Jeff Galloway was part of the 1972 U.S. Olympic team for the 10,000-meters. In college, he ran a 4:12 mile and in 1970, he won the very first Peachtree Road Race in Atlanta. So how did this former Olympic athlete become the inventor of a method that includes running and walking?
It all started in 1974, after Galloway started a chain of running stores called Phidippides. He started a running class that would end with a “test” of a 5K or 10K race, and realized that none of the runners could pass the conversation test (i.e. if you can’t hold a conversation on a regular run, you’re going too fast) without slowing down and walking. He started having his students take regular walk breaks — at the end of the class, everyone completed their race injury free.
From that point on, he started working with intervals and nailed it down to a science. If you want to run a 9-minute mile, run for 2 minutes and walk for 30 seconds. For a 7-minute mile, run for 6 minutes and walk for 30 seconds.
READ MORE > A BRIEF (AND SURPRISING) HISTORY OF THE MARATHON
My run/walk journey started in 2008. I was training for my third marathon, the Athens Marathon in Greece. I had never run a successful marathon and seemed to be in a perpetual state of injury. The run/walk method seemed like a good fit. According to Galloway’s website, it’s a form of interval training designed to reduce muscle fatigue and injury. By walking, you give your run muscles a break instead of keeping constant pressure on them.
PUTTING THE RUN/WALK THEORY TO THE TEST
Coincidentally, Jeff and Barbara Galloway partnered with the company I was traveling with to Greece. I was going to run the marathon with the king of run/walk himself! I liked to break my runs into easy-to-remember intervals, like run 4 and walk 1, or run 8 and walk 2. When I reached out to Galloway for training advice, he told me, “because of the 13-mile hill in Athens, a 1-1 is what I recommend. The 1-1 reduces the chance of injury down to almost nothing.” For the record, even though I was onboard with the run/walk program, I was still skeptical of running for one minute and walking for one minute.
When the marathon rolled around, I was determined to stay with Galloway and stick with his plan. Sure enough, I survived (with the mantra “I can do anything for a minute”) and set a marathon PR on a course most people do not set PRs on.
After coming home, I was convinced I could run fast with a run/walk program. While I still didn’t use the method for 5K races (I just gutted out the three miles), I ended up breaking the 2-hour half marathon barrier and setting a personal PR by running and walking. And my results are par for the course. When you’re using the right run/walk ratio, you could cut seven minutes off your half marathon time and 13 minutes off your marathon time.
READ MORE > WHAT’S A PR? AND WHY YOU NEED ONE
While Galloway himself may not be running 4:15 miles any more, he has been running injury-free for the last 30 years, thanks to his run/walk method.
If you want to try the method, here are the key points to keep in mind:
1. BE CONSISTENT
You have to do the intervals from the time the gun goes off to the end. If you wait until you’re tired, your muscles are already fatigued.
2. RUN SLOWER
Start out running more slowly than you typically would (at least on your training runs). This, paired with walking, will leave more in your tank for the second half of your run.
3. WALK FASTER
Just because you aren’t running doesn’t mean you are taking a leisurely walk in the park. Keep up the pace.
4. IT’S NOT JUST FOR BEGINNERS
The run/walk method isn’t just for beginners. Veteran runners have success with these intervals, too. I’d been a runner for 10 years when I decided to try walk breaks.
5. KEEP THINGS INTERESTING
Let’s face it – running can get boring. When you break it into intervals, that sub two-hour run flies by.