Four weeks in: time for a 5k challenge

As we approach the halfway mark, we mix things up a little. This week, you’re the boss

Welcome to Week 4 of our Stay on Track programme. It’s hard to believe that by the end of the week we will be halfway through the programme. This is a perfect time for you to take part in a 5k to see how you have progressed since Week 1. You can run in a parkrun, a local race, or measure the distance closer to home.

Take a look at the parkrun website and see if there is one near you. It really is a fabulous initiative, and you will have a friendly group of people out on a Saturday morning encouraging you to complete your 5k, and, with a little luck, in a quicker time than four weeks ago. The speed work we have completed will help your endurance and pace over 5k. It will also help your body to be more comfortable pushing itself a little extra.

If this is your first official 5k, please don’t panic. It’s normal to be nervous and the trick is not to start too fast. I have put together a list of tips for your first race, so have a look at that in the homework email this week, and that will settle your nerves before the weekend.

I want you to try something completely different midweek. This week you are the boss. You decide what pace you will run. I want you to introduce a few fast minutes randomly in the middle mixed up with some slow minutes. You can even decide your route as you go, and try to vary everything. Don’t time your run by the clock: instead use landmarks, such as lamp posts, other runners or buildings. You can run fast and slow between alternate lamp posts, or run slowly until you pass the next red car. You are in charge. Make up the rules as you go along. Your body won’t know what is going to come next and it will be great training.

I call this a Funrun, but the official term is fartlek running, which is the Swedish word for speedplay. It can be a great thing to do with someone else. You can take turns in deciding the next corner to turn, or the next unsuspecting dog walker you want to run fast towards. Make sure to have lots of slow recovery sections in there too. Try it out this week, have fun with it, and next week we will try something else different, again to keep you on your toes.

We are all looking for a secret tip to help our running feel easier. Try out this Chirunning technique tip on your run this week. It works wonders when you are struggling with a run. Imagine a string from your chest pulling you forward. Feel as if you are attached to the back of a runner in front of you, or to an object in the distance. Fix your gaze on the object and imagine you are being pulled towards it. Notice how you fall slightly forwards, leading from the chest while the rest of your body just keeps up with you. It really helps with posture, as you cannot be looking at a point in the distance if you are bent over. Keeping tall allows for more space in the lungs, which is the best way to help breathing feel easier. I explain this more in the videos.

You have a busy week ahead now. Practise your Chirunning technique and experiment with your fartlek running midweek. Your 5k timed run at the weekend will make a perfect end to the first half of our programme. By next week, you will be ready to get stuck into the second half. I hope that means you will have four weeks of a training log complete too. Best of luck.

Mary Jennings is a running coach and founder of Forget the Gym. See;

Get Running: Stay on Track is designed for people who can squeeze a 30- to 40- minute run into their busy lives three times a week, but who need a kickstart to get going, and support when they run out of excuses. To sign up to this, or to any of our running courses, see You can also keep up with us on, @IrishTimesRun and email us at

Our next live Q&A with Mary Jennings will be on Monday, October 13th, from 5pm to 6pm. If you have any questions relating to running, please log in to then.

You can email questions in advance to, or tweet @IrishTimesRun, and Mary will answer them during the liveblog.

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