Walk or don't walk?

Walk or don’t walk?

When did walking become such a bad thing?

I recently read a post from an acquaintance boasting about how they finally completed an entire half marathon without walking a single step.

I was about to send them a congratulatory note on their race… then I continued reading their post.

They went on to say that they ran the entire race much slower than they’d wanted and even had difficulty finishing. Their time was one of their worst ever (and this person is all about their finisher’s time), yet they acted like the race was an unmitigated success… simply because they didn’t walk.

If their driving force is to get as fast a time as possible, why is that point ignored in the wake of “successfully” not walking?

Ummm, congrats? I guess.

And when asking other runners about their goal for an upcoming race, I’ve heard more than one person basically say they don’t care how they finish as long as they “run” the entire distance without having to walk.


One of my “unspoken” goals when racing is to not poop myself*. When I ran the San Diego Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon earlier this month I wrestled with a cramp, nasty blister and pulled hamstring.

"Ah, just give me a kiss."

“Ah, just give me a kiss.”

My time was well off what I was hoping for, but since I finished “sans crap,” should I have taken a victory lap and showed the world the inside of my squeaky clean running shorts as proof positive that I’d achieved that goal? Clearly, this must have been my finest hour… simply because there were no feces to be found.

Seems a little silly, right?

Wait, the no pooping or no walking?

*Note: I’m batting 1.000 when it comes to no “Number Two” during races. Should I ever break my “no poop” streak you’ll be the first to hear about it… after I clean myself up, of course… in all of its self-deprecating (and self-defecating) glory.

I understand that achieving any goal you set is something to be relished and commended, but what I’d like to impart in today’s rambling is that walking is nothing to be feared or ever considered a sign of failure or weakness.

Why is there such a stigma surrounding walking during a race? Because supposedly “real” runners don’t walk?



I’m in the middle of watching the World Cup (Go USA!) and if you tune in, you’ll see that during the match these great soccer players can be seen walking from time to time. The ball is in play and yet these superstars are walking. But I certainly don’t think anyone would dare call Messi or Ronaldo slackers or poor athletes for not running the entire 90 minutes.

Hell, we’d all love to do an entire race at an all-out Six Million Dollar Man sound barrier breaking pace, but that’s just not possible.

To quote the wise and wonderful Jedi master Yoda: “Unlearn what you have learned.”

The key to running a good race starts with running smart. And walking can indeed be a very smart move.

And sometimes your goal is simply to walk.

I remember back to when I first learned how to walk. I was six months old and under a tremendous amount of pressure. I mean my parents had already bought me shoes and here I was putting their good money to waste, sitting around like a Huggies-clad bump on a log. Time to get to training.

It was damn tough. It took me months and months of hard work. I had already learned how to roll over and sit up, but that was child’s play compared to what lay ahead.

Yup, I'm walking here... and sporting a ducky!

Yup, I’m walking here… and sporting a ducky!

I took up crawling and worked at it night and day. Apparently, all I did for weeks on end was eat, sleep and crawl. I was a natural. According to my folks, I was a four legged speed demon and they nicknamed me “Kill, crush, destroy.”

Once I’d mastered my quadruped form of locomotion, I set up a new goal… to go bipedal. Again, more hard work as I first focused on standing without falling right back on my ass. And then one day, thanks to my hard work and dedication, I took my first few steps** across the living room.

**Note: I’m not sure what my pace was because Garmin doesn’t make a GPS for toddlers.

And you know what, I didn’t beat myself up because I wasn’t running the whole way. I was walking and damn proud of it. My parents snapped a whole bunch of polaroids (no iPhone back then) and dialed up my grandparents on the landline (again, no iPhone back then) to tell them about my achievement (no Facebook either).

Yup, I was pretty damn proud of myself. Unfortunately, I had also pooped my pants somewhere along the way so I don’t know if you can count it as a complete success. FYI, I didn’t institute my “dookie free” requirement until years later.

Yes, it apparently all does come back to poo.

All scatological references aside, in a race the goal is to get from A to B, no matter whether you stroll, sprint, saunter, skip, schlepp, scamper or scuttle (yay alliteration).

Be proud of walking.

