It's Good to Walk!

An analysis of run-walking by Professor Tim Noakes

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03/05/2003 at 17:25
Hey folks, I found this extract while browsing through "The Lore of Running" by Tim Noakes, and thought you migt like to read it. No doubt many of you will have heard of run-walking, and its a strategy I plan to practice at the Belfast Marathon on Monday.

Including Walk Breaks

Provided all is going well and you are not forced to stop for any of the reasons previously discussed, you may find you have a desire to walk. During the 1970s and 1980s, walking during a marathon was considered taboo. But thanks to the activism of Jeff Galloway and others, walking during marathon running is being advocated increasingly as a virtue. Thus, in the more accepting marathon culture, the real crime is to start walking when you are already exhausted. Start walking sooner than later. Do not wait until you are too exhausted to continue running.

If you are unsure of whether you are able to run the entire marathon or ultramarathon distance, alternate regular running and walking. For example, do 20 to 25 minutes of running, followed by 5 to 10 minutes of walking. By spreading the distance walked over the entire course, instead of only resorting to walking at the end, you have a chance to recover every 20 minutes or so. You will probably find that you will cover the same distance with less discomfort and in a shorter time. Alternatively, you may consider walking 1 minute for every 5 that you run. Another approach is to walk only on the uphills, which is good advice for hilly ultramarathons but does not allow much walking time on a flat marathon course.

Tom Osler (1978), one of the first modern proponents of walking in racing and training, concluded that anyone capable of running 42km can easily run 80km if they alternate regular walking and running in the ratio described previously.
03/05/2003 at 17:34
Of course in the 70s and 80s times were faster than they are now.
03/05/2003 at 17:36
5-10 minutes walking sounds long - in my longer runs I sometimes use 2 minutes or so between 20-25 minutes of running and that seem enough to give my legs a break.
How long do other people walk?
03/05/2003 at 17:38
the penguin's (John Bingham) "Get you round group" pacing group uses 5mins running, 1min walking in FLM
03/05/2003 at 17:52
Of course it has been said before but people have run walked in training for as long as people have been doing interval sessions.
03/05/2003 at 18:33
yeah, but interval sessions are generally faster with each interval over a shorter distance than run-walking, and something that until the last decade or so wouldn't have happened in races, although run-walking was no doubt an offshoot of interval training.

I'm simply bringing this extract to the attention of peeps who think that they don't need to walk, but end up hitting the wall and limping the last 6-8miles home. I know the subject of run-walking has come up many times before, but I just wanted to share that particular extract.
03/05/2003 at 22:46
Hi all,

When I first looked at this site, one of the first articles I read was "It's good to Walk" by Amby Burfoot. Here's the link: -

I haven't re-read it, but I thought it said something along the lines of having a 1minute walk every hour (for a marathon). As a beginner, this article was a REAL eye opener. made me feel a lot better about walking/plodding when I was gasping along dirt trails. :o)
03/05/2003 at 23:57
hi sam, it says the galloway method is walking for 1min every mile, which in practice could be 7min to 12min. Its better if u walk according to a predefined schedule either like the above or a 5min run/1min walk rather than walking as a result of being tired. Personally, I think the 5min run/1min walk would work better for beginners to intermediates, but u can see what works best for u. The important thing is to be consistant.

04/05/2003 at 00:20

It's not that I am against people walking if they want to, but surely an intermediate runner (in terms of speed) is going to go faster by running than by running and walking. If you walk for even a minute people are going to open up a pretty big gap and I can tell you that you are going to have work hard to close it. Of course if those people then blow up and start walking then your strategy has worked, but if they don't I can't see that run/walk is the best way to get a decent time. In other words so long as you can run the whole distance I really do doubt that run walk is going to deliver a faster time.

No doubt some people have run/walked respectable times but they will be exceptions and they have probably achieved better times just by running.

Of course not everyone is interested in getting round as fast as they can and run/walk may make for a more comfortable race. Also there are going to be people who aren't capable of running the distance and run/walk probably is better than run/blow up completely. So it has its place. But I'd have thought for anyone that you'd categorise as an intermediate runner it isn't worthwhile.
04/05/2003 at 00:53

there is much evidence to suggest that most people can benefit by run/walking. Not everyone wants to run/walk and thats fair enough, however, i was just pointing out that the evidence suggests that most people could benefit with a faster time, mainly because of a combination of breaking the run down, if paced properly, runners are able to go at faster than marathon pace for each stint which more than compensates for time spent walking. Its unfortunate that run/walking seems to be tied to slower "get u round" runners, and that is perhaps why many more endurant runners do not want to walk.

