Welcome back to my third post in the Couch to 5K series, and my second update. This is a week later than originally anticipated, because it did in fact take me two weeks to complete week 5! However, I’m still going with it, and I’m determined to push through to the finish and give you a final update post, which may be in three weeks time if all goes to plan, or it may be in four weeks if I need a bit of extra time again! Here’s how my journey continued after weeks 1-3…
In my last post, I predicted that this would be the week that really made me struggle. Guess what? I was right! The pattern was run 3 mins, walk 90 seconds, run 5 minutes, walk 2.5 minutes and then repeat. The five minutes was really tricky for me at the time, but looking at that now I feel like I could manage it really easily, which is a massive improvement! The first two times I tried the Week 4 run, I didn’t make it quite to the end of the second round of five minutes. But, the third and final time, I managed it so, naturally, feeling pretty pleased with myself, I decided to jump headfirst into week 5. Never mind that week 4 was a big struggle and I didn’t finish the run two of the three times, I told myself. I did it at the end so I’m ready! Wrong.
So, week 5 took me two weeks to finish. In weeks 5 and 6, the three runs are different each time, so I told myself that if I didn’t do a run properly, I had to repeat it until I did. Usually, this repetition is built into the week, but not anymore. Week 5 run 1 (5 minutes run, 3 minutes walk, 5 minutes run, 3 minutes walk, 5 minutes run) took me two attempts, which was a bit frustrating as I’d got to grips with doing 5 minute runs the week before. Week 5 run 2, however (8 minutes run, 5 minutes walk, 8 minutes run) I managed first time! Amazing! Having managed to jump from 5 minutes at a time to 8 minutes was massive for me, even if my legs were incredibly painful by the end of the second 8 minutes. Fortunately, it was nothing I couldn’t walk off, just muscle tightness, so by the time I got home at the end of my cool-down walk, I was feeling pretty good about myself.
Week 5 run 3 was a different story. I knew it was coming, but I did not feel prepared. Week 5 run 3 is just a 20 minute run, with no rest, no walking. First, the jumping from 16 minutes of running per session to 20 seems pretty intimidating, and jumping from not having done more than 8 minutes at a time to 20???? Impossible, surely! The first time I tried, I managed 15 minutes before I slowed down. Not to be deterred, I walked for two minutes, then ran for three minutes, walked for one minute, and ran for two minutes. I was determined to get the full 20 minutes in, even if it wasn’t all in one go, and I made it. Still, I’d not done the run properly, so I repeated it. My second attempt went worse, which I think was because I hadn’t drunk enough water, and I’d only just got up, so I had tight muscles and an empty stomach. I managed ten minutes before I slowed down, and then another couple of minutes were halfheartedly managed on my trek home. Attempt 3 came round, and I was determined to make it. I went before lunch, a much better time for me, and after about 15 minutes, I was feeling the burn, but instead of walking, I slowed down to a much slower jog (practically walking pace, but still jogging legs), and kept going! And I made it! Two weeks after starting week 5, I’d finished it, and felt ready to move to week 6.
Week 6 is where I learnt that just because I can do harder runs doesn’t make easier runs easy. I looked at week 6 run 1 (run 5 minutes, walk 3 minutes, run 8 minutes, walk 3 minutes, run 5 minutes) and thought “ha, that’s easy after 20 minutes non stop!”. Reader, I was wrong. I did complete the run, but for some reason my mind was really against it. I wasn’t particularly struggling physically — my breathing felt okay, and my calves weren’t tight, but my brain kept suggesting to me that I just… stop running. Fortunately, I ignored the devil on my shoulder and completed the run. Run 2 of week 6 was smoother, but more painful! Run 2 was run 10 minutes, walk 3, run 10. Again, I didn’t really have much in the way of struggling to catch my breath, but I did have pretty tight calves during the second 10 minutes, so I slowed the pace right down so I could keep going. My brain was a lot less annoying for this run though, but I was acutely aware that that is the last run in the programme that has recovery walks… And that brings us to week 6 run 3, which is a 25 minute run. I’ll be honest, I didn’t manage the full 25 minutes in one go. I did a ten minute run, a 4 minute walk, and then a 15 minute run. I think my problem is really struggling to start slow. I start at my normal pace, but unfortunately that’s too fast for me to maintain for long. Starting slow feels really wrong to me, but I think I need to give it another go. After the 15 minute run I didn’t feel too bad, which says to me that a slower pace will mean I can go for much longer, probably even the full 25 minutes. I’ll give that a go next time.
For me, the final three weeks are more about building pace than about stamina, which is what these first 6 weeks have focused on. I’m just guessing at this from the fact that the difficulty of runs doesn’t increase as quickly as it did in earlier weeks: week 7 is all 25 minute runs, week 8 28 minutes, and week 9 30. I am fully prepared to be entirely wrong and find out it does actually take that long to build your stamina up to add those final five minutes, but I suspect this will be more about the pacing to try to get to 5k in 30 minutes, which is the goal of the programme. My next, and final post will go up after I’ve finished the programme, which might take a little longer than anticipated due to some other commitments I have that might change my running plans a little, but I’m determined to get there! See you all next time when I’ve (hopefully!) succeeded in my mission!