A minute later, I started running again and quickly caught up to her. She looked over, saw me, and said, "Oh, do you have an injury? Is that why you're walking?"
I don't remember exactly what I replied- something about how I do the run/walk method and it's helped me complete lots of races. But I do remember exactly how I felt- pissed!
I wanted to get defensive and say something snarky. I wanted to roll my eyes. I wanted to tell her that she shouldn't judge what she doesn't know and that walking didn't mean I had an injury. But I didn't. Instead, I ran my race.
But I'm still thinking about her comment days later. Now, I don't think she said it in a way that was meant to be judgmental or mean. She knows me as a "runner" and I think she was genuinely puzzled as to why I was walking. I think I'm still angry about the comment because I let those words get to me- I let them creep into my brain and question whether or not I was a legitimate runner because I run/walk.
When I first started running, I ran all the way through. No walking breaks. And it felt good. When I started training for a half marathon, I looked into several plans and stumbled upon Jeff Galloway. I learned about his run/walk method and tried it out. And guess what? I loved it! I use it almost every time I run. It works for me.
So, am I a legitimate runner? YES! If you run, you're a runner. It's that simple. If I choose to walk an interval, that doesn't mean I'm not strong enough to run the whole way. It means that I'm moving forward in the best way for me. I've run 14 half marathons, countless 5 and 10ks, one full marathon, and completed the Dopey Challenge. I don't need to prove my runner status to anybody but myself.
But, if I could, I'd love to take my acquaintance to coffee and chat with her about all the benefits of the run/walk method. I'd answer any questions she had and probably try to convince her to try it. And then I might gently encourage her to cheer on every athlete- no matter how they are moving towards that finish line.
By the way, here are my top reasons for using the run/walk method:
- Feel strong throughout entire race/run.
- Easier on knees/joints.
- Gives running muscles a chance to recover.
- Increases speed.
- Decreases risk of injury.
If you want to learn more about the run/walk method, start here. And if you'd like some evidence on how taking a walk break actually makes you faster, you can check out this recent article by Runner's World. You can find more about my experience with run/walk as I trained for my first half marathon in this post. Also, I think it's worth noting that Jeff Galloway qualified for the Boston Marathon this year by using the run/walk method.
I'm a proud back-of-the-pack, run/walk, sparkly-skirt-wearing runner. I hope I'm still racing when I'm in my 80's, and if I keep run/walking, I'm pretty sure I will be. :-)