Sunday, August 12, 2012

Initial Impressions Of The Galloway Run-Walk-Run Method

I don't mean for this blog to be about running, but something so profound just happened that I need to do one more post.  If you are interested in running, even a 5 k race, but dread the training required, I think you should read this post.  Running can be easier and more fun than you may have thought.

My first 10 mile (16.1 km) run.  Accomplished using
the Run-Walk-Run method.  Recorded by my Garmin
Forerunner 405 GPS watch.
On the eve of my 58th birthday last week, I decided it was time to get serious about my upcoming half marathon attempt.  A half marathon is 13.1 miles, and I have only recently been able to run 8 miles (that's 12.9 kilometers) without stopping.  I believed that I have it in me to run much further, but the summer heat and humidity in Florida is brutal and has stopped me like the Great Wall of China every time I have tried to go further.

Despite this, I set out to run 9 miles on Wednesday, which would be a personal best for distance.  Did I do it? No. I ran 10 miles, instead!  To top it all off, I ran that 10 miles (16.1 kilometers) at a pace that was faster than either of my shorter 8 mile all-running attempts!  How did I do it?  I have to give credit to my new training method, the run-walk-run method.

The run-walk-run method involves running for a set period of time, then walking for another set period of time, and then repeating the process over and over again, until the distance is reached.  This method has been promoted by 1972 Olympic runner Jeff Galloway, whose followers conduct clinics and workshops around the country teaching this method.  It is designed to allow ordinary people to accomplish extraordinary running goals.  And, surprisingly, it works. Or, at least it worked for me.

Now, when I first heard of this run-walk-run idea, I thought to myself, "All that walking must really slow you down", which would be the logical conclusion, right?  Surprisingly, though, it doesn't, or at least not enough to outweigh the benefits.

I recently joined a local running club, hoping to meet some like-minded folks.  A subgroup of the club meets on Saturday mornings, very early, before the heat sets in, and run-walk-run together to train for the upcoming Disney half-marathon and marathons.  Since I have a personal goal of completing a half marathon by the end of the year, I decided to join them and give this stuff a try.  As I said earlier, 8 miles had been my limit for distance, and I hoped I could add some more miles to it.  But, I was skeptical about slowing my pace (and, thus, race time).

My first time running with them was not a distance run, but rather a faster, shorter run.  However, I learned the basics of the method and applied it at home the following week.  I set my GPS watch's interval timer to beep at me after I had run 2 minutes, then beep again after I walked for 1 minute, and then just keep doing this.  I managed to run 8 miles with relative ease my first time with this method!

A week ago I again joined the group.  This time they had set a goal of 9 miles for that day.  Well, I had already had my long run just a few days before, so I ran with them for 6 miles and then quit, for fear of over exerting myself with two long runs just 3 days apart.

The following Wednesday, August 8, I decided to go for 9 miles on my own.  And, as I stated earlier, actually completed 10 miles with relative ease.  Not bad, I thought, but how would my pace compare to those of my prior runs?

I would like to show a comparison between my 8 kilometer pace when just running, versus the pace of my 8 kilometer and my 10 kilometer runs when using the run-walk-run method.  Here are my last four runs over 13 kilometers, and their average paces:

Running Only:

  • 13.67 km at 7:11 min/km on April 8
  • 13.06 km at 7:00 min/km on June 24


  • 13.23 km at 6:48 min/km on August 1
  • 16.13 km at 6:56 min/km on August 8

Jeff Galloway and me, today.
So, how can a person walk a large part of the way and actually run farther and faster than just running alone?

Well, today I actually met Jeff Galloway at a run-walk-run "get together" and he explained it this way.  The short walk breaks are designed to bring the heart rate and breathing down to a comfortable level, so exhaustion doesn't set in.  During the intervals while you are running, then, you can run at a comfortable, faster pace.  In addition, and perhaps more importantly, this allows you to run without slowing down as the distance increases.  You can maintain your pace throughout the distance.

Prior to adopting this method, I would run the whole way and my pace for each consecutive kilometer or mile would decrease until I was barely running toward the end.  My heart rate would continually increase too, and I had to struggle to stay in a sustainable aerobic zone.  The run-walk-run method prevents this from happening.  If you do it right, you run so that you are never out of breath, maintain a relatively low, aerobic heart rate, and keep your energy levels up.  As a result, the last half of the run is almost as fast as the first half. Cool!

I think that anyone who would like to start running, start back after a long layoff, or just wants to increase their distance, should look into this training method. It makes a lot of sense and takes much of the discomfort out of running.  It reduces injury too.  Not too bad.  Thanks, Jeff!

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