How much is it realistic to improve? (Read 3328 times)

    Hi all,


    I'm new to the site, and relatively new to running. I decided to give running a go last July. My first run was a total distance of about 80 meters, but I was able to build up to 5k by the end of the year. I ran a half marathon in April, in 2 hours 50 minutes. I did a run/walk combination of 8 minutes running, 2 minutes walking. The longest distance I've run so far without walk breaks is 10k. The first time I ran 10k was in February, in an hour and fifteen minutes. The most recent time was about a week ago, in an hour and seventeen minutes. (Mind you, the first time I was running on completely flat ground, and the more recent run included some steep hills and about 2 k on the beach.)


    I'm loving running. I've lost 38 kilos since I started running. I'm feeling great, and I'm going to keep at it no matter what. However, I'm starting to get a little discouraged with my lack of improvement in terms of speed. I've signed up for another half marathon in October. I was hoping to improve my time considerably, in spite of the next course being quite hilly compared to the half I ran in April. Now, I'm starting to doubt whether that will be possible.


    To give you a bit of info about my training, I run four times a week most weeks. I aim for a 5k hill run, a 30 minute tempo or interval session, an 8-10k long run (which I'll start increasing in early August), and an easy 5k. I'm really focussing on hills, as I'm nervous about the course, so even the long and easy run days include some good hills. I'm wondering if anyone has started at a similar sort of fitness level to me and managed to significantly improved their pace over time? What would be a realistic pace to work toward for the October half? What would be a realistic long term goal? I'm 29 years old, and hoping to keep running til I'm too old to continue. Smile


    Thanks heaps for any advice that you could give.



    Feeling the growl again

      Most people are limited primarily by how much and how consistently they are willing to work at what it takes to improve.  I would try to forget about where the finish line is (in terms of improvement) and enjoy the trip on the way there.  You are young, fairly new to the sport, so you must have a LOT of room to improve.

      "If you want to be a bad a$s, then do what a bad a$s does.  There's your pep talk for today.  Go Run." -- Slo_Hand


      HobbyJogger & HobbyRacer

        I'm no expert, but I think if you're just finishing your first year, you still have several years in which consistent running is going to benefit you through various longer-term adaptations, without too much regard for what exactly workout plans you follow (as long as you avoid injury) -- so I'd expect you'll continue to improve for a while, even without having to figure out what type of workout plan and annual plan is best for you.


        I have read that improvement is not gradually consistent -- for whatever reason, it can go in leaps and spurts, and then seem dormant for a while, and then another spurt may occur, without it being obvious why.

        It's a 5k. It hurt like hell...then I tried to pick it up. The end.

        A Saucy Wench

          If you are consistent and patient you will improve more than you ever thought you could.  However, patience is the key, the improvement will come on its own schedule and you cant force it.


          You might want a little more easy in the mix.  Truly easy, not "Easy with hills because I dont really want to have an easy day"


          And yes.  You can improve.  My first race was a 5K and it took about 36 minutes although some of that was crowding.  My best 5K was 22:51.

          But the improvement was not linear at all.  There was an initial improvement which was really just being able to run the whole way.  And then I kind of hung out there for awhile, building the easy miles, being consistent and improving very slowly then time started falling off in chunks. 


          And then it leveled off. 

          I have become Death, the destroyer of electronic gadgets


          "When I got too tired to run anymore I just pretended I wasnt tired and kept running anyway" - dd, age 7

          Queen of 3rd Place

            Ennay is wise. Give yourself lots of gentle training, time, consistency. You don't want to run today? OK, do an easy mile. There's another day. It's interesting how much of our improvement is just because of plenty of easy miles. I think a wise (and very fast) runner here once said that most of our speed increases are due to lots of easy running. Keep going. When you feel good, maybe run a little faster. Don't force the fast days. This is a years and years-long project. You will continue to improve, it's  


            FWIW, I'm slow, and mostly run slow, the speed has come and I've done so much better than I ever expected, I'm happy. But that's nothing compared to what you've already accomplished! Down 38 kilos - wow!  Know that whatever you do from here, you're already amazing, hats off to you and best wishes. 

            Ex runner

              To significantly improve you probably want to run more. But as others have said it's good to do plenty of easy running. You say you're doing 4 days a week at the moment. You could try adding another day, but just run easy on that extra day. After a while take it up to 6 days. Thereafter it's really up to you - many people like to have at least one day off running each week, but there are plenty who run every day. 

