Thursday, July 10, 2014

A "Real Runner" Reminder to Myself

While running the Summerfair 10k last weekend, I ran into an acquaintance- almost literally. The race had just started and everyone was trying to find their pace as we ran down the first part of the course. I heard someone calling my name and looked over to see this acquaintance. We waved hello and wished each other well in the race. My timer went off so I started my walk interval. She passed me.

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. :-)

22 comments:

  1. Great post, Sarah! Regardless of whether you, myself, or anybody else uses run/walk vs. running straight through, we're all runners, and all deserving of the respect that every runner deserves.

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    1. Thanks, Kathryn! And yes- all athletes deserve respect for having the courage to be at the start line :-)

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  2. "It means that I'm moving forward in the best way for me."--> THIS. Running is not always a one-size-fits-all kind of sport. Sometimes it's about speed, sometimes it's about endurance, and every time it's about accomplishment. Who cares if you walk.. you complete the 6.2, 13.1, 26.2 miles like every one else! In fact sometimes people don't even get to the finish line- running OR run/walking. I say I ran a marathon.. even though I was hurt and had to walk half of it. It's my accomplishment.. I did it.

    Sometimes I run all the way.. sometimes I run/walk. It's all about what the goal is, how you feel that day... hell even the weather! It's easy to judge people on the surface, I think all runners do it. But the more I run, the more I'm learning to listen to my body and my instincts, and not worry what others might say or think. In turn, it helps me learn to be less judgmental- you never know what someone else's story is. What's important is they're living the dream :)

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    1. Preach on!! I hear you, 100%! And yes, I think we all make assumptions and judgments- we just don't need to always voice them :-) I try really hard not to and when I do have those thoughts, I remind myself that I'm only seeing one little part of this person's life- I have no idea what their story is about.

      And yup, even when running sucks, I still think I'm living the dream!

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  3. Great post! I'm a run/walker too. But I do struggle with the fact I'm not running the whole way. Occasionally I'm take one of my short runs non-stop just to prove to myself that I can. Galloway got me through the Dopey Challenge, which included my very first full marathon. For that race I actually increased my walking intervals due to an injury (The injury occurred at mile 1 of the half-marathon, the day before the full). I had a fantastic race but I know I could do so much better. A 5-hr finish is possible, if I stay injury-free and don't stop for pictures or Expedition Everest. At my age (66) I seem to get injured easily and take forever to recover. Galloway allowed me to train for Dopey injury-free.

    P.S. I applause everyone who made it out to the race - Whether you run the whole way, use Galloway, or walk the entire distance, I know the race is the culmination of many, many training days and requires dedication and courage to push your self to new heights!

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    1. Wow- I didn't know you had an injury during the half!! Bravo to you for pushing through to get to the full!

      Congratulations on all your accomplishments and for continuing to train and push yourself- you are a great running role model for me!

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  4. You ARE a legit runner! Don't let anyone else make you question that (I know it can be easier said than done)! I'm a runner/walker and back of the packer for life! Well, maybe eventually middle of the back of the pack haha. But seriously, whether people are walking, running, or run/walking, anyone that is out there on race day giving it their best is a winner.

    I love using the run/walk method. It has helped me PR, helps to keep my energy level and asthma in check, helps alleviate pains in my joints, and I just plain feel better throughout the race and at the finish line. You are a very cheerful, upbeat, inspirational person, and that makes me sad that you were questioning yourself as a runner.

    You handled that situation with class. I find it's always best to be friendly and polite, but not everyone would have given a kind response to that question haha. I get a lot of strange looks when I'm on a local running path when my timer goes off and I continually switch from running to walking, but oh well. I'm doing what's best for me, and you are doing what's best for you! Keep at it :)

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    1. Preach on, friend! Run/walkers unite! :-)

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  5. Thanks for this! I tried the Jeff Galloway program last year while training for my first half marathon, but I found it really difficult. It was easier for me to run straight through than if did walk intervals, because once I started walking, my body did not want to start running again. Did you have that same experience? Do I need to just give it more of a chance to learn how to do it? I am considering doing my first full next year and thinking of whether I want to try the run/walk method or straight running.

