What I Think About Run/Walking

Let’s talk about the run/walk! This post is way overdue, but I am happy to post in a time where most of the United States is facing extreme heat. Now is the perfect time to try the run/walk method.

I love run/walking. If you know me personally, you still might be surprised to hear me say this. I used to be the QUEEN of running my easy runs too fast. I thought if I wasn’t running fast, I wasn’t running. What was the point? 

Not shockingly, always running too hard and not taking recovery seriously, led me to an injury back in March of 2017. I decided to start working with a coach in January of 2018 and the first thing he told me was that he was going to make me slow way down for a lot of my runs. I did not love that idea. And he can tell you how much I pushed back that first month or two. The best way to make me take easy runs truly easy? Introducing the run/walk as part of my training.

A run he would often plan for me was 60 minutes easy: 9 minute run, 1 minute walk, repeat. I remember the first time I saw this, I thought excuse me, you want me to take walk breaks on the Chicago Lakefront Trail? Let people pass me? What if I don’t need the breaks? 

That was the point. Run/walks are meant to help you get in time on your feet, while keeping your heart rate lower, and therefore requiring less recovery time. You should end a run/walk feeling like you want more. 

As Eric (my coach) says, “This type of running forces you to take a break and reassess what you are doing. There is no mentally slipping into a pace that is just a little bit faster than what you should be doing and before you know it you’re 45 minutes into an easy run with a HR pushing zone 4. The secret here is that these 1 minute breaks aren’t nearly enough to actually recover. They’re enough to stop and catch your breath, remember what you’re supposed to be doing and that’s about it. Most people’s heart rate slips barely back down to zone 1, if it slips at all, before they are off on the next 9 minute jog.” He wrote about this topic for the Runners’ Report, find more here

It took me a while to get used to this type of running. I felt like I was “cheating” at first. And I fought the urge to pause my Garmin while I walked (you should just leave it on). But I slowly started to realize that over the course of an hour, I was only walking for 6 minutes total. That’s not much at all. Those 6 minutes were just brief opportunities to drop my heart rate a little and reset my pace to make sure I was not moving too quickly. And it also served as a reminder to really take in the views and the nature around me.

I even started to look forward to these days. My hard days were HARD. They required a lot of effort. So, my easy days had to be easy. It was the perfect balance. And once summer hit, I realized run/walking in the summer heat was a way better idea if only just to convince myself to get out the door. 

Running in the heat is hard. You naturally have to slow down a bit to sustain similar efforts. Run/walking helps keep your heart rate in check while allowing you to be running out in the hot sun. If you are having a hard time motivating yourself right now, please try this approach!  Do not worry about what your overall pace is. I try not to even pay attention to it at all. Some days for me this can be an 8:50 overall, other days 10:30 pace. Doesn’t matter. 

Garmin run walk photo

Over two and a half years later and still at least two of my weekly runs are run/walks. Doing this helps prevent risk of injury, while maintaining high mileage. Since Eric introduced me to this type of training, I have been injury-free and set PRs in almost every race. This type of training can make you faster. 

I haven’t used run/walking in a marathon, but I did use this method to complete my first ultra marathon last August. I signed up for a 50K (my first) with only a couple months to ‘train’. I had a marathon base already. I knew it would be a hot day being an August race in the Midwest, so my coach and I decided I would run/walk this from the start. Every long run leading up this race was a run/walk of either run 19 minutes, walk 1 minute, repeat. Or run 14 minutes, walk one minute, repeat. Again, not a ton of walking time, but enough that I looked forward to it every time I had a ‘walk minute’. This paid off for me. Race day was 85 degrees Fahrenheit and I do not think I would have covered 31.50 miles so well if I hadn’t run/walked. I went with the 14/1 approach. Did I want to walk after only running 14 minutes in a race? No. Did I have a little bit of a hard time letting people pass me every time I walked in the first half of the race? Yes. But the thing is…I passed them all eventually. I rigidly stuck to the 14/1 for the entire race. And I ended up catching every person that had passed me before and I felt GOOD. I mean as good as you can on that hot of a day running the farthest you ever have. I finished in 4:48:17 (9:09 average pace) – 3rd female overall. I never would have thought I would run/walk a race, but this was the perfect opportunity to try it out and it worked well.

So, saying again: I love the run/walk. This is something I have all of my athletes do too. I truly believe it helps keep you healthy and helps you get faster. I know it can be hard to get used to at first, but it is worth trying. Eric and I joke now about how I am the one convincing runners to try this, when I used to think he was crazy for even suggesting it to me. We can all learn if we are open to trying new things. This is one thing I really will utilize forever. I want to run throughout my entire life, so smart training is really important to me. This is why I became a coach myself. I am so passionate about taking care of yourself while also hitting the fast time goals you want to. You can do both.

Happy run/walking. Let me know if you try this out!