The Walk/Run Strategy. Am I A Running Fascist For Hating It?

While I’m far from being a fan of books about running, one or two may have fallen open, completely by accident, when I’ve been browsing in Waterstones.

And while I can find huge amounts to disagree with in most of them, the thing that always baffles me the most is the popular belief that a mixture of walking and running, in training as well as races, is a good idea.

Now, I understand the logic up to a point: if you’re not fit enough to run solidly for 20 minutes, why not take a one minute walk break every 5 minutes? Well, yes, OK. If that’s what you’re happy doing for the rest of your life, be my guest. But what you’re then doing, in effect, is training yourself to stop whenever you feel like it. And I don’t see how that kind of habit can ever be broken, once you’ve started it.

My attitude to the sport is that running is running, and walking is walking. I’ve managed to become a reliable, if not especially fast, long distance runner by having the attitude that if I’m going for a 6 mile run, I’ll be running for 6 miles. Even if I really feel like stopping, which still happens from time to time, I won’t let myself, unless there’s an urgent medical reason.

I’ve trained myself to keep going regardless of how good or bad I feel. I don’t consider walking an option when I’m training, so it never becomes an option in races. And after all, we’re talking about building mental strength here, as well as physical strength.

So, whether you’re new to running, or have been doing it for years, but still use a walk/run strategy, I’d like to ask you to consider an alternative. If you can only run for 10 minutes without stopping, then why don’t you just go out for a 10 minute run. When you get used to that, why not start making it a 12 minute run – but non-stop.

Alternatively, if you’re quite happy to run for 40 minutes, albeit with the odd walk break, why not just lessen your overall pace, but aim to keep running for the full 40 minutes?

And before you think I’m being gung-ho or stupidly macho, I would like to add just one more thing. While I don’t think it’s acceptable to walk/run, I do think it’s a good idea to abandon a run in the case of illness or injury. So if I’ve had a cold, I won’t even think about running. Similarly, if I’ve got a twinge from a potential muscle strain, I’m prepared to decide during my warm-up that going for a run is only going to make things worse, and abandon the whole idea. Because listening to your body is always a good idea.

In much the same way that training yourself to stop whenever the going gets a bit tough, is a really bad idea.