Lately, I’ve been including walking breaks in some of my training runs. I started doing this right after deciding to do the Across the Years 48-Hour race. I plan to alternate running and walking during the race, so it makes sense to get used to it during my training.
I’ve found in 24-hour races that I sometimes spend as much time walking as I do running. By working on my walking form in training, I can hopefully become a more efficient walker. As my form improves, I’ll be able to walk at a faster pace without expending additional energy. Covering more ground walking will allow me to do proportionally more walking and less running. Since running and walking emphasize different muscle groups, spending more time walking will hopefully allow me to maintain my running efficiency as long as possible.
I expected these workouts to have both advantages and disadvantages. Aside from the obvious advantage of improving my walking efficiency, I also expected to be able to do longer workouts. Mixing running with walking results in a slower average pace. That lets me go farther without getting tired. I expected a trade-off. I thought I would be sacrificing quality for quantity. That hasn’t turned out to be the case.
Although my average pace is slower, my pace while running is actually faster than it would be if I was running the whole time. I’ve found that I can push the pace when I’m running, knowing that I’ll have time to recover during my walking breaks. In that sense, some of my runs are like interval workouts.
I’ve also found that I can run more often. I used to take two days off from running after a marathon. If I ran on the second day after a race, it was usually a short workout at an easy pace. With the run/walk workouts, I’m comfortable running on the second day after a race. With the walking breaks, even a 12 mile run can feel like a recovery workout. Likewise, I used to take two days off from running before a race. Now I’m comfortable doing a run/walk workout two days before a race. Again, 12 miles doesn’t seem like too much.
Since I can do more workouts between races, and I can also go longer in each workout, I’m increasing my total training mileage. In spite of doing more mileage, I also feel like I’ve improved the quality of my training by getting some faster running into the mix. Only time will tell if these workouts will help my marathon times, but I’m hopeful that they won’t hurt. I’m doing run/walk workouts twice a week, but I’m also doing some workouts that are continuous running.