The data is, in essence, a lab experiment on Run/Walk which emerged this year, not by design as much as by the advantageous confluence of weather, course design and schedule. I think this might be helpful to those using Jeff's methods.
Five road marathons, all with similar courses in similar, advantageous weather conditions make this comparison possible. I used different run/walk plans in each race, however, which makes for useful comparisons. What might we learn? Here's the sequence and essentials.
It all started with the Carmel Marathon run on April 21, 2012 in suburban Indianapolis. It is a flat course which happened on a cloudy day with temperatures in the mid 40s throughout and a 15mph north wind. I used a 6 minute run/1 minute walk sequence through mile 24.5, then ran it in. This yielded an official time of 4:33:25, at the time my second best marathon of this running era, plus a 3 second negative split. My own race report is here. My detailed notes on mile splits from the day are in this image...click to expand. Sorry, no amount of digital processing can improve my handwriting!
The Lesson? I could hold a 6/1 for the entire race and feel very good at the end of a marathon. I also learned I could hold even mile splits over a long distance. In much of my training, I use a 4/1 and in previous races I had faded. Not so at Carmel...very encouraging.
Marathon #2 took me to Traverse City, Michigan for the Bayshore Marathon on May 25, 2012. It was a largely flat course with some minor rollers, run this year on a partly cloudy day with temperatures shifting from the low 50s to about 70 and no wind. Since I was running a trail marathon two weeks later, I took a then-radical plan to shift my pace. I would run a 3/1 through mile 10, then a 4/1 to the finish. As it played out, I felt so good, I ran the last 2.2 and finished in 4:40:16, with almost 4 minute negative split. The second race in a row with no wall, feeling marvelous at the end. My race report here.
The Lesson? A slow, conservative start does nothing to diminish one's overall time and actually served as a "governor" to hold me back in the face of the adrenaline of a big race in a beautiful setting. This confirms much of what Galloway has been saying for years. Interestingly, when I shifted to a 4/1, I didn't really budge my overall average mile pace very much. But I did reserve energy to make the later miles very enjoyable. And the effort paid off in an enjoyable trail marathon in very hot, hilly conditions two weeks later.
Marathon #3 of this unique sequence of road marathons was the Wineglass Marathon in Corning, NY on September 30, 2012. It is net-downhill, point-to-point, unhyphenated, fairly flat course. I got yet another good weather day, as it was cloudy with temperatures in the low 50s and no wind. Knowing I was running in Chicago just 7 days later, I planned a 3/1 sequence through mile 16, shifting to a 4/1, with a possible run at the end. It worked so well, I ran the final 3 miles uninterrupted. I was rewarded by getting under 4:40, to 4:38:55 and another negative split. I felt awesome at the end...still no wall, still no cramps, a truly fun marathon. Race Report here.
The Lesson? The understated start, this time, led to a truly improved per-mile pace when I shifted to the 4/1 and even better speed when I ran at the end. Conditions certainly helped...a cool day is a good day for a marathon. And I loved this race, it was just awesome. And another real test awaited, 7 days later.
Marathon #4 was a big one, the Chicago Marathon on October 7, 2012. Chicago is well known as having one of the flattest marathon courses layouts in the world. What was lucky was the weather; in recent years, Chicago has had very hot temps but not this day; yet again, I had a cool day to run. Temps were barely 40 at the start and clouds kept it under 45 at the finish, with very little wind in the "Windy City". Strategically, though, I was on new turf, as I had never run two marathons one week apart; how should I approach it? I decided to keep the "easy early" view, running a 3/1 through mile through mile 18, then bumping to a 4/1. My real hope, though, was to run, continuously, the final 3+ miles down Michigan Avenue. For the first time in this marathon sequence, I altered the plan based on conditions...I sensed some fatigue at mile 18, so didn't shift to the 4/1 until mile 20. It allowed me to recover a bit, though, and I did run all the way down Michigan Avenue. Finishing time of 4:48:28, an 8 minute negative split. I felt terrific at the end and truly enjoyed this world-class event. My Race Report on Chicago is here.
The Lesson? First, I could actually run marathons, enjoyably, on consecutive weekends. Second, this pattern of slow early, quicker late, works. Third, traffic matters...my mile splits were a bit slower than the week earlier largely due to dodging and swerving around my 40,000 fellow runners. A 6 minute wait at a portapot in mile 4 had an impact as well.
Marathon #5 of the year's journey was in north Georgia at the Chicamauga Battlefield Marathon on November 10, 2012. It is a friendly course with just a few rollers on a partly cloudy day with temps from 38 at the start to 50 at the end, with little wind. Pacing was very different for this race though. I ran the race with pals Wes and Darrell and we stuck together early, running a full mile, then taking a 30 second walk break at each mile marker. I stuck with the guys on this pattern through mile 4.5, but realized it wasn't going to work for me that day. So I fell back, using a 3/1 through mile 13, then a 4/1 through 24 and a run to the end. I got a reward for all this, however, with my 2nd fastest marathon of this era, 4:27:32. I had no wall at all during the race but I felt it at the end, though, with some foot and calf cramps. Race Report here.
The Lesson? The quick start, "banking" 4 sub 9:30 miles early, clearly helped my total time. Psychologically, I realized around mile 16 I had a shot to get under 4:30, so I pushed the effort. With no other race near term, I knew the day stood on its own. So, I got the goal but the cramping at the end demonstrated that the effort took a toll. And many times, that's OK.
One other thing. Many have wondered, openly, if adopting a run/walk strategy in training slows you down. And I have some data on that too.
In between Chicago and Chicamauga, I ran a small half marathon not far from my home, the Muncie Mini Marathon in David Letterman's favorite town, Muncie, Indiana, on October 27, 2012. I wanted some "speed work", using the term very loosely, as I'm not that fast of a guy. I decided to simply run the HM continuously, shooting to go under 1:55. Amazingly, the weather was great again, with temps in the mid 40s on a very flat course, though with a 15mph wind out of the north. My race report is here and below are my mile splits:
Finish time of 1:52:58 (8:38/mile average) was very encouraging. And, yes, there is still some speed in there for a 59 year old guy.
To finish five full marathons with flat courses on good weather days in one calendar year provides a very useful way to analyze running strategies. All five were enjoyable without the "Wall". Four of the five times, the last half of the marathon was quicker than the first half. The only untoward event was some post-race cramps after the quickest of the five.
This is a long post but I wanted to capture all this information in one place...those who are interested in run/walk might benefit. If you have questions, you can see on the side how to contact me...feel free. Thanks for reading.
And, no matter how you run or walk or run/walk, please just persevere.