In December of 2006, I made a commitment to use a run/walk method for my races in 2007. There is always a lot of discussion and opinions around this idea amongst runners. Here are the two biggest things that I see:
1. Those runners that believe that a “true” runner wouldn’t walk during a race
2. Those runners/sports scientists that believe there is no validity to the method.
I originally came to the idea after listening to Bobby McGee speak during the training clinic at the Olympic Training Center. While I wasn’t sure if I was convinced, I thought that I’d give it a try.
Here’s the link again to my previous post: Does Slow Down mean Walk for me?
The commitment I had was to run/walk every run I did. And looking back, I don’t remember doing a single run in ’07 that I didn’t walk some. There were quite a few benefits that I derived from this experience. I’ll skip the physiology of it for now (maybe I’ll get to it at another time), but the two things I noticed were:
1. It allowed me to recover easier, which allowed me to run more often (I actually ran every single day in Feb. of ’07)
2. Emotionally, it allowed me to relax and have peace with the idea of walking, which allowed me to use those lessons during races.
I used the method in 3 key races during the ’07 year:
To be honest, I believe it helped in all three races. I had some doubts about the idea of walking during the half marathon, but here is what it did: It slowed me down at a time during the race when I was getting caught up in the race and running way too fast. Therefore, it forced discipline into my race when it would have likely been lacking. While 1:25 is not really fast for a half marathon, it was as much as I could have expected considering the training I had leading up to that race.
The biggest benefit that I had during the year using this method was during the Ironman. It was hugely beneficial going into that race knowing I would have to walk, because when I started walking that first mile, I was able to say to myself “this is part of the plan.” That was more empowering than getting to 15 or 16 and saying, “I have to walk because I don’t know if I can run anymore.”
The difference between those two psychological states are worth many minutes during a race. I had hoped that I could go under 3:30 for my marathon split, I didn’t make it as I went 3:35. But I’m convinced that I would have been closer to 4:00 had I not started walking from mile 1.
Who benefits the most?
The athletes that benefit the most from using this strategy, in my opinion, are those that are still challenged by their endurance. I tell athletes that you’d benefit if you are planning on going over 3:30 for the marathon. (There’s no science to that number.)
That being said, I will use this method the next time I try to go under 3 hours. And as Bobby McGee said, he has had a 2:30 marathoner use this method.
The key is determining where your pacing begins to drop. Maintaining a consistent pace is likely the largest performance boost that many runners will see by using a walk/run strategy.
I would be interested to hear others experience using a run/walk stategy and how they felt it helped or did not help them.