It may sound counter-intuitive, but walking more can make you a better runner, says Jeff Galloway, Runner’s World US columnist and developer of the Galloway Run-Walk-Run method. Our bodies aren’t designed to run continuously for 42km, he says, but with walk breaks there’s no limit to how far you can run.
Here’s how walking does a runner good.
Running continuously fatigues your muscles, causing most people to slow down in the final 5 to 10km of a marathon. Taking regular walk breaks shifts the workload between walking and running muscles, which extends their capacity.
Galloway recommends running for shorter periods of time at a faster pace, followed by shorter walk breaks.
Most runners have a ‘weak link’ – a tendon, joint or muscle that is prone to injury. Continuous heavy use fatigues these areas. Taxed muscles and joints keep your legs from moving in their proper range of motion, which increases your injury risk.
Taking walk breaks early erases accumulated fatigue, keeps muscles strong, and reduces stress around joints. It also keeps smaller muscle groups in reserve so they’re able to stabilise your stride when you’re tired.
You could try walking a few seconds longer during each break in the first third of the race to maintain strength.
With each walk break, you’re spreading the workload among different muscles and reducing accumulated fatigue. This helps keep your legs strong and below the threshold for irritation so there’s less post-run damage to repair.
How fast should I walk? Quickly, using a short, relaxed stride.
When do I start taking breaks? Start them from the beginning.
Where should I walk? Move to the side of the road, then walk.
Can I ever take fewer breaks? If you’re feeling good, reduce the frequency or duration of breaks in the last third of the race.