C25K Week 1: One foot in front of the other

After last weeks taster, I decided to being C25K in earnest this week, using the Cool Running Couch-to-5K program. I’ve touched on why I’m doing this before but for posterity, here the three main reasons why I’m using C25K as my training plan and I hope to expand on them in future posts.

  1. It’s a gentle introduction back to running after five months off with injury and should help to rehabilitate my broken foot
  2. I want to get to know and understand the program for myself so that I’m in a better position to help clients and other beginner runners with it
  3. Even though it’s marketed as a beginners program, I want to gauge if there is any potential benefit to a runner who is already quite capable of running 5km

Also, to reiterate, the only caveat to this program is that I will not continue if I have pain in my foot.

So week 1: I can say it went well. After discovering last week that I could push the pace on my foot, I decided to set a target pace for my intervals of 7 minutes/mile (8.6 mph). The first two runs this week were done on a treadmill at my gym and I felt fine at the set pace. The final run this morning was out on the road where I attempted to stick at the same pace. My splits after the split:

Yeah, I currently suck at telling what pace I’m going at! I aimed for 7 min/mi for my intervals, I averaged under 6 min/mi. I know that sounds quick but having been a sprinter and 400m Hurdler at one point in my junior career (albeit one who could neither run 400m nor hurdle), keeping a fast pace up for a minute at a time is still within my capabilities. Keeping that pace up for 20 minutes, on the other hand, is very much a daunting prospect and long term goal. But that’s a topic for yet another post.

I’ve already been looking ahead on the program to make sure I’ve got my plan right. The progression is going to increase quite rapidly. Week 2 will be 6 x 1.5 minute intervals, week 3 will be 2 x a 1.5 and 3 minute interval, week 4 will be 2 x a 3 and 5 minute interval. That’s increasing the time running from 9 minutes to 16 (although total time on feet will be 18 minutes and 21.5 minutes respectively). The program does provide distance alternatives but looking at them, they seem inconsistent in terms of pacing. For example, in week 3 it’s either 200/400 yds or 1.5/3 minutes. If you happen to manage that distance in that time, you’re going at a pace of 13.2 minutes/mile. In week 4, you can go either 1/4 of a mile or 3 minutes – which would be a 12 minute/mile pace. Close enough to week 3 but the other interval is either 5 minutes or 1/2 a mile. If you managed that distance in that time, it would be a 10 minute/mile pace. Alternatively, if you ran at the same pace you did the first interval with you’d either cover 0.42 of a mile in 5 minutes or take 6 minutes to go half a mile.

Of course, if you’re running at a faster pace overall then going by the prescribed distances will mean that you’re running for nowhere near as long as the suggested time.

So which to choose – time or distance? My feeling at this point is that it depends on which side of a 10 minute mile pace you’re running at. If you’re slower then go for distance – if you’re quicker, go for time. I choose 10 min/mi as the time because weeks 5 to 9 use are based on that pace. If you’re running slower then when it comes to the last run of week 9 – the magic 5km (well, 3 mile) run – you’ll need to be running for longer than the suggested 30 minutes to reach that distance target. (Obvious caveat – if your goal is to run for 30 minutes in one go rather than 5km then go use time as your goal).

So from week 3, I’ll be sticking to time goals rather than distance. The remaining question, to be answered next time, is to work out what pace I should be doing the longer sessions at.