Bodies in Balance: The Run-Walk-Run Method For Half-Marathon Training

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Bodies in Balance: The Run-Walk-Run Method For Half-Marathon Training

Millions of people set a goal each year to complete a half-marathon. Some are experienced runners looking to set a personal record, while others are newbies just hoping to make it across the finish line still standing upright. Regardless of your motivation to join the 1.9 million people who complete a half-marathon annually, all runners can physically and mentally benefit from a sound training plan.

Run Walk Run

Often associated with beginners, the Run Walk Run method is a sound training plan that has also found it’s way into the training programs of intermediate and advanced runners looking to increase their overall mileage, reduce their risk of injury and help prevent burnout from high levels of endurance exercise. Created by Olympian Jeff Galloway, one of the most recognized runners in the sport, the Galloway Run Walk Run Method uses a very specific ratio of running (for a predetermined amount of time), followed by a planned walking break (for a predetermined amount of time), and then repeating until your run is complete.

Why It Works

Many runners have found their overall time is not that much different (and some even find they are faster), by adding walk breaks to their training. But how can running the exact same distance—just with a different method—actually make that big of a difference? Galloway explains that according to anthropologists and biologists who study early man, we are mostly adapted to walk, and walk and walk. Running was used by our ancestors in short bursts to get away from a predator in hunting—in short amounts. Makes sense, right? We can adapt our legs and feet to non-stop running but the longer we go without walking, the more stress builds up on weak links, causing injuries.

“Using Run Walk Run gets us back to what we were designed to do,” explains Galloway. “Each early walking break stops the pounding, saves muscle resources and uses less muscle glycogen. This means almost zero injury risk, quick recovery, running strong to the end of all races and the ability to enjoy time with friends and family even after running a marathon,” he says.

What Are the Run-Walk-Run Ratios?

Over the years, Galloway has heard from 500,000+ runners who have used the method and he has analyzed what strategies work best based upon the pace per mile. Based on that information, he has devised a ratio runners can use as a starting point. Here is a sample of what you will find on his website:

7-min/mile: run 6 min/walk 30 sec or run a mile/walk 40 sec
8-min/mile: run 4 min/walk 30 sec or run 2 min/walk 15 sec
9-min/mile: run 2 min/walk 30 sec or run 90 sec/walk 30 sec
10-min/mile: run 90 sec/walk 30 sec or run 60 sec/walk 30 sec
11- and 12-min/mile: run 60 sec/walk 30 sec or run 40 sec/walk 20 sec or run 30 sec/walk 30 sec
13- and 14-min mile: run 30 sec/walk 30 sec or run 20 sec/walk 20 sec or run 15 sec/walk 15 sec

Yes, I’ve Tried It … and Love It!

I’ll have to admit, the first few times I tried this method in my training, I felt like I wasn’t a “real” runner. But it only took a few times of sucking it up to discover the Run Walk Run method is actually quite brilliant. I started keeping track of my total run time, pace, and even tuning into how my body felt. And to my surprise, my overall training improved. My longer runs became easier and more enjoyable. Recovery time after my longer runs was quicker, my knees stopped aching and I found that my body felt less worn out.

Galloway’s Top Five Half-Marathon Training Tips

1. You cannot run too slow on long runs. Pace should be at least 4 min/mile slower than one can run a 5K (per mile).
2. Insert walk breaks from the beginning—based upon the pace guidelines above.
3. Run long runs every other weekend, with the last one being 14 miles, two weeks before the race.
4. Minimum training between long runs is 30 minutes, every other day. In other words, to maintain the endurance from the long run, a 30 minute run, every other day is the minimum workout necessary.
5. It helps to be part of a group of runners at your ability level.

Galloway’s top five things to avoid

1. Don’t do your training runs too fast.
2. Don’t start the race too fast. Run the first few miles of the race about a minute per mile slower than you believe you can average for the distance.
3. Don’t run until you’re tired to take a walk break. Have a strategy from the beginning.
4. Don’t run at the same pace as the temperature rises above 55 F. Instead, slow down 30 sec/mile for every 5 F above 55 F.
5. Don’t run with a friend if he or she is running faster than you can average for the entire distance.

And if you happen to be in the Atlanta area, consider participating in the Jeff Galloway 13.1 in Atlanta on December 17, 2017. Considered one of the most supportive races, the organizers offer run walk run pace groups, a 4.5 hour finish allowance and start elevation that is higher than the finish for PR’s.

Photo: GoToVan, CC-BY


Sara Lindberg is a freelance writer specializing in health, fitness and wellness.

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