When I signed up for my first race in 2011 – a turkey trot 5k – my only goal was to not walk. I truly felt that if I walked during a race, I couldn’t call myself a runner. Six years later, however, and I now know that couldn’t have been more wrong.
Whenever I would go for a run or line up for a race, I would always push myself to run the entire time and never walk. That meant not even stopping at water stops during races, which meant I really perfected the bent cup drinking method. I can’t say where I got this mindset from, but it’s how I started.
Then in spring 2015, things changed. I started training for my first marathon – the DICK’S Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon – and realized just how wrong I had been about walking. Constant overuse of your muscles will result in fatigue a lot quicker, and you can help ease that fatigue during a run by adding a small interval walk break. When trying out this new race method, I quickly learned that adding a walk into your runs at a spaced interval actually does a lot of great things.
The well-known run-walk-run method that many runners follow is the Galloway Method. The idea is that you will follow a set interval of run/walk times for your run distance. This interval varies by a runners pace, but it can range from 30 seconds of running and 30 seconds of walking (30/30) all the way to 10 minutes running and one minute walking.
I’ve found a four-minute run and one-minute walk interval to be my “sweet spot” interval. It helps that my watch indicates my intervals for me, so there is no guessing. Some other runners won’t necessarily follow an interval, but rather they will use water stops as their breaks. Typically a race has stops every two miles, so you’re still getting a break rather frequently.
It admit that it took me some time to adapt to this method, and one of the biggest challenges was the mental side. I had to overcome the idea that if I walked, I was weak. It did take some time, but in further understanding the method and seeing the results, I became a believer. I felt better after races, more in control of my runs and was a little faster sometimes. Most importantly, that walk break gave me a chance to fuel up and take some great race selfies!
If you’re thinking about signing up for your first race ever or maybe trying out your first double-digit mile race, don’t be afraid to walk. It’s truly okay to walk! If and when you do go for a walk break though, make sure you indicate your change in pace to fellow runners by putting your right hand in the air. I typically put it in the air about three seconds before I actually start my walk interval.
Also, don’t feel disparaged if you go for that walk break at any point. If you’re still unsure if the interval method is for you, then walk through all of the water stops. No matter how you run your race, be proud of your finish!
Learn about Chelsea's running journey and much more on her PGH City Girl blog.