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The Run/Walk Method: The Recipe For Marathon Disqualification

Posted Nov 04 2009 10:06pm
Warning: this post may not be particularly fan-friendly in tone and content. While I tried not to write this post, I finally succumbed the temptation. That being the case, I wanted to say I’m sorry for anybody who is offended by the following.

Some time ago, I wrote a post lamenting Jeff Galloway’s run/walk method as a training technique to tackle a marathon. In an article in her Wellness Blog which provided daily training tips in the months leading up to the New York City Marathon, the New York Times’ Tara Parker-Pope wrote about her fondness for this run/walk method and discussed how it had helped her to travel farther (note the word ‘travel’ and not ‘run’) and to feel less pain upon getting to her end destination. If you recall, I discussed how the run/walk is a silly approach to use when training for a marathon given the fact that a marathon is meant to test your physical endurance and, no matter how much you slow down, you can’t avoid pain after having trekked 26 miles. In addition, while I have certainly done my fair share of walking in each of my marathons, I have never planned in advance to walk certain portions of the course and feel that if I did, I shouldn’t be running in the event at all.

Unfortunately, after writing that post, I soon found out how many people disagreed with me. For many days after, I was inundated with comments that not only conveyed others’ disagreement with my opinion but also others’ hatred of my blog and of me personally. Two in particular were particularly hostile:

“You might have more luck convincing readers of your point if you hadn't admitted to walking during a marathon yourself. So really you just come off as smug AND a failure.

As another commenter already noted, your first mistake was not looking up the word "marathon" in ANY dictionary: "marathon- a foot race over a course measuring 26 mi. 385 yd. (42 km 195 m)".

So yeah, it may not be a "walkathon"? But it's not a "runathon" either.

Hugely off putting and uninspired post. Not impressed.”


“I thought this was a cool website until I read this article! It is ill-informed, just plain factually incorrect, and portrays an attitude that alienates a segment of the running population. A "true runner would never do this! Running is a great sport that everyone should feel comfortable participating in regardless of age, race, gender, ability, or technique. The attitude of the author reminds me of a golfer not a runner :) I say run, jog, walk, or do a combination of these -- just get out there and have fun!”

Despite everybody being entitled to their own opinions and given that nobody’s opinion is wrong, I must say that, after this past Sunday’s New York Marathon, it would seem that my opinions from that initial post have been proven right and all my naysayers have been proven wrong!

While Tara Parker-Pope finished the NYC Marathon before the 8.5-hour mark at which point any people still on the course are automatically disqualified, she did so with only about an 1.5-hours to spare. Finishing in 6:58:19 (an astounding 1 hour and 17 minutes AFTER Mario Lopez ), Parker-Pope re-enforced my notion that utilizing the run/walk method for a marathon is an exercise in futility in her November 3 rd article A Marathon Run In The Slow Lane by unintentionally supporting my opinions and writing that, “The main benefit of the run-walk method is that it eases your body into exercise, makes marathon training less grueling and gives muscles time to recover, reducing the risk of injury. Walk breaks are an ideal way for new runners and older, less fit and overweight people to take part in a sport that would otherwise be off limits”.

Reading Parker-Pope’s article, it would appear that the run/walk method makes marathon running less grueling by taking away the running aspect of the marathon, gives muscles time to recover since little time is needed as there is little to recover from and reduces the risk of injury since it is difficult to get injured while walking.

I think that at the heart of each of those above-referenced comments directed at me is the notion that running in a marathon is supposed to be, at its core, a fun experience for each participant. To that, I can hardly disagree. However, what I take issue with is their contention that no matter how much of a marathon one walks, they will still have as much fun as all other participants. To that, and to sum up this post, I say this to you: how much fun would you have walking for 6 hours, 58 minutes and 19 seconds as you watch the sun move further west in fairly chilly weather, in skimpy shorts and a tshirt and surrounded by once-crowded-with-spectators-but-now-just-littered-with-garbage sidewalks?
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