Sunday, November 25, 2012

Galloway's Run/Walk--Five Marathons Compared

Since 2007, I've been using Jeff Galloway's Run/Walk/Run method as my key strategy in training and in races longer than a half-marathon. As a student of systems, I've tried to learn from my experience.  I've also tried to pass along what I've learned so others might benefit.  Here's my first post on the method from September, 2008 and then my second from last December, which focused on the nuts and bolts of using this method.  And here's the post of the combined experience of Jeff and me in the same race, the 2009 Portland Marathon.  This post adds further data.

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 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 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. 

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Race Report: Fight Hunger 5K, Thanksgiving Day

ORN:  5K, 23:24, 7:33/mile; a new 5K PR

It was a fun Thanksgiving Morning.  Our local Fleet Feet store did a wonderful thing by sponsoring the Race Against Hunger 5K.  I liked the simplicity and sincerity of this race...I liked it a lot.  No entry fee.  No T shirts.  Asked folks to bring some non-perishable food for our local Food Finders Food Bank.  

And did people ever respond.  Exceeding the expectations of the organizers, I would guess 300ish people showed up on a beautiful Thanksgiving morning in Indiana to run, walk and see friends.  In the entry area was a huge mound of foodstuffs brought in and that didn't include the big pile the store collected the day before at their shop.  They ended up with four truckloads of food and $1,400 in cash cool is that??  

The race was fun too.  Our son Matt is home for Thanksgiving and he was keen on running.  So, we jogged over to the start line, less than a mile from our house, hung out a bit and saw friends, including a few folks Matt remembered from High School.  He then moved up in the start pack, as he wanted to run it hard.  

I fell in with Tim, Vicki and daughter Abbey who have been friends for many years.  

And Tim pulled me along wonderfully.  Miles were 7:31, 7:43, 7:32 and a 7:12 pace to the end, to finish with a 10 second PR of 23:24.  Amazingly, it didn't even seem that hard...nice to have a personal  rabbit like Tim!

Matt took off early and did well at 22:30.  His conditioning has really paid off for him.  

It was a great start to Thanksgiving, both personally and for our community.  Terrific to do this with Matt as well.  I hope you all have/had a good Thanksgiving as well.



Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Race Report: Chicamuaga Battlefield Marathon

ORN:   26.2 miles, 4:27:32, various ratios, 10:13/mile

Quick Summary:  It was great to be with running friends.  Icing on the marathoning cake was it becoming my 2nd fastest marathon.

Gory Details:

This whole race emerged as a possibility early in 2012 when Darrell starting hunting for the next additions to his trek towards marathons in all 50 States.  Both of you long-time blog readers will recall Darrell and I first met in December, 2006 when I hosted his Indiana race.  We hit it off and have run at least one marathon together each year since.  For our race together in 2007, fellow blogger Wes joined us in Huntsville, Alabama.  We'd talked about all meeting up again and it all lined up for the Chicamauga Battlefield Marathon on November 10 in Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia, about an hour north of Atlanta.  Darrell clocked his state #24, Wes and his wife DeeDee welcomed us to their home and I got to run in shorts in November.

Darrell, Joe, Wes--pre race

Logistics were fun.  Darrell priced all sorts of flights from Los Angeles, got a deal to fly into Nashville, which was on my way.  So I picked him up in Music City Friday afternoon, we drove on to Wes' house, started the conversations and were up at oh-dark-thirty on Saturday morning to get to the race site.  Wes had run this race several times and it is so good to have a local guide!  DeeDee joined us for the day with her keen photographic eye and thus all the pictures here are her high-resolution handiwork.  

The timing worked well...we got through packet pick up, necessary ablutions and  were in the pack of about 1,600 runners just a few minutes before the race started.  DeeDee knew what to expect at the start and positioned herself precisely to see the Civil War replica cannon blast to send us off.  No photoshoping here, folks...this is a great picture and done with perfect timing!!

New meaning to the term "starting gun"

The three of us discussed just what our race strategy was going to be.  Since we are all very polite guys, we all deferred to each other for the better part of the drive from Atlanta to the race site.  We settled on a rhythm of running to each mile marker, then walking 30 seconds.  With such a plan, we rumbled off into the woods through the beautiful National Park though which this race winds.  The day was sunny and crisp, temperatures around 40 at the start.  The course was all asphalt with just enough roll to make it interesting.  The conversation was great and we were enjoying it to the hilt.  The early miles clipped by in the 9:20s. 

