What are your experiences of walking during a race? I find as soon as I stop running my legs completely seize up (especially in longer distance races) so I have to make a real effort to keep moving no matter how slow.
A year ago I ran the Rome marathon, and despite being no newcomer to marathon running and having trained well, or so I thought, I walked quite a bit from about 15 miles on. It was a painful experience and I finished in 4.08.
FLM was the next marathon I ran after that and I didn't walk until about 19 or 20 miles. I so wanted to get in under 4 hours because I hadn't managed to get near my 3.57 PB since I'd done it in 2003. I finished FLM in 4.00.53 totally gutted.
The next marathon was a month later in Halstead but that was a training run for an ultra I was doing in June. I also ran two miles before the start to make it 28.2. Although I finished that marathon in over 4 hours (because I wasn't racing) it was the first time since the '80's that I'd run the whole 26.2...I didn't walk at all, and the confidence that gave me for future marathons is immeasureable because I now know I can run the whole way.
However, the mind is so powerful and it is ultimately programmed to protect the body, which is why it will insist that you stop running when the pain starts in a marathon. Your mind will also tell you all kinds of things to make you stop running again and again after you've stopped once because your legs and various other muscles and joints are getting damaged each time that you start running again.
So long as there is not a serious injury going on (and you will certainly be aware of that if there is), and you have trained to run a marathon, then there is no reason to stop. So long as you follow a post race recovery plan of rest and correct nutrition your body will repair itself. If you do stop running you must set a time limit or some other kind of limit to the walk break, before you actually stop running.
Last Sunday, I was within a mile and a half of the finish line of the marathon, I was running up a short incline into a strong headwind and it was so tough that my quads began to burn with the exertion...that is not the sort of sensation you need to feel while running a marathon and I knew (from my anatomy and physiology experience in my work) that I needed to give them a short break if I was to finish the marathon in a reasonable condition. So I told myself that I would stop running and walk just long enough for my quads to settle down again, which is what I did. I didn't stop again until the finish because there was no real need and I didn't give myself permission. I also carried on overtaking runners right up to the finish line.
Having a planned run/ walk strategy is another matter entirely.
I entered the Kent 50 Challenge last year. The 'race' is 52.4 miles (double marathon) and I knew I couldn't run the whole way so I planned to run/walk it. The strategy I used was based on 11 min/miling. I ran to the first mile marker and walked to 11 minutes. Obviously by 11 minutes I'd already walked a little way into the 2nd mile. I then ran to the 2nd mile marker and walked until 22 minutes, ran to the 3rd mile marker and walked the remaining time up to 33 minutes, and so on. I did have a list of all my mile times with me so I didn't have to do the mental calculations...which gets harder as you get more tired. But this system worked really well and I didn't start feeling real fatigue until way over 30 miles. The last 10 or so were tough and I did slow, the walk breaks became longer and longer, but I still finished the whole 52.4 in 10 hours 15 minutes. If you're interested you can read about it here: http://www.runnersworld.co.uk/news/article.asp?UAN=2012&v=1&sp=
My own experiences of walking during the longer races....
FLM 1997 - got to around 18 miles and at that point I stopped for a toilet break in a portaloo. BIG MISTAKE. Once I'd sat down I had to stand up again. And once I'd stopped in that race I found myself mentally forced to stop and walk 3 or 4 times more... result - 4:20 and happy to have completed the first marathon but a tad disappointed to have walked and I knew that by walking I'd probably actually extended the pain rather than solving it (I think my last 6 miles took well over an hour all of which hurt...)
FLM 2004 - got to around 20 miles - quads were burning - stomach was feeling odd (I blame that concentrated lucozade stuff) and the mind wanted to stop. I didn't stop and ran on to the end. Splits in the last 6 miles were quite erratic (some at 8, some at 9:30) but I made it home in 3:43:58 very happy.
Rio 2004 - 10 weeks after FLM - hadn't really done much training since FLM - the heat hit 34C - I got to half way in 2 hours. But then I switched to run/walk. I'd considered doing this before the race so mentally I'd already given up... Basically I told myself I could walk for 30 seconds after every 2 km. This then became 1 minute after every km (there was a hill that just got me) and by the 40km I was struggling with 50:50 walk/run. End result - 4:42 - not too unhappy as it had been a fab day along the beachfront. However, I wish I'd fought the urge to switch to run/walk - really I think I had the fitness to keep going longer at 9 min/mile and once I'd started run/walking it didn't help with the pain much at all...
My conclusions - for the marathon:
- I now know I can run it end-to-end.
- I now know that stopping makes it last longer.
- If I do another one (when I do another one) then I won't be aiming for any kind of run/walk strategy and I'll be using the memories of FLM and Rio to remind me that walking can make it harder.
Havign said that - it's horses for courses - and I'm always very impressed by people who use run/walk to produce results - I think Mcmillan running has some particularly interesting points to make about it.
It can be quite useful (sometimes the only option) in hill/fell running. That I have done in almost all my hill races.
But on the road... I had to do it a few times during my first few years of running in (I think) 4 different ocasions - always half-marathons... I went off too fast...
But I prefer to walk than to quit if I am not harming myself by doing so.