I recently got an email from Nicole, a beginner runner who’s been doing a run/walk training program. She writes: “Am I defeating the purpose of running and being able to run with all of these walk breaks? Am I really a ‘runner’ if I walk during running? So many people frown upon walking during running I just wonder if I should continue to train to only run and work myself up to a half marathon this way.”
I always cringe when I hear runners who use a run/walk strategy say that they’re “not real runners.” Are you running? Then you are a real runner! It doesn’t matter if you’re running for the entire distance of your training run or race. If you’re out there running, whether it’s continuously or for short stretches, you can proudly call yourself a runner.
The benefits of run/walk are tremendous. I know lots of people who have used the run/walk strategy to complete half and full marathons, and they were amazed at how they were able to go the distance and stay injury-free during their training. Running puts a lot of stress on your muscles and joints and too much of it can lead to overuse injuries. If you incorporate walk breaks into your training, you’re using different muscles and reducing the impact on your joints. Walking is a lot easier on the body, so you can safely rack up a lot of miles in training.
And because run/walking is easier on your body, you’ll find that you won’t be as sore after a long run or race. You’ll be able to return to your workout routine much faster. Injured runners also find that run/walking is a great way to ease back into running after their recovery.
In many cases, run/walkers find they’re able to they were able to achieve faster race times at certain distances than when they attempted to run the entire time. Indeed, towards the end of races, I’ve witnessed many race participants doing run/walk pass loads of racers who had been running during the entire race. While those who ran the entire time have slowed down and are trudging through to the finish line, those who have been taking walk breaks were able to keep a consistent pace throughout and finish strong.
Run/walking can also be a lot easier mentally, compared to trying to run continuously for long periods of time. Having a short walk break to look forward to can make a long distance feel much more manageable. And breaking up the monotony of a long run with walk intervals makes the time go by much faster. Some runners like to walk through water stops during races, to give themselves a quick mental and physical break and allow them to drink water without spilling it all over themselves.
The bottom line: Don’t ever feel embarrassed about run/walking or think that you need to be continuously running to be considered a “real” runner. Remember that what works for one runner may not work for others, so try not to feel pressure to run or train the same way as other runners. Be proud of the progress you’ve made and just keep moving toward your next personal goal!