If you need to take a break, then take a break. I guarantee you there will be plenty of race left to run.

"Where we're going we don't need roads... to walk."

“Great Scott!”

And for those of you who still feel that walking is something to be avoided in a race, tune in tomorrow for “The W Word, Part 2” and watch me jump up on my soapbox and try to show you that walking can make you an even faster runner.

Ohh, cliffhanger.

Walk.. and Run on!

(What’s your opinion of walking during a race… perfectly fine, “do what you gotta” or avoid at all costs?)

Posted on June 17, 2014, in General, Humor and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 25 Comments.

  1. I don’t mind walking during a race. It allows you to lower your heart rate, stretch out and rejuvenate. That being said, I prefer not to walk during short races (5k-8k) but will frequently employ walking in longer races. I would have never finished my half marathon without walk breaks.

    However, there is a line between walking for recover and walking because you are fighting a mental battle. There are times where I push myself to run and not walk because I know that I can physically do it, its simply a voice in my head telling me I can’t!

    • Thanks for the comment. Walking during a race is one of those controversial topics. Since I employ the run/walk method (more on that tomorrow) it’s part of my normal racing strategy. But there are races or points during the race where I forego the walk break because I feel really good or am trying to hit a certain time… or like you, just want to push myself. I think “walking” just gets a bad rap sometimes.

  2. My first marathon ‘run the whole way’ was a goal, and was amongst the goals I nailed – I ran smart and steady throughout, and even though I ‘left gas in the tank’ I was very pleased. Since then I have allowed myself to walk when it made sense – and realized that walking for any of the reasons you might walk carries no shame, makes you no less of a runner.

    Thanks for this post 🙂

    • Glad you liked it (poo and all) and thanks for commenting. I do find it a shame how some people view walking as a negative thing when it actually can be a very useful part of race strategy.

  3. I use intervals in my races. I can run faster for short periods, then walk to recover. Lets me get a higher average speed than if I tried to run the whole thing without walking.

    For someone like me who can’t hold a steady pace – intervals are awesome.

    • Thanks for the comment. I too run intervals (it’s been great for me). Check out tomorrow’s post as I ramble on about the run/walk strategy.

  4. I definitely see both sides of the issue. Personally, when I go out for a 16-mile training run, if I end up walking portions of it I feel like I failed (yes, I know this is a ME thing, not an irrefutable fact). On the other hand, I’ve run two marathons and walked portions of the last six miles and still finished with (for me) very respectable times. That was better than the alternative, which would’ve been slow and painful death on the shores of Huntington Beach. I do see a difference between “strategic walk breaks” (a la Galloway) and “I just can’t run one more step, dammit” walking. But either way, if you finish the race, you’re a runner and a winner, at least in my book.

    As an aside, I thought the “self-deprecating/self-defecating” wordplay was a nice turn of phrase. A “play on turds” you might say.

    • Ha! Poo is always funny and it makes my inner 5-year-old giggle. I’m a Galloway runner (more on that in Part 2). There are multiple reasons why people walk, all of them valid. I think “walking” just needs a better public relations person.

  5. I, too, was at RNR SD and I did a walk/run with emphasis on the walk. At one point I passed a bunch of young adults sitting on a balcony cheering on the runners and drinking. Then one of the smart asses yelled out, “Walking is cheating.” To which I turned briefly and yelled back,”Finishing is WINNING!, now go back to sitting on your ass drinking your beer.” He had been schooled.

    • Ha! Love it. Since I do a run/walk ratio, I take scheduled walk breaks. Inevitably I get people who are like “C’mon you can run.” I just smile and keep walking until my break is done. Thanks for commenting and reading. And what did you think of the course (I’ve been fairly vocal about how “meh” I felt it was)?

  6. I’m not much of a runner, it kills my ankles and sets my asthma off. I walk a majority of miles in my races-walk fast enough to keep pace with a slow runner. I hate that this somehow equates to being a slacker, or as I’ve been told before, I should’t be doing races. Hey, I paid to be here, did the same distance, and even passed some folks. And walking is bad why?

    • Yup, walking seems to be frowned upon by some people. I do a run/walk strategy (more on that in tomorrow’s post) and appreciate the good that walking does during a run. Thanks for commenting and reading. And keep on walking!

