THE “W” WORD (PART 2)
Yesterday I broached a bit of a controversial subject as I started discussing the “W” word. “W” as in walking.
To some runners, walking during a race is no big deal and even a good thing. Others, however, might consider it a sign of running inadequacy.
I ended yesterday’s post with a “Check in tomorrow,” as I teased that walking can actually make you a faster runner.
You heard me right. Walking can indeed help you improve your race times. And this is no internet hocus-pocus where they promise results if you do exactly the opposite of what makes sense.
How can you get faster by going slower?
The answer is simple… employ a run/walk ratio.
For those of you not in the know, this is often referred to as “The Galloway Method,” made popular by its most well-known proponent, famed runner Jeff Galloway.
Yes, I am a student of the “Run-Walk-Run” interval strategy. And it has worked very well for me.
Now, I’m not asking you to step right up, put on a hooded robe with running sneakers and drink the spiked Kool-Aid. Just hear me out and decide for yourself.
First off, for those of you who want to read in-depth about the run-walk-run method, check out the link to Jeff Galloway’s website right here.
And to be honest, I was a bit skeptical myself when I joined Team To End AIDS and they stated that they utilized this run-walk-run strategy. I was like a lot of naysayers saying nay… “I came here to run a marathon, not walk a marathon.”
The way it was explained to me was unless you are an elite runner, you can improve your race time by incorporating a run/walk ratio, basically meaning you run a certain number of minutes and then walk for a minute.
In short, running a race with built-in walk breaks can actually give you a faster finish time than if you try to run the entire race non-stop.
When I first started running marathons and half marathons back in 2008 I employed a 3:1 ratio (run for 3 minutes and then walk for 1 minute); I’m currently at a 6:1 ratio (run 6/walk 1).
I did my last half marathon (the Hollywood Half Marathon) running a 5:1 ratio, meaning that I was walking 1 out of every 6 minutes… or 10 minutes of each hour (aka 16.7%).
Or you could say I ran approximately 83.3% of the time (depending if you are a half full or half empty kind of runner).
I ended up with a time of 2:03:14 and placed in the top 28% of runners… not too shabby for someone who walked for 20 minutes during the race.
Still a doubting Thomas or Tina?
Here’s why taking periodic walk breaks during a race can help you (as best as I can explain in the limited space of a blog post).
You delay the onset of fatigue as you can recover during the break, conserving energy for later in the race.
Walking also focuses more on different muscles than those utilized heavily when running, also lessening your fatigue.
And you actually don’t lose that much time by walking for a minute (only about 15-20 secs depending on your pace). Remember, you’re still moving the entire time. And some people incorporate a bit of a power walk during the break to up their speed and maintain good form.
And there is a mental component as well (distance running definitely incorporates a significant mental aspect). The run-walk-run method allows you to compartmentalize a race, by picturing it as a series of run intervals as opposed to the whole enchilada.
What sounds more manageable, running 26.2 miles or running for 6 minutes?
I remember running the Chicago Marathon in 2009 and hitting the wall at mile 20. I was hurting and wanting to stop, but I simply said to myself, “Run three minutes and then we’ll discuss it.” After three minutes I had my walk break. Then as my watch beeped ending my walk break I simply said again, “Run three minutes and we’ll discuss it.” By breaking the remainder of the race up into seemingly smaller chunks, I was able to stay motivated and keep on going. Ah, head games.
The run-walk-run method also is great at helping you achieve a “negative split”… a goal for which runners should aim. It simply means that you run the second half of your race faster than your first half.
The problem facing many runners is while they start off fast, their pace drops off as the race progresses and fatigue sets in. Often they’re barely hanging on when they stagger across the finish line.
With the run-walk-run method you’re able to monitor your pace and energy a bit better, meaning a negative split is a more achievable goal.
It does mean that you will take walk breaks early in a race (even before you’re tired) and you’ll have to get used to it.
When I ran the Hollywood Half Marathon, I took my first walk break 5 minutes into the race. I watched as scores of people blew by me, some of them even shooting me looks. When I caught a disapproving glance, I just thought to myself “I’ll be seeing you again at mile 9.” And sure enough, come later in the race I ran by numerous people who flew past me in the early going. And while some of them looked like death warmed over, I was still sporting the same goofy grin I had at mile 1 (as many of you know, I naturally smile when I run).
Here’s a little personal data to back that up… when I ran the Long Beach Half Marathon last fall, Runpix gave really detailed race data. Let me summarize the benefit of running a negative split that day:
First Half of the Race
- Passed Me: 534 Runners
- I Passed: 795 Runners
Second Half of the Race
- Passed Me: 160 Runners
- I Passed: 812 Runners
So what does this all mean? That the run-walk-run method is the end-all be-all running strategy and anyone not utilizing it should abandon their running plans immediately and jump onboard?
The run-walk-run method works for me, numerous running friends of mine and a multitude of other runners out there. I do also have friends who are completely opposed to it and have told me I should give up the run/walk ratio.
And there are plenty of runners out there who are quite comfortable with their current running styles and wouldn’t change them for all of the Gu Chomps in China.
And that’s cool too.
Just like the minimal shoe vs. traditional running shoe debate (or Coke vs. Pepsi for that matter) there will always be people in each camp.
I am a complete supporter of “do what works for you” (each person is different). But if you’re just starting out running or dissatisfied with your current running program, you could do far worse than to look into the run-walk-run method.
Just remember that “walking” is not your enemy. In fact, during a race, walking might be the difference between just finishing and finishing with your best time ever.
Run, walk… and Run on!
(So, what are your thoughts on the run-walk-run method? Have you tried it? And how do you think it compares to other running strategies? Inquiring minds want to know.)