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Jeff Galloway Marathon Running Strategy The Run/Walk Method

Updated on July 30, 2014

I ran my first marathon in 2009 and was woefully undertrained and completed it in a dismal 5 hours and 22 minutes. Determined to do better in my second marathon I read, “Marathon: You Can do it” by Jeff Galloway who is a proponent of the run/walk strategy.

The basic premise of the run/walk strategy is that by walking for periods of time during the marathon most people can improve their time overall. The improved performance is achieved by utilizing different muscle groups during the walking periods and also lowering the heart rate. Typically this follows a format for the marathon of running for a certain number of minutes followed by walking for a set period of time.

For example, running for 4 minutes and walking for 1, repeating this pattern until the end of the race. You can use the Gymboss Timer to make keeping track of your run/walk intervals easier. You can set the Gymboss Timer to either vibrate or beep at certain intervals telling you when it's time to walk and when it's time to run. It's well worth the $20 bucks.

Second Attempt

In my second marathon attempt I decided to try to use the run/walk strategy tweaking it a bit. Instead of following the method of running for a certain amount of time and then walking for a certain amount of time I set a finish time goal of under 5 hours.

I then determined what pace I needed to run each mile using the cool running pace calculator.

Pace Calculator

The Cool Running Pace Calculator says to run a 5 hour marathon one would need to run 11 minute 27 second miles.

At the time I could comfortably run 9 minute miles so I decided I would walk the difference between the times at each mile.

For instance, if I arrived at mile marker 1 in 9:45 I would walk until 11:27. Or if I was at mile 5 in 45 minutes I could walk till 57:12 as that was the pace for 5 miles at a 11:27 pace.

To know the times I had to run at each mile marker I printed out a mile pace chart using the Marathon Guide Pace Wrist Band Creator.

I then carried this with me during the race and reviewed it each mile or so to know how I was pacing and how much of a walk break I could take at the particular juncture of the race.

My Experiment Went Something Like This:

Mile 1: I ran in 9:23 so I walked the first part of mile 2 until my watch said 11:27.

Mile 2: I completed in 18:07 so walked the first part of mile 3 until my watch said 22:53……..

Mile 10: I got to mile 10 in 1 hour and 34 minutes so walked till my watch said 1:54 then started running again.

So on and so forth until I completed the 26 miles of the marathon.

The Run Times Get Shorter Each Mile

An unexpected perk of this method is that since you are walking for several minutes you are cutting into the distance of the next mile reducing the amount of time you need to run to reach the next mile marker.

For instance, as illustrated above, in mile 10 I was 20 minutes ahead of schedule.

I can walk roughly a mile in 16 minutes so I was able to walk all of mile 11 and some of mile 12 before I had to start running again giving my legs a long break from running.

The Run/Walk Method Helps With Pacing

The run/walk method forces you to keep your pace realistic.

In the example above I was running some portions of the race in the 7 minute per mile range. Way too fast for me!! But the walk breaks forced me to slow down preventing me from totally running out of gas later in the race.

Running the early miles of a marathon too fast is a common rookie mistake and the run/walk method helps to negate that problem.

Test The Run/Walk Method

A good way to test this theory to see if its for you is to try it on a treadmill.

Run 3 miles shooting for a 12 minute per mile pace for instance.

Run the first mile at a 10 minute pace. Walk the first two minutes of mile two and then run out the rest of mile 2 at a 10 minute pace.

When you get to mile 3 walk until the time reaches 24 minutes. Then run the remainder of mile 3.

I think you will see that running with walk breaks makes covering even a short distance of three miles much easier. This example should also illustrate how the walk breaks keep increasing with each mile added to the run.

The Run/Walk Method Improves Race Times

Using this method I was able to walk for considerable amounts of time during the marathon. The marathon was run very comfortably until mile 23 where I had to revert to a run a minute walk a minute strategy to complete the 26.2. I ended up completing the marathon in a time of 4:36 quite an improvement over my time of 5:22.

So if you’re interested in completing a marathon consider trying a run/walk method which you can tweak to suit your needs. You’re not going to win a marathon with this method but you can comfortably complete one and for most of us that is quite an accomplishment in itself.

Jeff Galloway Run/Walk Running Books


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    • profile image

      Romy 3 years ago

      Hi,In my opinion,walking more than a mile is like waiting for a much slower runner.I rarely walk for more than a minute at a time to recover.Did a 30k in 2hr12, more than 20 years ago and back to running for some time now.

    • profile image

      Sharan 5 years ago

      Great Strategy to work on!! My first marathon was a bitter experience, where i simply ignored walk breaks. But I am sure to follow this strategy in my next one. Thanks for sharing this.

    • shuck72 profile image

      shuck72 5 years ago from Seattle

      Sorry for the confusion sbwood71, I also had some fast miles in here in the 7 minute mile pace giving me lots of walking time for my overall goal of 11:27 average. For example, say I ran mile three in 7 minutes, I would have 4:27 minutes to walk at the start of mile 4 cutting into mile 4 substantially where I only really have to run 3/4 of a mile till I get to mile 5 when I do start running. The walk breaks keeping eating into the next mile and compouding. That's how I ended up with so much time by mile 10. With the walk breaks and running I was averging a 9:24 pace by mile ten and I only needed a 11:27 pace to break 5 hours leaving extra time to walk.

    • profile image

      sbwood71 5 years ago

      Not following the math on the example. If you walk until the 11:27 time each mile marker, how could you be 20 minutes ahead at the 10 mile mark? Seems like you skipped some walks between 2 miles and 10 miles?

    • shuck72 profile image

      shuck72 6 years ago from Seattle

      Yes walking is frowned upon by some marathon runners. But for me walking bits of the race did not diminish the sense of accomplishment and lessened the training commitment and I believe some of the injury risks.

    • jbrock2041 profile image

      jbrock2041 6 years ago from Park City, UT

      This is a great strategy for many people but sometimes it's hard to convince them that it is ok to walk during a race. I'm glad to see how it made a difference in your training.

    • shuck72 profile image

      shuck72 6 years ago from Seattle

      Good luck, once you finish one you will be hooked.

    • lululizzy1942 profile image

      lululizzy1942 6 years ago from Delray Beach, Florida

      Thanks for the tips. I am getting ready to run in my first marathon.