Week 18: ‘At Least He Never Walked’

“Someday if I have a gravestone and I’m able to pick out what’s carved on it, I’d like it to say this:

Haruki Murakami

1949-20**

Writer (and runner)

At Least He Never Walked”

– Haruki Murakami, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

I’m trying something a bit different on my ‘long’ slow runs – a run-walk approach a la Jeff Galloway. A couple of people suggested that it might be a way for me to be able to actually stand a chance of getting round Dingle Half in a few weeks time, bearing in mind that all those months of injury mean I’m nowhere near prepared.

The rationale behind run-walk is that continuous use of your running muscles results in quicker fatigue, so the longer you run, the more fatigued you get and the longer it takes to recover. By throwing in walking breaks, you conserve your energy, put less pressure on your muscles, get an opportunity to reduce core body temperature and recover quicker. From the little I’ve read, it seems like some people achieve pretty amazing marathon and half marathon results this way.

I gave it a try today, and picked an arbitrary pattern of running for nine minutes and walking for one. It worked out pretty nicely; my overall pace was only a slightly slower than it would normally be because I managed a marginally faster pace when I was running. Touch wood, I haven’t got any aches and pains now either, despite adding a mile and a half on to the distance I ran last week.

There’s a hitch though…

As I think the Haruki Murakami quote above neatly demonstrates, walking is taboo for runners: it’s seen as a mark of defeat. When I think about doing it during a race, all I can think about is the eyes of other runners boring into my back as I stop running and start walking nine minutes in, or the people watching and assuming I’ve given up.

It’s partly linked to the fact that I still don’t feel like a ‘real’ runner – I definitely don’t look like a runner, and walking just confirms it. If I can get away from my odd sense of shame about walking during a run, I think this approach will work for me for the Half in Dingle and Brighton Marathon too.

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