It’s all technique: downshifting while training for a marathon

Follow Rachel’s day-to-day training on her twitter and facebook pages and read more of Rachel’s marathon experience every other Sunday in the San Gabriel Valley Tribune.

By Rachel Luna, Staff Writer
Posted: 11/05/2011 07:09:19 AM PDT

“I’m going to run a marathon.”

Yes, that still sounds really weird whenever I hear myself say it. I’m not quite sure if it’s because I don’t quite believe it or because I haven’t faced the pain and torture of marathon training.

I keep bracing myself for that slap-in-the-face dose of reality. I don’t know when or if I’ll get to that point in my training.

And yes, I realize it’s still early to say but I’m feeling pretty confident.

It’s 133 days until the Honda L.A. Marathon on March 18, 2012. Just looking at the days seems like it’s years away, yet all the running in the weeks of training are flying by fast – and it’s not because I’m the next Usain Bolt. (For those of you who don’t know, Bolt is the world’s fastest man.)

It’s time to let you in on my little secret that’s giving me all the confidence in the world: I decided to run-walk my first marathon.

Now, don’t laugh or snicker. But if you must, I won’t hold it against you.

When I first heard of the run-walk method I had no idea what that meant. Images of little old ladies walking popped into my head. It’s probably because my grandmother is a mall walker … and she’s got some speed.

The technique doesn’t mean walking when you’re tired. Instead, it means taking a brief walking break while you’re still fresh. And before you judge, know that it is actually faster than running the whole time.

Jeff Galloway, a member of the 1972 Olympic team, came up with the run-walk approach. His method has found that most runners will record significantly faster times in a long run when they take walk breaks because they don’t slow down at the end of the run.

I’m not going after any time record, but I am interested in avoiding grueling fatigue as much as possible.

Runs are split into run-walk ratios varying from 30-second intervals to a three-minute run and one-minute walk. My particular run-walk group is training at a one-minute run, one-minute walk rotation.

The method uses muscles in different ways so your legs keep their bounce as they conserve resources, according to Galloway. Shifting back and forth between running muscles and walking muscles allows the workload to be distributed among a variety of muscles, which will increase the overall performance capacity.

Another interesting thing I learned while training with the L.A. Roadrunners is the run-walk groups actually will end up passing the slower running groups while they all race in the marathon.

I originally started training with the runners. But I’m now sold on the run-walk method. I did 10 miles last week and had no idea I’d feel so fresh afterward.

Now that the training is hitting the long, double-digit miles, my group already is passing some of the running groups.

It makes me feel fast. Maybe I will pick up some speed after all. But if not, the run-walk method sure makes me feel like the world’s fastest run-walker.


4 Responses to “It’s all technique: downshifting while training for a marathon”
  1. Justin says:

    So what was your time for the 10 miles? I did a 10 mile run the other day and felt totally wasted afterwards….

  2. Ben says:

    I haven’t tried the run-walk method myself on any long distance runs but either way, pay no attention to anyone who would criticize you for it anyway. Just participating in a Marathon itself is a grueling task that many people don’t even believe they can undertake. Best of luck to you, hope to see you on the 18th of March!

  3. Robt says:

    The run-walk method sounds interesting. I wish I could try that method training in Chicago! Given the cold temps I’ll be facing in the next few weeks leading up to the LA marathon, the walk part would have to be changed to sprint-to-warmth. Good write up and good luck to everyone running in March. See u there -R

  4. Rachel says:

    Hi everyone,
    I did my first 10.34-mile-run with the L.A. Roadrunners in 2hrs 29mins, at a 14:26 overall pace (I’ve moved up to a faster pace group a while after I originally wrote this article).
    I would not be discouraged by anyone who would criticize me for going with the run/walk method (I’ve been fortunate enough have support and haven’t faced any criticism), so thank you for those extra words of encouragement.
    I see the marathon as a new experience. My only goal is to finish it. Though there may be arguments that my marathon will not count because it will not be “ran” the entire way, there certainly can’t be any argument over the fact that I will have completed 26.2 miles.
    A marathon is very grueling task and it’s a huge accomplishment for all runners — whether they’re first timers (like me), walkers, runners, run/walkers or elite runners.
    I wish the best to everyone who is training for the Honda L.A. Marathon. If you would like extra support in your endeavor, please feel free to follow me on twitter or facebook (links are above) and we’ll get through this adventure together.