Jeff Galloway recently came into the Maine Running Company to tell us about his popular run-walk-run training and racing method. All of my notes from the clinic will be linked at the bottom of this article as they are available.

The Run-Walk-Run Method

“If you conserve resources early, then they are available later. If you use them up early, then you pay later, and with interest.”

The major benefit of the run-walk-run method is that it gives you control over your fatigue and it allows you to recover extremely fast. Jeff has found that most people can go faster in their Magic Miles with a 10 to 15 second walk break in the middle than they could if they tried just running fast for a mile.

Watching your wrist for when to take (or end) a walk break can be inconvenient, so Jeff recommends using the Gymboss Timer, which you can program to vibrate on your arm at different intervals so that you can time your runs and your walks separately.

How fast you walk on your walk breaks will vary from person to person. You need to find whatever pace works for you and allows you to recover. The most important thing to remember when you are taking your walk break is that you do not want to over-stride. You wan to keep your pace at a short stride because over-striding is just as likely to lead to injury when you are walking as it will when you are running.

The benefits of taking walking breaks are greater when you take shorter breaks more often. There are no extra benefits to taking a 2 minute walking break over taking a 1 minute walking break, and 90 seconds of running to 30 seconds of walking is even better than 60 seconds of walking and 60 seconds of running.

The specific ratio that you should use depends upon the pace that you are running at. Jeff recommended the following running:walking ratios based on pace:

Pace/mile   Run:Walk   Units
9:00 4:1 (minutes)
10:00 3:1 (minutes)
11:00 2½:1 (minutes)
12:00 2:1 (minutes)
13:00 1:1 (minutes)
14:00 30:30 (seconds)
15:00 30:45 (seconds)

Jeff illustrated his run-walk-run method through a couple of stories.

The Bronchial Infection

Jeff once coached a man whose training was going really well and his Magic Mile said that he’d run right around 4 hours for the marathon, and his goal was to break that 4 hour barrier. He had never been able to do it before.

Unfortunately, he got a bronchial infection and his doctor said that while he could still go out and run, he was not allowed to do his long runs because they would leave him to fatigued to get better. He was allowed to run again 3½ weeks before the marathon, so he asked Jeff what he should do to get ready.

“Skip the marathon,” Jeff told him. Out of the question, of course. After telling Jeff that he was going to run the marathon either way, they set out a game plan for what he needed to do in order to finish the marathon.

The first thing was 1 long run the next weekend, which would leave him 2 weeks until the race. Before getting sick, he had been running for 4 minutes and walking for 1 minute, but Jeff told him to go down to a 1:1 ratio for the training run. He was supposed to go for 22 miles, but he felt so good doing the 1:1 that he kept going and did another 5 miles.

His race plan consisted of doing the 1:1 run/walk ratio for the first 20 miles of the marathon, and then to run the last 10 kilometers without walking. This is a common race strategy that Jeff has his runners do.

Well, he went out for the first 20 miles with a 1:1 run:walk ratio, and then he ran a 10k PR for the last 6.2 miles, finishing the marathon in 3 hours and 59 minutes. Jeff doesn’t recommend that people skip their long runs and do their training the same way as this guy, but Jeff used the story to illustrate what is possible when you take control of your fatigue. Had there been no bronchial infection, then Jeff is sure that he would have run quite a bit faster with proper training.

His Wife’s Marathon

In 1994, Jeff’s wife had completed over 40 marathons by running straight through them. She was going to be running the Walt Disney Marathon, but before the race she admitted to Jeff that she had only run up to 6 miles on her long runs. He agreed that he would run with her, but only on 2 conditions.

  1. She had to take walk breaks when he did.
  2. She was not allowed to whine about it.

For the first 10 miles she tried convincing him to skip his walk breaks, but he just reminded her of condition #2. Later in the race, though, when she was past mile 18, she realized how good she felt and has used the run-walk-run method since.

(Event Photos)