I know it sounds crazy, but here’s my thinking:
Because I really wanted to avoid walking in my first marathon, yet wanted to make sure I had the stamina to finish, I jogged at my very slowest pace – 12:35 minutes per mile, for a 5:31:05 finish.
Here’s Denis running me down in the second half of last Sunday’s marathon despite working regular walk breaks into his running.
But what if I treated each mile as an interval, ran at my normal pace (9:50-10:05 per mile), then took a 15-second walk break every mile? On paper, at least, the math works out:
A 10:00 pace would result in a time of 4:26.2. Adding an extra minute for the walk breaks every 4 miles x 6 = an extra 6 minutes, plus another 30 seconds for the last 2 miles. That takes it to 4:32 and some change – but doesn’t allow for the fact that each 15-second walk break cuts into the overall distance. Not much, but a little. Let’s be conservative and allow 1/3 mile for 6 ½ minutes of walking, which lets me deduct 3:33 (based on my pace) from my overall running time. That puts me right around 4 hours and 30 minutes – an hour off my baseline marathon time.
This is all highly theoretical, of course. But this is something I’ve been wondering about all week while recovering from last week’s Maple Leaf Indoor Marathon, where several run-walkers come in well ahead of me.
I asked one of them, Denis McCarthy, who came in about half an hour before me and then proceeded to cheer me on, for his thoughts.
“I saw Jeff Galloway (the run/walk) guy speak a couple of years ago at a 50 State Reunion meeting,” Denis said in an email. “I had 61 marathons at that time, all running … only walking when I could no longer run. After his talk, about 10-15 of us said, let’s give it a try in the marathon the day after, and every one of us had a better time than our last few marathons, and felt better. That was over 90 marathons ago for me and I have been using it since.”
Denis recommended I try a specific formula—probably 3 minutes running to 1 minute walking or 4:1 — and do it right from the start of the race.
“What happens is that you run faster when you are running the run walk program than when you are just doing straight running. It happens automatically. The walk allows for recovery before the next run interval, which again is faster than just straight running throughout. Over a longer distance, you retain much more energy and endurance with run walk and do not tend to slow down a lot in last 10k or so. “
But does this method only work for slower runners – or those who purposefully go slow so they can cram more marathons into a shorter period of time? One blogger reporting here on last year’s Maple Leaf race planned to run a 4:40 using a 4:1 run/walk ratio that he planned to switch to a 5:1 at the halfway point. He ran into leg trouble late and had to cut back to a 3:1 ratio, but he still managed to finish in 4:50. That sounds pretty good to me.
Then I found this post by Blaine Moore, a running coach based in Maine, who reported that he shaved 4 minutes off his goal (from 2:54 to 2:50) by using a run/walk format for the first 20 miles of a 2010 marathon and then running it in from there. Now that’s interesting.
Moore used the run 1 mile, walk 15 seconds ratio that led to my own time projections at the top of this post. (He ran his 1-mile intervals in a little over 5 minutes, about half my planned pace.) That may not be the right mix for me. I’ll have to experiment – and ideally I can get my sister in on this. (Her joint trouble makes her leery of marathons, and even half-marathons, but this plan may sway her.)
Anyway, it’s fun to think about, and will be fun to try once I start training again. This past week I only ran once, for 20 minutes, on Saturday. I was REALLY stiff and sore Monday, the day after the race, to the point that I had to lift my left leg by hand to hoist myself into the car, and I came down with a ferocious virus that same day. I felt quite a bit better by Thursday, and on Friday I did 20 minutes on the elliptical and a couple of core weight machines at the Y.
This week I plan to get back at it, although not as hard as when I was training for the marathon, while I plot which race to tackle next.
Denis, who cheered me on the last few laps of the marathon. It was my first — and his 150th.