Hal Higdon describes how his son ran a sub-2:30 marathon by walking for 45secs at each mile marker. This suggests that during his running stints, he ran at 2:10 pace, but would not have been able to sustain this for the duration of the marathon, nor was he able to sustain a consistent sub 2:30 pace for the duration. By breaking the route down, he was able to run fast mile times with a recovery in between each one.

John Bingham (The Penguin) says that hes never met anyone who wasn't faster with run/walking, and I'm sure he doesn't just talk to runners at the back of the field.

04/05/2003 at 01:16
for example, I was just working out my marathon strategy for Monday tonight::

Assuming a 5min run/1min walk

To get sub 4hrs, I would need to sustain 10.9km/h overall. I *know* I could not possibly sustain 10.9 for 26miles. I DO know that I can sustain many repetitions of 1mile @ 12.5km/h without adverse effect. I worked out that if I walk at about 5km/h on the walking stints, I need to average 12km/h on each 5min leg to average 10.9km/h overall. That means I will only be travelling 1km (0.62miles) on each running leg @ 12km/h, which from experience, I know is more than possible.

The mathematics also works out for faster runners, although some may prefer to elongate the running phase to say, 10mins. The key is to run slightly faster than target pace on the running stints.

04/05/2003 at 08:46
I just don't believe Hal Higdon when he says that about running a 2.30 marathon. He has of course got a vested interest in run/walk - he writes books and articles and this is his "thing". John Bingham is similar. There is a big difference in running 2.30 pace and 2.10 pace and I can't believe that it isn't easier to run a steady 2.30 pace than walk odd minutes and make up the time by going the best part of a minute a mile faster for the rest.

I can honestly say that I don't remember ever passing someone in a race who was walking and subsequently getting passed back by them - if it really was a useful strategy for anyone mid-paced or above someone would be using it by now. I can maybe accept that walking through water stations for maybe 20 seconds is useful - it allows you to hydrate properly and loses you little time - but when you start walking say a 10-20% of the race as a strategy you really are going to have to up your speed substantially to compensate. Everything I know about physiology and how the body works suggests that is not an efficient way to run and that is borne out by the fact that people I meet have not adopted this method to achieve fast times. Also if it applies to the faster end of the field wouldn't top athletes be using it all the time?
04/05/2003 at 10:17
How easy would it be to use a run-walk strategy on a crowded event like the FLM or GNR?

Wouldn't you get in the way of people using a run-only strategy in the early part of the race?

Coyote Jake (An absolute beginner with his eye on the GNR)
29/08/2004 at 14:25
I'm just reading this debate and see that it was last aired over a year ago (posted 04/05/03. I'm struggling with my running (I'm 49 and have been trying to run for two years now, so I'm going back to run/walk to see if it motivates me. Otherwise I'm going to give up and just hit the gym more regularly. Does anyone else get really breathless and go bright red (and I mean BRIGHT red) when they run? This is what depresses me, when I get back in from a run and look at my face in the mirror - even if I've just managed 25 minutes non-stop.
29/08/2004 at 14:40
Regarding the red face there was a thread about it some time ago...

Red face
29/08/2004 at 17:12

returning to plodding after a long time and weight gain ive found that accepting it is ok walk in training ( i dont 'race') makes it possible to do reasonable 30-40 to 60min min plus sessions without getting knckered

- but i was surprised that by doing run /walk - i managed to get round my usual loop course quicker than if i tried to run it all the way - but im a very slow runner and quicker walker -so it can be benficial to slow folk i guess

if fitness is your goal then brisk walking is an excellent additional activity

29/08/2004 at 17:50
"Of course in the 70s and 80s times were faster than they are now."


I joined the thread too late to ask for a justification of this - call Stephen Hawkins someone?
29/08/2004 at 18:01
well mine were so it must be true !

29/08/2004 at 22:54
Bonita, I am 52 and have been plodding for about 15 months- and yes I do go very red faced after any exercise.

I'm planning on using this method on my half marathon in a couple of weeks - certainly cannot run all the way round, so this seems much more logical than run followed by crawl.
Thought I'd use the mile markers and run a mile walk a minute as Galloway recommends.
30/08/2004 at 02:22
well I did a 90 minute session the other day with 3 lots of 14 mins plod, 1 minute walk, followed by dropping down to 9 and 1.

No way can I run that far or for that long sustained. if I try to go too far I find I'd be quicker walking!

One of the best reasons for walking breaks is to get a proper drink to help you manage to go further.
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