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Is Run-Walk-Run Just for Newbies?

Happy Sunday!

This week we'll discuss the run-walk-run method of training for races. We've found this technique sooo beneficial for beginning runners... but should it be used for advanced runners? Let's find out!

Patrick: When I first started running marathons years ago, I started out using a run-walk-run technique because I didn’t have the endurance to run for extended periods of time. As described in an earlier post, problems with my running form, coupled with physical limitations caused by a nasty motorcycle accident years before – made running even 2 miles a painful experience. Fixing my running form took some time, but I eventually got there. But while I was doing that I still needed to work on my endurance so I could at least run a solid 15 minutes without feeling like the Dark Reaper was sucking the life force out of my chest (any Star Wars nerds out there?). The run-walk-run method helped me achieve a result I never thought I could: run my first marathon. I stopped using run-walk-run after finishing by first marathon because I felt like now that I was “experienced,” I no longer needed such a novice crutch. I’m sure Jeff Galloway (inventor of this system) is smirking somewhere right now… Today, I’m announcing a formal re-introduction of this strategy into my long runs. Why? I’ve noticed a steady decline in my pace for the run portion of my triathlons over the last three years. Yep, I'm getting older.... so I’m going to put to test Mr. Galloway’s claim that this method will enable you to keep Running Until You're 100.

Run-Walk-Run: Why?

Here’s the theory… constant running produces much more fatigue than running at the same pace while taking walk breaks. Nothing earth-shattering in that statement. The epiphany comes when you realize that you can increase your overall pace and distance while also reducing next-day soreness. Now we should have your attention! If not, read that last sentence again :-)

Run-Walk-Run: How?

There's more to run-walk-run than just taking a walk break whenever you feel like it. The method involves strategy so that you walk before your running muscles start to get tired and allow the muscles to recover quickly. Galloway suggests using a run-walk-run ratio that is adjusted according to your ability to best manage your fatigue.Finish w/ a Smile!
Finish with a Smile!

Using this fatigue management method not only gives your body the necessary reserves it needs to finish the long run, it also equips you with mental fortitude to allow you to cope with all the games your mind will play on you starting around mile 18 or so… Additionally, you’ll probably enjoy yourself during the run and actually have a smile on your face as you cross the finish line! So… it’s not rocket science: you run for a short time and then take a walk break, rinse, repeat until you cross that glorious finish line. Beginners will alternate very short run segments with short walks and advanced runners will use longer run segments with short walk breaks. The key is to determine the correct run-walk ratio according to the pace you’d like to run in the race – just be realistic by first finding your "Magic Mile".

Finding Your Magic Mile

The Magic Mile or MM… this is what Galloway calls the basic unit of measurement to determine the proper run-walk ratio. After you’ve spent a few weeks training and are in fairly good shape and well-rested, go to a track and warm up with some walking and/or light running. Now, run one mile with hard effort, followed by a walk break. Do this at least 4 times to get an accurate picture of your true “Magic Mile” pace. For the first test, don’t run all-out from the start, ease into your fast pace after you’ve done 2 laps. On each successive test, try to adjust pace in order to run a faster time but stop testing when your times start to decline. When you’re done, take your last 4 one-mile-time-trials, eliminate the slowest and average the other three. This is your "Magic Mile" pace. Use it to find your adjusted race pace as follows:
  • 5K Runners: add 33 seconds
  • 10K Runners: multiply by 1.15
  • Half-Marathoners: multiply by 1.2
  • Marathoners: multiply by 1.3


If your MM pace is 8:00 and you’re doing a half-marathon, multiply 8 X 1.2 to get 9.6 which equates to a 9:36 pace (you have to multiply the decimal portion by 60 to get seconds). Julia: Patrick's kind of a nerd so he loves doing the math. If you're like me and don't want to geek-out, just go to this calculator to get the same results...
Magic Mile Pace Calculator
Magic Mile Pace Calculator Source:

Now use the table below to find the ratio. From our example, we'll round up to a 10:00 pace to find the suggested run-walk ratio is 3:1. Feel free to walk adjust the ratio as you need. For example: 3:00 run/1:00 walk could be converted to 1:30 run/:30 walk.

Run-Walk Ratios
8 min/mi run 4 min / walk 35 seconds
9 min/mi run 4 min / walk 1 min
10 min/mi run 3 min / walk 1 min
11 min/mi run 2 min 30 sec / walk 1 min
12 min/mi run 2 min / walk 1 min
13 min/mi run 1 min / walk 1 min
14 min/mi run 30 sec / walk 30 sec
15 min/mi run 30 sec / walk 45 sec
16 min/mi run 30 sec / walk 60 sec


Finish Time Calculator Finish Time Calculator Source:

That's all there is to it! If you're following our example, you'll be running for 3 minutes at a 9:36 pace with 1 minute walk breaks. Do you want to know your predicted finish time? Go to this calculator and fill out the necessary information and voila! You have your predicted finish time according to your pace and run/walk ratio. In our example the calculator generated a 2:18 finish time for the 1/2 Marathon. Give run-walk-run it a shot and let us know how it works for you in the comments below.

Other Tips

Maintain Good Form

Don't lose good form while walking. Make sure you keep your arms at a 90 degree angle - and don't drop them and start sashaying like your John Travolta on Saturday Night Fever. Keep your stride short, so you're not putting stress on your hamstrings and your shin muscles.

Don't Eliminate the Walk Breaks

Some beginners assume that they must work toward the day when they don't have to take any walk breaks. Remember that you decide what ratio of run-walk-run to use based on your race pace and your level of fatigue. You’ll find as you discover your optimal run-walk-run pace, you’ll be passing continuous runners with a smile on your face.

Keep Track of the Intervals

Run-Walk-Run Timer
Run-Walk-Run Timer

The more fatigued you are, the longer you'll want those walk breaks to go. You'll find that you'll conveniently forget to start running when your walk break is over. There are several watches which can be set to beep when it's time to change your run-walk interval - don't rely on your tired mind, it will play tricks on you.

Walk Briskly

As you fatigue, you'll be tempted to really slow down during your walk breaks - don't. You want to keep your heart rate elevated so it's easier to transition back to your run interval. It's also more difficult mentally to get back to running if you're walk has slowed to a crawl during your walk breaks. That's all for this week's post on the benefits of run-walk-run. Remember, this method is not just for beginners! Newbies and veterans alike can take advantage of this technique to improve times and make running more enjoyable. We'll be incorporating it into our long runs this season and we'll report back on how things are going!

Keep on Running!

Julia, Patrick & Jo-Jo
(302) 727-5690
Rehoboth Beach Delaware Running Store & Triathlon Shop for Running Shoes

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