At about mile 4.5, however, I began to sense in my breathing was quicker than I expect to see early in a marathon.  I mentioned this to Darrell and Wes; Darrell knows me well, took a quick look in my eye and realized I had settled the matter in my mind already.  We wished each other well and off they went.  I then settled into a 3/1 run/walk sequence and found my breathing back where I wanted it after a couple of cycles.  Of course, it meant the pace of 9:20ish for the first 4 miles was now to about 10:35 per mile.  But I sensed I was at a pace I could handle.  

Through it all, I was really enjoying the run through the historic Civil War battlefield setting.  The Park was full of markers commerating the units from both sides who fought on this ground.  DeeDee got a shot to honor my current home state here.  

Around mile 8, I saw DeeDee by the side of the road.  She asked where Darrell and Wes were.  They should have passed you already, I replied.  She was dissappointed to have missed them, yet perplexed, as the field was well spread out by this point.  Just then, behind me, I hear the two of them shouting "How did you get ahead of us??"  We were all befuddled, remembering a slight detour a mile or so previous to add a bit of distance for the half marathoners, who zigged while the marathon course zagged and then met up again.  Much to their dismay, the two of them took the wrong route and added about a third of a mile to their day.  It we commiserated a bit and off the two of them went again, DeeDee snapping a photo of our better angles as we ambled off.  

Mile 8--reunited briefly

I continued with my 3/1 pace, just enjoying the day and feeling good.  The course was scenic and varied between wooded areas and open fields.  The sun was brilliant, there was no wind and it seemed like things were lining up for a good race.  

Typical scene along the route

As I finished the first of the two grand laps through the park, I decided to see if I could accelerate a bit.  After hitting the 13.1 timing mat in 2:12:40 (itself encouraging), I bumped my run/walk pace to 4/1 and saw my mile times drop to nearer 10:25.  I hit a wonderful groove.  And isn't it so interesting in marathons how the deeper you go, the more quickly the miles seem to click by.  Before I knew it I was at mile 16, still feeling fine.  

About this time, I pulled out my universal pacing chart, did some math and realized I had a legitimate shot at going under four and a half hours for the marathon.  I had seriously wondered if I could ever get under 4:30 again...I'm not getting any younger and that usually means not any faster.  On reflection, I realized I'd need everything to line up well to get under that mark and today was the day; a friendly course on a cool day with fresh legs.  If I was to get it done, this was my shot.  The race quickly became competitive...with myself.  

I saw DeeDee once more, she handed me a timely banana and it was time to focus for an hour towards the finish line.  

Mile 19-mugging for the camera, asking for a banana

Fine tuning the math as I moved along, I realized a 4:30 finish simply required me to hold the current 10:20 pace to the finish line.  So I stayed with the 4/1, conserving energy, knowing the Wall might hit but also knowing it didn't have to.  I also decided, if I felt good at the time, to run the final 2.2 miles if I could and, gasp, get well under 4:30 on this day on which conditions were all favorable.  

And so it came about.  Miles 18-24 went smoothly.  I had only one twinge during this stretch in my left quad for about 30 seconds -- one walk cycle took care of that.  My last walk cycle came as I saw the mile 24 marker just ahead of me.  I turned off the beeper and leaned into the race, absorbing what was happening.  Mile 25 was fun, at 9:41, taking me to the point I could hear the loudspeaker from the finish line drawing us home.  I hit a little fatigue during mile 26 and it slowed me to a 9:52 but by that point I had only 385 yards to go, which clipped by at a 9:00 pace.  Marathon #33 was in the books.  

Done--first glimpse of finish time.

When I saw the time on my watch, it was a thrill. I appreciate DeeDee capturing my joy in this photo.  4:27:32.  Indeed, well under four and a half hours.  This was the second fastest marathon of this running era, bested only by the 4:21:01 in Portland in October, 2006.  And, I reminded myself, I ran continually in that race, wiped out my ITB and didn't run for nearly 4 months afterwards.  

I should add that I did feel some ill effects from the effort.  I had some cramping in my feet and calves post race, which I had to walk off.  They did fade, as water, electrolytes and food helped.  But I have not seen even minor cramping during recent marathons in the 4:40-4:50 range.  Yet the cramps were worth it...I got under 4:30, the target that became visible with 10 miles left in the race. 

We three amigos met up and basked in the now 60 degree sunshine.  There is something special about getting through such a physical task, sane, thankful for the privilege.  Even better to share it with friends.  

Darrell, Wes, Joe, post race, happy.

Thanks so much, Wes, for hosting us, DeeDee for tolerating these guys invading your life, and Darrell for being a pal.  It was terrific to be together.  

Persevere.  And if you can do it with friends, all the better.