Couch to 5K

As the weather improves now might be the time to join in the great Park Run drive

Running has never been more popular, thanks in part to lockdowns and the limited opportunity to get some decent exercise. The NHS drive to encourage a running plan for absolute beginners has really caught people’s attention and the Park Run events that take place throughout the country are more popular than ever. For those who don’t know, Park Run UK events are free, well organised runs that take place every weekend in parks and woodlands across the country with many in the West Midlands.

Here’s our guide to how to safely prepare for one in just a matter of weeks.

A 5K ‘race’ is a great target for beginner runners. It’s long enough to feel like you’ve achieved something, yet short enough to take on after just a couple of months, or less if you’re in reasonable shape.

Most healthy people, even those who haven’t exercised in a long time, can train to run a 5K in a couple of months. 5K races have become hugely popular over the last few years, with hundreds of thousands of people signing up to various events across the UK, including many who have never run a race before.


When you first start running don’t try to do too much too soon. An average beginner’s pace is around 13 minutes per mile, but if you find that too hard, or not challenging enough, simply adjust your training accordingly. You’ll soon get a feel for what your body can do.

For beginners, it’s best to schedule three running sessions per week during the last eight weeks before the race.

At first you only need to do 20 minutes of alternate running and walking, building up to 40 minutes as you progress and race day gets near. If you’re really not used to running, or suffering weight problems, then it’s fine to walk throughout your first session. Next time try running for a few minutes, then walk until you feel ready to run again, but when you walk, take brisk, purposeful strides.


Schedule rest days between your training days and take plenty of minutes to warm up before each session. Stretching before and after exercise is beneficial and something that many of us forget to do. By week three, you’ll already be starting to experience at least some of the many benefits of regular running.

Ideally you should try to work up to running for at least seven minutes (just over half a mile) non-stop before taking a walk break by the end of week three. You should also increase the length of your training sessions to half-an-hour, and once you can run for seven minutes, aim to run for eight, and then nine, which you should be able to achieve by the end of week four.


Weeks five and six are a key time. Now it is time to run for at least 15 minutes (just over a mile) non-stop. Aim to build up to running for least 20 minutes by the end of week six. By the end of week seven you’ll be running for 35 minutes non-stop, which should get you to a distance of a little over four kilometres. It is still absolutely fine for you to take the odd walk break if you really need to, just get running again as soon as you can.

In week eight you should really enjoy your final week of training. A session where you run 30 minutes, then take a one-minute walk break before running for another 10 minutes, scheduled early in the week, should prepare you nicely to run your 5k race. After that just one more 20-minute run in the middle of the week is all you need to do.


When you come to Race Day just lap up the atmosphere. If you feel nervous, that’s fine, most of the other runners will too. Treat the race as a celebration of how far you’ve come in just a couple of months. Your aim is to go the distance without stopping, but if you need to take walking breaks that’s fine, this is only your first 5K race.

Details on the NHS week by week guide from Couch to 5K can be found: Run events in Birmingham include Edgbaston Reservoir, Cannon Hill and Brueton Park. Visit to find one close to you.