In this article, I’ll introduce the run walk marathon training method, created in 1979 by Jeff Galloway.
Since then, runners have been swearing by the method, saying they never could have reached their goals without it. Both beginners and experienced runners have benefited from this approach.
When some people hear the word ‘marathon,’ it fills them with fear and dread.
Especially if you’re starting out as a beginner, running an entire marathon without stopping seems impossible.
But with the Jeff Galloway method to running a marathon, you don’t have to run the whole thing.
The whole premise behind it is there’s no requirement that says you have to run the full marathon.
If you’re unfamiliar with Galloway’s method, you could be forgiven for thinking that taking walking breaks during a marathon is a sign of slowing down or giving up. But in fact, running and walking the race can be more effective.
Many runners who’ve used this run walk marathon training method have actually finished their fastest times while doing it, meaning that it’s not just for new runners, but experienced runners as well.
Here’s our guide to the run walk method for beginner runners (it’s not just for marathons!).
What Is the Jeff Galloway Run Walk Marathon Training Method?
The run walk method method was designed for two purposes:
1. To help beginners finish a marathon without intimidation and without injury
2. To help runners improve their total marathon time, using the formula’s special techniques.
To implement these goals, the training bases itself on the following very specific principles.
Running for any significant length of time can be exhausting.
That length totally depends on your current ability level, but even running a 5K can be a challenge if you just started running.
Maybe you’re further along in your training, and that difficult landmark is a 10K or half marathon.
Whatever your current challenge is, you’re going to need to recover from it. If you just pushed yourself to the maximum and ran your first 10K ever, you might not be able to run for a couple days because of how exhausted your body is.
When I ran my first marathon, for example, I didn’t eat the proper nutrition beforehand and the weather was much hotter than I was used to running in.
So by the time I went to sleep that night, I could barely lift my legs into the bed.
I had completely used up all my energy resources.
Whether you’re just starting your training programe or you’re nearly ready for race day, by taking walk breaks, you alleviate that exhaustion from your running routine.
You keep your energy levels high.
You protect your muscles, joints, and ligaments from injury.
And you’re ready to get right back up to run again the next day.
Essentially, conserving your body’s resources allows you to train more diligently – you don’t have to skip the next day because you overdid it on your long run.
This way, you build your muscles more smoothly, gradually increasing strength, endurance, and speed.
Improving Your Marathon Time
“If I’m walking a large portion of my marathon, how can I possibly improve my overall time?” you might be asking.
The answer lies in the point directly above this one: conserving resources. When you give yourself mini walk breaks in between segments of running, you give yourself the chance to recharge stores of energy.
The run walk marathon training method states that by running continuously, you can inadvertantly use up all those resources, thereby denying your body any recovery and not actually completing your run in the fastest time possible.
Recover is another crucial part of the training program. With other plans, recovery time comes after the long run. That either looks like a rest day or a recovery run the day after.
But the run walk method says you can recover while you’re running. If you run a good chunk of time, then walk to recover for a segment, you give your joints, muscles, lungs, and even emotions, a little chance to regroup.
After that short break, your running powers are restored to their full potential and you’re able to run with a new, fresh start each time.
It’s a known fact that so many running injuries are caused by overuse. This means that if you increase your mileage or your number of runs per week too quickly during training and don’t give your body time to adjust, then you’ve got a much greater chance of injuring yourself.
As your bones and joints increase at a slower pace than your cardiovascular fitness, it can be very easy to overtrain, especially if you’re a beginner. Due to high training volume, marathon runners of any running ability may sometimes struggle to remain injury free.
How does this relate to walk breaks and the Jeff Galloway marathon training method?
Well, by taking walk breaks during your runs you can reduce the continual strain on your joints, muscles, ligaments, and tendons for short periods during the run, allowing them to recover and reducing the chance of injury.
Slow Long Runs
Jeff Galloway says that your long run can never be too slow.
If you’re feeling tired, it’s totally fine to do the shuffle.
That means holding your body in running position, but barely moving your feet and legs in order to go easier on yourself.
The long run is the most taxing day of your training. It’s important because you must slowly increase your distance each week if you want to progress towards the end game (the full marathon). If you can utilize the Galloway method and take walk breaks during your long runs to make them more manageable, then it’s undeniably an advantageous method.
That being said, training on the other days of the week build up your strength and endurance even more than the long runs.
Doing drills and practices throughout the week will up your speed and get your body more accustomed to running. They are the real heroes of your marathon training plan.
So take it easy on your long runs. If you feel a strain halfway through, just go a little slower so that you’ll still feel great when it’s over.
Ideal Candidates for the Run Walk Method
Jeff Galloway’s method can provide benefits for those of all running abilities.
Beginners: If you haven’t finished your first marathon yet, the run walk training could be the perfect way to introduce you to distance racing.
People with injuries: If you’re recovering from an injury or have suffered from them in the past, this low impact training will reintroduce running in a safe, risk-free way.
Veteran runners: Many seasoned runners use this method too. Some have even said they’ve finished their fastest time doing the run walk.
How to Make the Most of the Jeff Galloway Run Walk Strategy
Once you’ve decided this is the right plan for you, you need to understand it is not an opt-out for those who don’t want to work hard.
To get the most of the Jeff Galloway plan, you need to understand its essence: Gaining speed and endurance comes through rewiring running as you know it.
The results are achieved by strategically increasing and improving, rather than Forrest Gump’s, “I just felt like running.”
Here are some tips to help you successfully implement the walk run method into your training plan:
Find the Right Interval
Every runner is different. You’ll need to adjust your time limits for running and walking based on your own sweet spot.
Don’t quit running too soon just because you’re tired, but don’t overdo it. Set your time for different amounts. Test them out. See what works for you, based on trial and error.
You Don’t Ever Have to Eliminate the Walk Break
This concept makes some people feel anxious, but you have to readjust your cognitive focus.
Don’t think you have to do something just because you’ve always heard it’s done that way.
Believe in your decision, trust your training, and reap the positive results.
The walk break is even more important on trail runs.
If you’re training on non-paved paths, your body will need that break even more than running on sidewalks or streets. With uneven ground, loose rocks, and unknown terrain, taking a minute to walk in the technical areas can save you big time.
Improve Your Overall Time (How to Get Faster)
Here’s a drill for your daily runs to build up your cadence fast.
- Warm up by walking for 5 minutes.
- Jog and walk for 10 minutes.
- Jog slowly for 1-2 minutes.
- During that time, set a timer for 30 minutes, and count how many times your left foot touches the ground.
- Take a walk break.
- Jog again. This time, try to touch that left foot to the ground 1-2 times faster than before.
- Repeat the set 3-7 times, increasing your left foot touches by 1-2 counts each time.
How Many Days Per Week Should I Run?
Again, you should listen to your body on this one. Since the run walk training plan is all about recovery and not overdoing it, pay attention to the signs your muscles are putting out.
If you feel sore, wait an extra day and then run the next, fully refreshed.
As a general rule, use these guidelines based on your age range.
If you’re in your thirties, take 2 days off per week.
If you in your forties, take 3 days off per week.
If you’re in your fifties, running every other day should be sufficient.
Make the Jeff Galloway Plan Work for YOU
The great thing about any marathon training plan is you can make it work for you. If you like the background and theory behind the run walk marathon training, go ahead and commit to it! Try out the results for yourself.
You can also use portions of it in any other training plan. For example, our couch to marathon training plan includes the run walk method while you’re in the early stages: running your first 5K and 10K.
So whilst you’re considering how you’ll train for your marathon, take a look at the Jeff Galloway plan, as well as our customizable training plans, and decide what works best for you.