Want to run a faster marathon? Start walking

Wed Sep 16, 2009 2:10pm EDT
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Mitch Phillips

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - The hardest thing about my running of this year's London marathon was not hitting the wall after 20 miles but having to endure the "encouragement" of fellow runners and supporters when I started walking after one.

I didn't become possibly the first of 32,000 participants to stop running because I was tired or suffering cramp but because I wanted to minimize both later in the race.

But the fact that walking one minute of every 10 would also help me to a faster time than running all the way was the driving force behind my experiment with the "walk-break" method.

The concept sounds counter-intuitive at least, barmy at worst, but its chief protagonist, American Jeff Galloway, has made a career out of promoting it.

The basic theory is that the key muscles and tendons involved in running get such regeneration from the brief rest afforded during the walk break that you are able to run faster overall than when trying to plod the entire distance.

Instead of joining the mass of cramped, suffering participants forced to walk the last few miles after their bodies have given up, you take you breaks early and often.

With the added mental bonus of breaking the race down into mini-targets of nine minutes, ideally you finish strong and fresh with the not inconsiderable benefit of recovering much more quickly.

Putting it into action though takes some self-discipline. Amid the adrenalin rush of the early stages of a big-city marathon it's not easy to duck onto the path before you've broken sweat, smiling benignly at the bemused onlookers calling out "come on mate, you can do it, only 25 miles to go."   Continued...

<p>Athletes compete during the Prague International Marathon May 10, 2009. REUTERS/David W Cerny</p>