Newbie looking for hints ips to improve my 5k Parkrun time

Firstly, Hello to all.

 I recently just started running my local Parkrun, and after 6 runs I've got my PB down to 28:37 from 31:33.  I have big ideas of running sub 25:00 (or at the very least getting my age grading to above 50% i.e. just under 26:00 for SM30-24).

I’ve mainly been a (very) occasional rugby player for the last few years and had never done any distance running until my first Parkrun last month; I’m finding the running on the day, and pursuit of a PB perversely addictive but I don’t currently do any running specific training, and I’m not sure I want to!  

My exercise regime over a week currently consists of:

2 x 45min squash

3 x 11min HIIT sessions

1 x Rest day

1 x 5k Parkrun

In general terms are my goals achievable without building a running specific element into my training?  Also, I’m fishing for specific advice regarding nutrition and hydration on the day before, and morning of the run.  I have a lot of muscle soreness from my squash and HIIT, is there anything I could be doing on my rest day to alleviate this?

Hopefully losing the extra 30lb I’m carrying will carry me part of the way, diet starts today!


  • If you want to run better you need to run more. One park run a week is not enough to go sub 25 with any certainty.

    You need to be running 2 or 3 times a week. The more you run, the harder you train the better you will run.

    Age grading - 50% isn't bad for a once a week runner. If you read up on age grading and understand how it works you will realise that few runners can be more than 50% - those that are are those who train hard and race hard. I'm at about 80% and work very hard at my running - still not enough to get me better - if I want to improve I will have to train a lot harder than I am and up my weekly mileage.

    Just trying to say that all things are relative and don't knock yourself about your age grading.

    As for muscle soreness, for me the best thing that I can do is easy swimming. It works for me. Others will tell you to warm up before vigorous exercise and to stretch correctly afterward.

    Also try yoga - it helps with body posture and flexibilty - these are the things that really effect my muscle tightness / soreness. Which is probably why swimming works better for me. You can also try a foam roller or rolling pin, it will hurt.

    You could also try wearing compression clothing.

    As for diet / nutrition, you don't need anything specific for a 5k but I would suggest that you ensure you are hydrated - sip water before the race and drink water afterward.

  • Thanks for the reply and the links Imelda, I’m definitely guilty of not warming up and cooling down correctly; stand and deliver, get my cake and go home has pretty much been the way of it!  It’s good to know the latest thinking on warm-up/cool down, if I’m going to do it, I want to do it right. Swimming sounds like a good call too, I’ll try a gentle1 K on my rest-day and see if it works the pain away.

    I’m slightly wary of adding more running, I’m worried about building an obsession, I’ve already signed up to run a 10k in a couple of weeks lol!  Also, I’m probably carrying over 2st of extra weight, and having had ankle and knee problems in the past, I want to be careful. 

    I'll be sure not get too up tight about runnning sub 25/26, at the moment I'm improving every run, once I plateau, and if I can shed a few kilos it might then be the time for some hard training miles.  Part of me is interested in where I can get to without any running specific training.

  • the best hour training you spend will be running. Other things help but training by running on very limited time a week is the best bet. a short fast turnover of your feet (high cadence) will minimise injury risk.


    to improve you can look at eeeking out every last ounce from what you currently have - as in this post

    or you will be best served by trying to improve by following a plan. This one is as good as any:



    it's my site and there are other plans on there


  • I'd suggest adding in post squash recovery runs.  Not on the day, but the day after, a slow 3 miler at talking pace to release the lactic build up that will have accrued from your squash sessions would probably give you slightly looser legs for the parkrun.  Doing the distance as recovery will also build muscle memory, making the race pace a bit more bearable and therefore, buildable. 

    Losing weight will almost definitely help - try carrying 30lb now and see how it feels! 

    Most important though - make sure you stretch properly post exercise, to keep the legs supple and do a decent warm up before the race.  Starting on cold limbs can only slow you down and hurts the legs.

    As for nutrition/hydration - it's only three miles, stop being such a princess!  A decent meal the night before, breakfast if you want it and you should be drinking plenty of water anyway!


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