  7. I walk if I need to, but I try not to. There is no shame in walking some to recover, get fuel or water, and re-focus on the race. Run your own race and don’t worry about what others think.

    Just don’t start in the first corrals and walk in front of the runners if you are indeed a walker!!!

    • True. Walking is never a bad thing… unless you put yourself in a fast corral (for some unexplained reason) and impede the other runners. These also tend to be the same people who walk 5 abreast and create a “moving wall.” Grrr.

  8. I am one of “the turtles.” I’m slow, but I finish. I run when I can, walk when I have to, and have yet to master the run-and-don’t choke after three years of running. Do I consider myself a runner? Yes. Do my friends and family consider me a runner? Yes. Does my lightning fast overall-top-three-at-every-race mentor consider me a runner? Yes. (And no, I haven’t pooped my pants yet, but there was one race that I would have DNF’ed had the port-o-johns not come into sight during that frightful mile.)

    And as a note, I’ve been outrun by race walkers before. Some of them WALK 9 minute miles. I’ve love to walk a race that fast!

    • Thanks for the comment. I love “the turtles” as they just keep on going forward, no matter what. And hell yes, turtles are runners… just ask the hare. And those race walkers are a unique breed. They can look silly as hell, but boy can they move. I actually have been instructed by a race walker to help me maintain speed/form during my walk breaks. I’m very appreciative as he helped me up my overall pace. Thanks for reading.

  9. Yes, I’ve noticed walking still has a bad rap, no matter how many experts and articles come out to defend it. Just like there are always those people who think that charity runners don’t belong in the Boston Marathon and anyone who can’t race at a 7:00 pace isn’t a “real” runner and is “ruining” the sport. Running and the running community are changing, and the snobs will just have to get used to it. Because us slow-pokes aren’t going away any time soon!

    • In the Team to End AIDS charity running group to which I belong, we’ve got runners at all speeds, including a group who are basically walkers. They are out there with us every Saturday, showing the same commitment, dedication and heart. And shame on anyone who thinks less of them because they aren’t breaking the sound barrier. Hell, compared to the elite runners, I’m basically standing still but I don’t feel any less of a runner. Thanks for commenting.

  10. I injured by back 17 years ago, and was told by my neurosurgeon the only way to avoid risky surgery was to modify my lifestyle. No running, water skiing, motorcycle or horseback riding. Don’t lift anything over 15 pounds.
    Fast forward 15 years and a friend asked if I wanted to go to Denver for a half marathon. I finished in about 3:20, walking fast as I could. In the 1 1/2 years since, I have cut 30 minutes off my PR. I regularly walk past the slow runners, while doing my best not to end up in the OR.
    I resent those who think I’m not a real competitor. I have always finished within the time allowed by the race, even though the water, GU and other support aspects were not still available. I pay my entry fee like everybody else. . .

    Thanks for the post!

    • Kudos to you on finding a way to “get your run on” and getting out there. It does bother me when race services seem to be winding down while the race is still going on. I’ve had that recently when running the full marathon at races that are primarily half marathons. By the time I cross the finish line it seems like the post-party bands are wrapping up and the choice goodies are gone. Keep on walking/running!

  11. The run,walk,run offers so many benefits to real runners. The first benefit is helping remain injury free. Next, interval trianing, to condition your heart, body, and mind. Another benefit is breaking the mileage wall down ( running comfortable high mileage runs when in the past I would fatigue). The biggest benefit for me is finishing strong! Thank u Jeff Galloway. You have made run, walk, run make sense.

    • The only time the run-walk-run method feels odd during a race is that very first walk break in a race. Everyone is whipping by as I start walking five or six minutes into a race. Ooh, do I get some looks. But come mile 10 in a half or 20 in a half and I seem like the smart one.

  12. Reblogged this on Diary of a New Runner and commented:
    After beating myself up for walking just a bit during a particularly hot long run, I saw this post. Completely redefined my relationship with walking during my runs. I still strive to not walk, but I will no longer get frustrated when I do. Heck I may even end up with a better pace time in the long run!

  13. I never feel bad for walking. You are still moving forward!!!!

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