The biggest debate I’ve come across is a long time, other than whether or not to barefoot run!, is that of the run / walk during a marathon. We’re approaching training season for most Fall marathons so now is the time to start thinking about it. If you are running a marathon but taking walk breaks are you still running a marathon? Well, let’s see. Did you just cover 26.2 miles? Yes? Well, that my friend, is a marathon regardless of how you got there.
I have to be real honest. I used to fall in the category of people who thought, “why would i do that? if i’m going to run a marathon, i’m going to RUN a marathon.” Not until i actually trained for a marathon with a run / walk did i really see the benefits. I was used to going on long runs and coming home and feeling pretty wiped out for the day but that was just normal for me. I switched to a run / walk method for a marathon and was shocked at how much longer i could go without feeling the affects of the time on my feet and was still able to have a fairly productive day.
I used my walk breaks as my time to eat and drink and found that it helped me to chill out a little. When i got stopped at red lights i didn’t panic that i was losing time; i just added some time to my run or took some time off my walk. I found that it made me a more laid back runner for the time being which was what i needed. I was a little nervous on race day that people were going to hassle me for stopping to walk or that i would be in the way or really just that someone would think “gosh, just stay home if you can’t run.” I was shocked instead at how many people were doing the same thing!
The point of the walk intervals is to decrease fatigue, speed recovery, and reduce injury. Of course, if not done correctly, you don’t reap the benefits. If you wait until you’ve already hit the wall, it’s too late. If you start it before you ever feel like you need to, you’re right on target! Some of the people i’ve talked about this method have told me that it didn’t work for them but it seems that when i further investigate, i find out the intervals were more sporadic than structured which defeats the point all together. Also, the idea is that the time you lose on the front end or first two-thirds of the race will be made up at the end since you’ll be maintaining your pace and hopefully not having to walk as much as those that are running face first into the dreaded wall.
Interestingly enough, even after doing 1 race with the walk / run method, i still thought i would go into my next one without but why? Maybe i’m still kind of hung up on the “stigma” of the run / walk. I don’t know. What i do know is that it worked for me once and now i’m just competitive enough with myself that i’m dying to do a second one this way to see if i can PR. I also know myself and i know that i often times don’t respect the long run enough (meaning i don’t slow down enough which in my book is a big no no on long runs but sometimes coaches are their own worst students!) so i really think throwing the walks in there is a great way to build endurance without totally killing myself!
It’s an interesting debate to me. Yes, i know plenty of people who have awesome marathon times and didn’t take walk breaks but i also know some people who had awesome times, took walk breaks, and ended up PR’ing. It’s a weird phenomenon to me. It’s something that makes perfect sense to me but it’s also something that drives the stubborn me crazy! Sometimes i want it to not work. I want it to be a myth but I can fight it tooth and nail and there’s still going to be proof that it can really work. I’m embracing it. I know that whether you run, walk, or crawl to the finish line, when you cross you’re a marathoner and that’s what matters.
I was super excited when i went to my mailbox and got the new Runners World and there’s a small piece in there on a guy wanting to PR in his next marathon and he hopes to do it with the walk / run method. I haven’t had a chance to read it yet but i’m looking forward to it. It totally peaks my curiosity. I can’t wait to hear how he does. Again, why would a sub 3 marathoner need to take walk breaks?! Well, i guess his little legs get tired too 🙂
What do you think? Ever tried the walk / run method?
(yes, i’m on a walk “break” in the picture above- mile 23 or so, after missing 7 of 10 critical long runs due to injury, still standing, and on my way to the marathon finish…..and if you’ll notice, nobody is out there berating me for taking a 60 second break!)