              Bushrat Runner

                Most people that take up running can expect steady improvement for five years at the absolute minimum, no matter what age they start at. If you are more gradual in increasing the training effort, the improvement can be a lot more gradual than that. But just putting in the same work for five years should show improvement over that time regardless. How much? Depends...on lots of things...


                But you've gotten good advice already. It is a good habit to work on enjoying the training process so you aren't set up to be discouraged by occasional regressive performances. Unless you race fairly often, it is not likely that the very occasional race will be the best effort you could put forth. Too many variables on any given run.


                Enjoy the journey.

                  Thanks for the advice and encouragement everyone. I'll try to get some more easy miles in, and work on being more patient. It's encouraging to hear that improvement will come with time even if I'm doing a lot of easy running. In terms of the hills, how often is to often to run hilly routes? I'm doing more hills now partly because it's my latest challenge and I want to push myself. However, it's also because the area I live in is hilly, and I'm not daunted enough by the hills anymore to be bothered with getting in my car and driving to a flatter area. While it's not technically easy running, it's a lot easier practically to put my shoes on and run straight out the front door. Smile Thanks again! Samantha

                  A Saucy Wench

                    It isnt the hills per se that make it a problem for your easy or long runs, its the mindset.  When you say "my easy runs are on hills because I am focusing on hills and i am worried about the course" that tells me you probably arent making the easy days as easy as they need to be.  If you are still going out and WORKING up the hills, then it isnt easy.  Just make sure before you start the run to remind yourself the purpose is easy.  Even laughably easy.  And if you have to remind yourself at the bottom of each hill do so, even if it means walking some of the hills. 

                    I have become Death, the destroyer of electronic gadgets


                    "When I got too tired to run anymore I just pretended I wasnt tired and kept running anyway" - dd, age 7

                      I read somewhere that runners take ten years to reach their peak performance.  Maybe so, maybe no, but I ran my PR marathon last year after nine years of running and have hopes of another PR this year. 


                      Focus on easy runs.  Easy is when you can carry on a conversation speaking in full sentences without straining.  Try for more days per week, six is about ideal. 

                      Bushrat Runner

                        Ten years for peak performance is pretty reasonable. If you don't train to peak, you can still improve for a solid five years, according to at least one assessment I've seen of us non-elite types doing less dedicated training. 


                        I absolutely agree on running more and running easy. Some people find that they can't make the time commitment necessary to get out every day. For them, fewer runs of higher intensity might work. For most runners, including elites, more miles with high intensity efforts once or twice a week surrounded by lots of very easy running is the fastest route to improvement. I know when I started running slower and stopped pushing every run, I got stronger and faster at a rate I was surprised by. Not that I've ever been real fast...

                          Thanks again to each of you for the help.Smile Does anyone know of a good half marathon training plan that includes the six days of running with lots of easy miles? Or, how many k's do you usually run on the easy days? (And what do you do on the hard days?) Thanks!

                          Feeling the growl again

                            Thanks again to each of you for the help.Smile Does anyone know of a good half marathon training plan that includes the six days of running with lots of easy miles? Or, how many k's do you usually run on the easy days? (And what do you do on the hard days?) Thanks!



                            Look up plans from Pfitzinger, Daniels, and Hudson.  Any of them will do what you need them to.  Best of luck.

                            "If you want to be a bad a$s, then do what a bad a$s does.  There's your pep talk for today.  Go Run." -- Slo_Hand


                              I just want to 2nd everyone's motion.....


                              In my opinion, all you need to do to see improvement is to keep going out there as many days as possible and mostly run at an easy pace....WHY do you only run 4 days per week??     Nothing wrong with that but why not 5 or 6 or even 7 days per week.......


                              Add more miles easily and just enjoy the journey.....dont sweat it and you'll be fine.....

                              Champions are made when no one is watching

                                Thanks for the input Phidippides.  As to why only four days a week, that's just what the training plans I've been using say to do.  I trained for the first half marathon with a group and followed the coach's schedule, and now I'm using one off  I've read that the rest days are really important, as that's when your muscles actually build up their strength.  That seems to be contradicted by what everyone's saying here, but I guess maybe if you run at an easy enough pace, it will still give your muscles a bit of a rest?


                                I did a very slow 5k this morning.  It was quite hilly, but I did the hills slowly, and took 48.5 minutes for 5.5km.  (I tried a new course that I thought would be flatter than my usual runs, but I was wrong!)  Yesterday, I was able to run the beach, which is nice and flat, but only possible at low tide.  It's hard to see the times being so high though, as it feels a little like I'm going backwards!


                                I really appreciate everyone's advice.  I'll google those suggestions for training plans.  Thanks spaniel. :-)