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    1. HI Jennifer! No, I did not have an issue with transitioning from run to walk but I know that some people do. My former roommate struggled a lot with this so she eventually just straight ran until she felt like she needed to walk. She would usually run for about 30- 45 minutes before she took a short break. I think it's a matter of personal preference and whatever works for you. I know some runners that will run for 10-15 minutes and then take a quick 45- 60 second walk break. I also know some that will run for 1-3 miles and then take a walk break.

      Maybe you could experiment with different intervals to see if you'd find it easier if the walk breaks were more infrequent than what Galloway suggests. Listen to your body and find what works for you- good luck with your marathon training! How exciting!! Which one are you considering?

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    2. Thanks for the suggestion. I think I will definitely try that. I would like to do walk breaks because I know how beneficial they are and, like you, I want to continue running for a very long time. I'm going to register for the Pittsburgh Marathon IF I'm still injury free and feel like I'm in good overall shape after my half marathon this October. I think I've finally reached the point that I think I should try a full, and I think I'll do best with winter training.

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    3. Oh yes, winter training is my favorite! I cannot deal with this heat! Good luck- please let me know how the intervals work for you.

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  6. You know how I feel about run/walk. It got me to my BQ, using the 4/1 intervals. Most people dismiss those who run/walk.....but if it is the best way to get you to the finish line, go for it. I am a huge advocate, especially for those just starting out. Running can be discouraging, and this is a great way to get addicted!

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    1. Congrats again on the BQ! That is so awesome! I can't wait to follow your journey :-)

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  7. Your feelings are totally justified. I don't know why anyone would comment on anyone else's runs/races. We should be supportive of other runners. Just signing up for a race and getting out there is a big deal. I sometimes get a little down on myself if I don't perform the way I'd like to but I would never even think to judge anyone else.

    I'm doing Galloway's run walk method for the Tower of Terror training. I have only done it a few times but hopefully it will help to get me back from my injury easier and prevent me from more injury. It does seem a little hard for me to get back into the run portion after walking (like a previous commenter said) but thanks for your advice on trying different intervals to see what might work.

    You have a great attitude with your running so don't let anyone mess with it! I wish I was as positive with my running (my blog post from today is actually on my running insecurities) but I'm really working on it. Stay positive and sparkly!

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    1. Thank you, Mary Ellen! Just keep moving forward :-)

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  8. I just discovered your blog and I have added it to my daily feed! I am a new runner, and I am training for the WDW Wine and Dine in November. I too am using the Galloway walk/run method. I use his app, and I love it. When I explain this to people, they assume that I am doing this to "work up to" nonstop running. No, I plan to do all of my races and training this way. If people think that we are not real runners, then they will have to say that Jeff Galloway isn't either!

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    1. Lisa, couldn't say it better myself! The man is an Olympian and qualified for Boston in his 60's! He must be doing something right! :-)

      And welcome! Hope you find something here that is helpful. Maybe we can meet at Wine and Dine this year- it's my favorite runDisney race!

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    2. Wow--you write some great stuff! I'm looking forward to going back and reading your accounts of all of the Disney races you have done. My husband and I live two hours from WDW, and my love of all things Disney is what got me interested in running. I registered for the Wine and Dine before I even started, and I found out about Jeff Galloway from the runDisney website. I hope we can meet at Wine and Dine. You seem like a cool person to know. You live in PA--do you know where Doylestown is? My husband and I have a house there and will be moving back there in a couple of years.

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    3. I sure do know where Doylestown is!

      And yes- let's meet up at Wine and Dine! Send me an email and we'll plan something cool :-) sarah@sparklyrunner.com

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  9. Just discovered this post. I used to be an "only runner" with only walk breaks if I felt like I was going to die. However, after several recent injuries I started the run/ walk to transition back in and I love it. I can see myself continuing this method throughout my current marathon training and into the future!

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    1. Good for you, Lorie! I hope you find the run/walk method to be helpful in reaching your goals! Good luck!

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