ah, ive just noticed books post before mine. basically, listen to what she says. do the couch to 5k plan, jump in at week 2 or 3 if you feel you're already past the first few weeks stages. build up gradually. there's no real skill involved in running, anyone can give it a go. What it does require if you want to improve is consistency and patience.
are you trying to gun it every time you run, Les? believe it or not, that's not the most effective way to improve.
First, try consistency, so run 3 times every week, for at least 20 mins. If you can do nothing else, do that.
Second, don't race yourself every time you run, most of the time, you should be fairly uncomfortable, if you're finishing each run red faced and panting, you're going too fast.
Third, mix it up:
do some short easy runs, 30 mins at a nice easy jog, able to hold a conversation, whistle a tune, whatever.
Do some short fast runs, maybe the same 30 min slot, but introduce a couple of 2 or 3 minute fast sections, where you run hard, but again, not completely flat out so you give yourself a heart attack, just a speed you can maintain for that interval, then jog slowly, until your breathing and heartrate return to normalish, then go again. Over time you can add in more intervals to this run. Do this perhaps once every other week. This will improve your "VO2max" or the volume of oxygen that you can use effectively.
Do some longer, slow runs, at the same easy whilstling/conversational pace, but for 40 mins, then 45 the next week, then 50 and so on. This will improve your aerobic endurance, and is also very effective for fat burning.
Do some runs with a continual hard effort or "tempo" run. So, like the intervals I describe above, but instead of "hard for 2 mins, jog for 2-3 minutes, hard for 2 minutes..." etc, do a section where you run moderately hard for about 10 mins, then the next time for 12 minutes, then the next time for 14 minutes. Like the intervals, do this once a fortnight, maybe alternating with the intervals session, so one week you do intervals, the next week a "tempo" run. This will improve your lactate threshold, or the efficiency of your muscles in removing lactic acid.
When you do a session containing intervals or a tempo run, the first 10 mins shoudl be a warm up jog at an easy pace. asking your muscles to do anything hard when cold is a recipe for injury. Also, add a 10 min cool down, and if you can be arsed, a bit of leg stretching afterwards. Jury is out on the benefits of stretching, but light stretching won't hurt you, and may decrease DOMS, that stiffness you feel in your muscles the day or two after a hard session.
So, i'm guessing your current schedule looks something like this:
week1: Run for 5k / rest ./ run for 5k / rest / run for 5k / rest / rest
week2: repeat week1, trying to run faster.
Whereas, if i was in your boat, i'd be looking to do something like this...
week1: 30 mins EASY / rest / 30 mins with 10min tempo in middle / rest / 40 mins EASY / rest / rest
week 2: 30 mins EASY / rest / 30 mins with 2 x 3 min intervals in middle / rest / 40 mins EASY / rest / rest
week3: like week1 but with a 12 min tempo and a 45 min run at the end of the week.
week4: like week2 but with maybe 3 x 3 mins intervals, or 3 x 2.5 mins, and a 50 mins easy run at the end of the week.
continue in this fashion, building up very gradually, perhaps just adding a couple of minutes onto your runs, or some weeks just repeating the previous week, or even just doing 3 easy runs to keep ticking over. Eventually you'll want to add in a fourth EASY run, and later a fifth easy run. listen to your body, push when you feel you can, pull back when you feel you need to.
I found that you have a powerof10 page and a runbritain page. Maybe update your races with these sites and people can track your progress this way. It'll also improve your handicap, if that kind of thing appeals.
Like Philomena/Grinch/Sussex I don't donate money to online acquantances, so I won't give you my financial support, but you have my moral support. Good luck.
my commute is 7.5 miles each way, through london traffic. I count 48 sets of traffic lights on my route to work, so even if i stop at just half of them it's an average of 1 every 500metres. Plus the road is full of pricks, so it's not the kind of ride where you can really open up and go hell for leather. You could spring to each set of traffic lights, and many do, but I just pootle along like Miss Marple and catch them up at the next lights. Given the low intensity of it, i don't consider it as a substitute for any of my weekly runs, and just put it down as a bit of additional calorie burning, and possibly helping the low level endurance building (i guess in a similar way the "HADD" training is supposed to work).
If i'm having a really heavy week, or feeling totally knackered from running, i might cry off cycling in so much, and sit on the tube, listen to some tunes, and try to ignore everyone I come into contact with, like a real commuter.