Reader to Reader: Moving on from run/walk


This week's reader completed the London Marathon using a run/walk strategy – but she now wants to cut out the walks altogether, and it's not proving too easy. Can you offer any advice?

"I'm getting really annoyed with myself. I trained for FLM using the run-walk method and successfully completed it in 6 hours. I would now like to run without the walking breaks, but I can't seem to phase them out. I can run for about 17 minutes in one go, but then I feel an overwhelming urge to walk. Can anyone please offer some advice?"nat3wills

Your best answers

  • Try a go-slow
    Try slowing down to a r-e-a-l-l-y s-l-o-w pace when you get the urge to walk, even if the pace you are "running" at is slower than walking. Mentally, that's better than "stopping and walking", but you do get a bit of recovery. Once your body gets used to it, the slow bits won't need to be so slow to get some recovery. – Nessie
  • Start running shorter distances
    Ditching the walk break is a mental step rather than a physical one. You have trained to walk/run, so when you want to walk your head says "ok". THAT needs changing. Start building smaller runs, with the aim of running all the way. Next week, aim to run a 3-miler, running ALL the way. Slow down, concentrate on your breathing and just keep going – forget pace and speed. Once you can run 3 miles, build one run up to 4 miles running all the way... once you start getting your head to see you're not going to walk you'll soon get results. – Egglett
  • Slowing down can work as a break
    It took me a year to finally lose the walk break. Better to slow right down and sort of bounce along gently for a while, which fools your brain into thinking you've had a break. I wouldn't worry at all about your speed until you have your stamina sorted. Once you've built your stamina up you may find your speed picks up a bit naturally anyway. – Doncon

  • Sheer determination will beat the urge to walk
    It takes sheer mental determination to get past that point of needing to walk. I also struggle a lot with this, but more in my training when I am on my own; less so in races. When I ran my 2nd half last month (I ran all the way) I so wanted to walk from miles 7-9 when it was really windy and slightly uphill, but I was determined to get a PB – and also what works for me is thinking of my mum and dad who have both passed away. I can hear my dad telling me in his own stubborn way, keep going, you can do it, and that works for me. – bungee
  • Run/walk training can be counter-productive
    I think this shows the problem with run/walk strategies for getting started. The trouble is that sometimes people get used to taking their walk breaks, and never learn to find a pace slow enough to be sustainable for long periods. In effect, they're running interval sessions whenever they go out. Without a good aerobic base, this is counter-productive. Once you find that sustainable pace, and get used to stretching out the distance, you'll find that your 'base pace' gradually speeds up. Forget about speed work entirely for the moment, slow down, find that base pace and keep working it until you start to feel the improvement (note how your resting hear rate drops over the weeks as you do this). Then you can start introducing some quicker runs and/or intervals. – Chocolate Moose
  • Distract your brain from the need to walk
    How about trying to distract yourself when you want to walk? One technique I use is to count paces (left leg only), and tell myself I will just do 100 more before stopping. By the time I get to 100, the walking urge has frequently gone away and I can continue. – LauraF
  • Tune into your heart
    The thing that worked for me was putting on a heart rate monitor for the first time. Straight away it told me I was putting too much effort into my long runs. There were times when I was running slower than I could walk up a hill, but I kept running. If you want to overcome the mental battle, leave your watch at home and tackle a new route and listen to music, bird song anything – just enjoy being a runner. Also, make sure you're warmed up properly. The first 10 mins of any run is a struggle. Walking in the warm up period is allowed cos you're warming up not running. – XB
  • Break the distance into chunks
    A technique I used on my first duathlon to stop myself from taking a walk break was to break the distance down into smaller sections. The last run in a duathlon is tough on the legs, and I hadn't practised the whole bike to run transition, so my legs felt like dead weights. I talked to myself through the whole 5K circuit, promising myself I could take a walk break when I made it to "that tree" or "up that hill". I congratulated myself each time I made it to a marker (quietly of course!) and then set a new marker. I managed to run the whole way! – KayVee
  • Too much risk-avoidance can be tedious
    I don't think the desire to stop and walk ever goes away. You just kind of forget about it. A lot of negative thoughts can occur whilst running. Make a list of positive rebuttals to thoughts you usually have. For example, "I'm so tired I want to stop" could be rebutted with: it's good that I'm tired because I'm stretching out of my comfort zone. "My legs are really tired" gets the rebuttal: The muscle fibres in my legs are being slowly torn apart so that when I rest they will grow bigger and stronger. I will then run faster and more easily. Whilst you run have a debate with your mind and persuade it of the reasons why you are running. This is what works for me. – Tenderheart Bear
  • A mental trick
    When you get the urge to walk, let yourself, but turn around and walk in the wrong direction. Mentally you'll resent it and want to turn back the right way and start running again. – lp

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