by Mary Creel
I’ve been a runner for decades, and have qualified to run the Boston Marathon several times. (What a thrill!) But marathon running takes commitment, a solid training plan, staying healthy and sometimes, plain ole common sense. When I registered for this year’s Mercedes Marathon (Birmingham’s hometown race), my original goal was for a specific time. My second goal was to finish, so I could check my 60th marathon off my bucket list. Unfortunately, I had some setbacks in my training last fall, and realized the time goal was unrealistic. But I still knew I could cover the distance and get that elusive finisher’s medal.
Here’s where common sense and years of experience pays off. Whether you’re in a similar position to me (and can’t swing your diehard goal by race day) or you want to try a marathon for the first time but worry about being able to cover the distance, do what I did and use Jeff Galloway’s run/walk method.
Jeff Galloway is a former Olympic runner, best-selling author, and world-famous running coach. I’ve used his 9-minute run/1-minute walk ratio before, but it was late in marathons. To be effective, you have to do it from the beginning. Here’s why you should give the run/walk method a try for your next marathon, and how to get the most out of it.
Alternating running and walking puts less stress on a runner’s weak links, which can be anything from a nagging injury or a recent illness (such as a cold), to something as simple as lack of training. The program breaks up the distance into manageable units. You can power through the tough spots while anticipating the walk segments, as short as they may seem.
Walking uses different muscles than running, and this helps to reduce the wear and tear and fatigue on your body. The mental and physical breaks keep you engaged, especially in long-distance events such as marathons.
Use Technology to Help
A good friend had tremendous success when she went from the 9:1 ratio to one of Jeff’s newer options, the 3-minute run/1-minute walk ratio—faster times, less fatigue, and quicker recovery. That sounded great for me with this marathon, so we practiced it one weekend on a 13-mile run. She uses an inexpensive, low-tech device called a Gymboss Interval Timer that clips onto tights or shorts. The minute intervals are programmed, and it beeps just loud enough for you to hear it without being a nuisance to other runners.
Mary (far right) with friends after completing her 60th marathon!
Do It From the Start
To really get the most out of a run/walk marathon regiment, do it the entire marathon, not after the halfway mark. You’ll run consistently and not hit the dreaded wall around mile 20.
Shorten Your Recovery Time
Since the Mercedes, my recovery time has been quicker, and I felt refreshed and ready to run again in less than 5 days. Giving your running muscles a chance to relax—even for that single minute—really helps cut your recovery time.
So, what did I think about the 3:1 ratio? Sold! My friend kept a faster pace than I anticipated, and we “walked with a purpose” during the 1-minute breaks. We finished well under the time we’d predicted. The big takeaway? We had a really fun day and finished strong with a kick at the end.
The run/walk program isn’t just for marathoners. It’s great for beginning runners building endurance and for seasoned athletes focusing on speed because the run segments can be used for interval training. Don’t forget to pair your training with a healthy, balanced diet. I’m gluten free, and used this eMeals pasta-and-chicken recipe to make a balanced meal the night before the race.
Related Article: What to Eat for the Best Workouts
Whether you’re a runner training for a race, a CrossFit fan looking to follow a Paleo diet, or just trying to stay healthy, eMeals has a plan to fit your needs. For more information on the run/walk approach, go to www.jeffgalloway.com. And check out the Gymboss, a handy tool for keeping track of all those interval changes. Good luck, and happy running!
Mary Creel is a registered dietitian and four-time Ironman finisher. She caught the running bug in the 1970s, and hasn’t stopped since. When she isn’t biking, swimming, or pounding the pavement, she’s developing healthy and gluten-free recipes as part of the eMeals team.