The Run Walk Method according to Bobby McGee
Introduction & Phasing of the Run/Walk method to run training for Runners & Multisport Athletes
There is a myth in running & triathlon that an athlete is somehow inferior if they are unable to “run the whole way” in a race. Did an athlete who completed the distance faster than another athlete who ran the whole way not actually beat that athlete? I think so! The purpose of racing is to determine who reaches the finish line fairly & according to the rules in the least amount of time. Walking in a running race is not illegal. If it brings the athlete to the finish line faster, then perhaps the athlete should look into incorporating this into his/her training just as crucially as lactate threshold training & other performance increasing training modalities.
If you run regularly (4+ X per week), then use for runs longer than 35 to 45:00
For experienced runners I would suggest breaking up long runs & tempo runs (the latter defined as half marathon to marathon pace/effort – not off the bike, but flat pure runs)
I would also highly recommend using the method in your longer bricks where you run more than 35 – 45:00 off the bike
The basic model I use is 10:00 of running & 1:00 of walking, but I easily adapt this to suit the athlete’s capabilities. The following ranges are what I recommend from easiest to most skilled:
Phase 1: Beginner: This assumes no running at all prior to this. 1:00 run, 1:00 walk, build rapidly (weekly) to 5:00 run, 1:00 walk.
2. Phase II: This assumes low running volume (fewer than 4 runs per week) & looking to build volume. Add 10 – 15% to all runs weekly, but break runs up into 6 to 10:00 sections, with a 1:00 walk. If using 10% increases, then move closer to 10:00 run, 1:00 walk, if increasing by 15%, then stay closer to 6:00 run, 1:00 walk
3. Phase III: This assumes advanced runner looking to increase both volume in long runs & speed in quality workouts. Have the basis be 10:00 run, 1:00 walk & build from there. I have had runners break runs into sections as large as 30:00, but sometimes find that on chunks larger than 15:00 some athletes have a hard time starting the run again. In the majority of athletes this is easily rectified by ensuring that the walk stride rate stays high (rather shorter steps & high cadence), that the walk is brisk with a purpose to covering ground, rather than thinking, “ah, rest”! Also ensure that the arms are kept in running mode—allowing the arms to drop down, slows the stride rate, increases the stride length, which in turn leads to “switching off” & the lengthened levers put the pelvis & hamstrings under increased stress. By following these guidelines the runner stays facilitated & easily restarts the next section with renewed vigor.
4. Threshold Workouts: I usually break these up into fixed times or distances any way. I design these around a total volume of 30 to 40:00. I find that longer walks here ensure a more rapid progression, i.e. velocity at the same heart rate increases fastest when longer rest periods are incorporated. Sample workout would be 3X1.5 mile at LT (heart rate or pace, depending on the phase of training) with a 5:00 walk between each. If the athlete does not have the speed, for example, to complete the quality sections in under 40:00, or is fast enough that the quality work is less than 30:00, then I would either break it up into time sections for the beginner, like 3X10:00, or lengthen the reps for the advanced, speedier runner, like 3X2.2 miles.
5. Tempo workouts: Here the workout goal would be determined by considering specific event requirements. In the earlier part of this preparation phase I emphasize time sections at a specific heart rate, e.g. for half marathon run 4X15:00 at ½ marathon heart rate, with a 2:00 walk between each. Then in the latter part of the final preparation phase I’d have the same athlete run 3X5km at goal ½ marathon pace with a 2-3:00 walk break between each. I suggest a similar approach to marathon pace tempo runs & IM & ½ IM brick/combo runs. With the marathon I generally keep total volumes below & up to 15 miles (25km).
1. Long Runs: The purpose of long runs is to develop muscle endurance & train the body’s ability to metabolize lipids as a fuel source. A coach can objectively measure increases in vascularity in long runs by observing the athletes decoupling rates, (i.e. when pace slows, while HR remains constant). The basic idea is to be able to increase long run pace while maintaining predetermined sub AeT (aerobic threshold) heart rates. This is by far the most easy to improve through using the walk/run methodology. I find best results when I keep the ratio at 10:00 run, but move the 1:00 walk down as the athlete improves (by 5 to 10sec per jump) until a minimum walk period of 15sec.
2. Racing: For runners who run the marathon in slower than 2:30 (at least sub 3:00) & then, by virtue of IM world bests, all IM athletes, I strongly recommend racing the walk/run method during racing as well. Sub 2:30 marathons have been achieved by runners in this fashion. This implies that if you are going to race this way, train this way. However, for the runner who wishes to run considerably faster & is able to run sub 2:30, I would still use this approach on the majority of occasions, but there would have to be long runs & tempo runs that are continuous running.
ADVANTAGES OF THE METHOD:
1. Increased volume (per workout & per week/phase)
2. Reduced recovery time
3. Mentally easier to train & race
4. Faster in the majority of cases
5. Improved lipid metabolism
6. Increased functional leg strength
What’s not to like?
© BMES 2006
Grace, Gratitude & Guts