Two weeks ago I completed a half marathon. My training was basically non-existent due to rehabbing a recent injury. Thanks to the wonderful (insert sarcasm) policies of the NYRR, I was unable to take my NYC Half Marathon lottery selection and defer it to 2013. I was determined to finish that race, with no time goal in mind, so I turned to a run/walk strategy to get me there.
I was a runner who felt that come hell or high water I would never walk during a race, not even to take a short break at water stations. It was a badge of honor I wore early on as a runner- in my mind stopping to walk was for weak runners and was not acceptable. How wrong I was.
This past weekend I had a non-runner friend ask me “if you walk part of a marathon does that count for actually ‘running’ a marathon?”. I guess that is a valid question from someone who doesn’t run; my answer to him was- it absolutely does not matter if you walk, limp, sprint, hobble or whatever across that finish line, when you complete a marathon or any race for that matter, you finished it, you completed it, you ran it.
I have no idea where I got the impression as a beginner runner that walking was bad. I am totally Type A, but this was a totally new extreme. For a few years I pushed myself so much that I took the fun out of race day and even had some terrible performances.
Fast forward to this year when my PT gave me the green light to run/walk the half marathon and pace my wife during the process. I had heard of people breaking four hours in their marathon debuts by implementing a run/walk strategy so I became very interested in trying this out. I had a read through Jeff Galloway’s website to get a sense of what to expect on race day. Jeff’s innovative ideas have opened up the possibility of running and completing a marathon to almost everyone. Philosophically, Jeff believes that we were all designed to run and walk, and he keeps finding ways to bring more people into the positive world of exercise.
I took a little of Jeff’s ideas and built a race day run/walk strategy around 8 min run with 1 min walk breaks. At first it was difficult to walk, but I knew my untrained legs would thank me at the end of the race- and they did as I absolutely felt like I had fresh legs. My longest run prior to the half was a 45 min run. I had not trained for strength or speed. The run/walk strategy saved my legs and helped us get to the finish line in just over 2 hours. Sure, it was 30 min of my PR, but the goal was to start and finish. By incorporating the run/walk strategy the race was doable. The walk breaks helped my body recover and even though my fitness level wasn’t at its best, I was able to keep my heart rate in check for all 13.1 miles.
I do not; and I repeat, do not recommend entering a half marathon without training. I do recommend having a look at Jeff’s website and learning more about his run/walk strategy. I believe that runners of all levels can benefit from this, whether it is walking through water stations or walking every 8 minutes.
Once I get back to full strength I think I will consider my race day strategy again and look at it with a totally different perspective. Taking the walk break every so often will help me maintain fresh feeling legs and give me a mental break.
The best part of the run/walk experience was not having the fade at the end of a race. In fact we felt stronger and continued to pass those who had passed us during the first few miles of the race. Try it out, you might surprise yourself with how a run/walk will get you to your next PR.
Is run/walking cheating at a full or half marathon? Have you ever done a run/walk? Do you force yourself to run the entire race?