers.
Week 3: NOW they give me advice
I was more surprised than anyone when I completed weeks one and two without any real problems. Sure I’m going pretty slow, but my heart was causing me less problems than my shins (and my ego), while I was happy with my recovery time – there has been no stopping and wheezing or having a stitch.
I think a history of doing a lot of walking got me through those weeks, as the runs were so short, but week three did feel like a significant step up. The longer runs go up to three minutes – double those of week two – and I found the final one in each session pretty tough. Tough yes, but also doable.
What was a little galling was getting some running and breathing tips – oh you know, the kind of advice that probably would’ve been useful in week one! They were useful tips (make sure you’r landing on the heel of your foot***; try not to ‘bob’ too much; try and take deep breaths) – but why now?
Alongside the advice were some comforting words – things like, “You’re jogging, not running”; “Go at your own pace and don’t worry if you have to slow right down – just keep going”. This was gold, but it was just as needed in the first two weeks. Even now, doing eight-minute runs in week five, nothing has been harder than those first few runs in the opening two weeks. I’d loved to have heard this stuff then.
Fatigue also started to take its toll. Sadly my other half Zoe had to stop also attempting Couch to 5K as her knees gave out; she’s now doing strengthening exercises in the hope of coming back to it soon. I’d been a little worried about my shins but as they only really hurt a bit during the runs, not after, I just kept going. I did start to stretch my weeks out, so I could leave two rest days between most sessions to give my legs a break.
Week 4: No pain, no rain
This was an even bigger step up on paper, but proved surprisingly manageable. Each session includes 16 minutes of running and after re-plotting my route on Running Map I found I was doing 4K throughout the 35-minute sessions (more than half of which is still walking, of course).
Seeing as we’ve had the wettest January on record, I’ve also managed to run in the dry (with relatively low wind) every time so far – and that’s pure luck; I haven’t put any runs off because of the weather. I guess I’ve got all that to look forward to…
Again my heart was proving up to the task, but my shins didn’t seem to be strengthening as I’d hoped. To the internet! There are millions of runners out there – surely I can find some sage advice on what others with the same problem have learnt from their fellow ‘athletes’? Here’s what I found (abridged… from memory).
Random person’s question: “Hi! My shins hurt after I run. Any advice?
- Pointless serial poster: Hi! Welcome to the forum. We’re all really friendly here! I’m sure someone can help you with your problem. It’s not something that has happened to me personally though blah blah blah
- Boot camp asshole: Get back out there you pussy! Just run through it! You’ll never be like ME if you don’t dedicate yourself to the PAIN.
- The detail fetishist: How far did you run? Was it in the mud? What altitude? Uphill? Were you sweating? Do you wear tight shorts? I like tight shorts. Mmmm.
- THE answerer: Oh, that’s definitely hansdereptographic hipnotiac disorder. You’d better go straight to the hospital before you die.
- The trolllololol: Haha no it isn’t you idiot you dont know anything bout runnig haha what an idiot lol.
- Serial mom: On no! That’s really awful hun. HUGS. You should have a cookie. Can I make you some tea? Take a few weeks off. That’s so awful. I totally feel your pain.
I’m not sure why I thought running forums would be different from any other forums. So, ignoring them all, I just continued spreading my three weekly runs into eight or nine-day weeks, which seems to be doing the trick. It’s not as if I’m in a desperate rush to finish the podcasts; I’ve set myself an initial target of running 5K – if that takes three months or six months, I don’t care.
I’m now into week five and things are getting serious. My next run is meant to be for a solid 20 minutes. TWENTY MINUTES! All at once! I get a feeling I might be on week five for a while…
***NOTE: Running friends have pointed out that since the podcasts were made (back in 2011), the opinion on this has changed. It is now suggested – even on the NHS website – that to avoid injury you’re better off landing with a ‘midfoot strike’, not heel striking. It’s woeful that the NHS has admitted this, but still hasn’t updated its podcasts!