We’ve all heard it before, many of us have even said it ourselves. “I want to finish without walking.” But when it comes to running a marathon, is taking a walk-free approach what it’s chalked up to be?
According to a new study, taking a walk break helps significantly with post-race aches.
Scientists in Germany divided 42 participants into two groups. Both groups underwent three months of training to prepare for the May 2013 marathon in Kassel, Germany. On race day, one group ran non-stop for the full marathon and one group stopped and walked for one minute every 1.5 miles.
Only 5 percent of the people in the run/walk group reported muscle pain and fatigue immediately after finishing the marathon versus the more than 40 percent of people who reported the symptoms in the running group.
The group that ran the whole time finished about seven minutes faster on average than the run/walk group. (While researchers found that this time difference was not statistically significant, we think runners might disagree.)
Ryan Knapp, founder and head coach of Miles to Go Endurance says there are some important misconceptions about the run/walk method.
First, he says, it’s important to note that the run/walk method is a structured plan. “We are talking about planned walking intervals, not ‘I have a cramp and I need to stop,’” Knapp explains.
Knapp considers the run/walk method “walking on your own terms.”
If you push yourself to run until you can’t anymore, you end up having to walk the last few miles at a slow, beaten-up pace. Plan short walking intervals and you walk faster and less overall. “Set your body
The biggest problem with run/walk? The stigma.
“People think that walking makes you less of a runner,” Knapp says. “That’s not at all true.”
Ginger Berrie, 44, of Sylvania, Ohio, started running three years ago this spring. She uses the run/walk method for all of her races no matter the difference.
“It’s been great for me and I am injury free,” Berrie says. “I wouldn’t be running if it weren’t for run/walk. I would have given up a long time ago.”
Berrie says she understands that it’s hard for slower runners to compare themselves with faster runners on social media.
“So many people feel like you’re not a real runner if you’re walking,” Berrie says. “But it’s okay. We need to do something to be happy and enjoy running. What works for one person isn’t what works for everybody else.”