"You Mean You Didn't Run the Entire 9 Hours?"
I’ve met many runners who can’t believe I take walk breaks. “Doesn’t that slow you down? Isn’t it hard to start running again once you stop running?” They hold to the belief that whatever you do, “DON’T STOP RUNNING!” I’ve been passed so many times in the first half of races, only to come back in the last 10K and fly by all those who fatigued their legs too early.
When Josh and I decided to run our first marathon we picked up Jeff Galloway’s marathon training book. The Galloway method encourages runners to follow a run-walk-run pattern. Even Galloway himself, who ran a 2:16 marathon in his day, uses this method. I still employ the run/walk methond in my training and my races. My run/walk ratio depends on the length of my run, the purpose of my run, the conditions (95 and humid = lots of walk breaks), and how I’m feeling on any particular day. I’m not super strict about my ratio and in races I go more by how I’m feeling than my watch. The longer the race, the more valuable walk breaks become both mentally and physically. I probably won't take walk breaks in a 5 K race but you better believe I live for them in a 90 K race. Walk breaks, my friends, are glorious.
I notice a dramatic difference in the races where I take walk breaks and run conservatively in the first half and races when I just zoom out full force. Without fail, the days I take the breaks are the days I run faster times and feel great at the finish line.
Here’s why it works:
Walk breaks erase fatigue- you’re downshifting and using different muscles, giving your legs time to recover.
It breaks long races up into manageable increments: when the goin’ gets tough, I tell myself, “Two more minutes, I can do anything for two minutes.” Knowing that I’m going to get a short recovery soon gives me the mental strength to hold my pace.
Reduces chances of aches, pains, and injuries.
Speeds recovery time after the race/training run.
And finally, you’re still moving forward! It irritates me when spectators at races say, “Run, don’t walk!” When I hear this happen to another runner, I try to encourage them by saying, “One foot in front of the other. Just keep moving forward.” I tell myself the same thing when someone, who probably has no clue what it takes to run a marathon or ultra, makes a comment like that to me.
If running seems intimidating to you, start slow. Don’t feel discouraged when you take walk breaks! Think of it as giving your body what it needs for optimal performance.
As I like to say, “One foot in front of the other.”