If you’ve ever taken a break to walk during a run or race because you were tired or out of breath, and then started running again when you felt better, that’s incorporating walking into your run.

Now, when we talk about the run-walk method, it’s about having a plan. You set specific times to walk during your run, not just when you feel like it.

Using the run-walk method has many advantages, and we’ll dive into them further in this article. 

It’s a very effective way of running that can work for any race length and is great for people of all fitness levels.

In this article, we’ll look into the following:

  • What Is The Run-Walk Method,
  • What Are The Benefits Of Using The Run-Walk Method, 
  • How To Implement The Run-Walk Method In Your Chicago Marathon Training

Can’t wait?

Let’s dive right in!

What Is The Run-Walk Method

The Run-Walk method, popularised by runner and coach Jeff Galloway in the 1970s, is exactly what it sounds like. 

Instead of running continuously during a race or your training, you mix in some walking breaks. It’s a way to help you cover the distance without getting too tired.

You don’t need to be a pro athlete to use this strategy. Any runner, regardless of experience level, can benefit from it. 

It’s not just for those at the back of the race; even some top runners use it.

So, when you’re out for a run, you don’t have to run all the way until you’re completely worn out. Plan short walking breaks along your route. 

These breaks can make a big difference, especially on long runs or when you encounter a tough hill.

Imagine you’re running a marathon, for example. Instead of pushing yourself to run the whole time, you might run for a bit, like 5 minutes, and then take a short 1-minute walk break. Repeat this pattern. 

It helps your legs feel less tired and lets you keep going for longer.

But here’s the catch: You’ve got to find the right balance that works for you. You can adjust how much you run and how much you walk depending on how you’re feeling and the type of terrain you’re on. 

So, if you’re tackling a steep hill, it’s absolutely okay to take more walk breaks. On the flip side, when you’re running downhill, you might not need as many breaks.

This strategy can be a game changer if you often get cramps or feel uncomfortable during long runs. It’s all about finding what suits you best and sticking to a routine that keeps you feeling good and going strong. 

So, what’s great about the Run-Walk method? 

What Are The Benefits Of Using The Run-Walk Method

Helps You Go Farther

By taking walking breaks, your body gets a chance to reset. This delays fatigue by reducing the eccentric load on your legs and letting you keep moving forward. 

You might surprise yourself by running longer distances than you thought possible.

Great For Beginners

If you’re just starting to run, using the Run-Walk method can make you feel more in control of your workout. It lets you take short walking breaks, so you don’t get too tired. 

This can help you cover more ground and feel less intimidated by running. You’ll be more motivated to stick with it and build your running skills.

Less Stressful

Besides the physical benefits, taking walk breaks can also make running less stressful mentally. 

It helps you feel more in control of your workout, making running feel less intimidating.

Easier Endurance Building

For beginners and those looking to build endurance, the Run-Walk method can be effective. It allows you to gradually increase the distance you can cover without stopping, which, in turn, can lead to faster overall running times.

Prevention of Overheating

Running continuously at a high intensity can lead to overheating. Walking intervals allow your body to cool down slightly, making it easier to maintain a faster pace without overheating.

Better Enjoyment

For many runners, the Run-Walk method can make running more enjoyable. It breaks up the monotony of continuous running, making it mentally and emotionally easier to stay motivated during long training runs.

Enhanced Consistency

Many runners find the Run-Walk method helps them maintain consistency in their training. It can be easier to stick to a training plan when you know you have built-in breaks, making it more likely that you’ll complete your scheduled workouts.

Conservation of Energy

Walking intervals allow you to conserve energy, especially during long runs or races. By not pushing yourself to the brink of exhaustion, you’ll have more energy in reserve for faster-running intervals.

Reduces Injuries

If you’ve had an injury before, are dealing with a minor one, or want to avoid getting hurt, the Run-Walk method is a great choice. 

During the walking parts, you are exposing your legs to less eccentric load or stress, reducing the risk of injury from doing the same motion over and over.

Improves Recovery

Walking breaks act like quick rest periods during your run. 

They prevent your body from getting too tired and help your running muscles recover. 

This means you can run longer without feeling exhausted. After your run, you’ll also recover faster with less muscle soreness.

Helps Keep You Focused 

If you tend to worry about finishing a long run, the Run-Walk method can help you stay focused on the moment. 

You’ll pay attention to when you run and when you walk, which keeps your mind on the segment you’re in, instead of stressing about all the miles ahead.

The Downside Of The Run-Walk Approach

One potential downside that some runners might mention about the Run-Walk method is that during a big race, when the atmosphere is electric, and you’re pumped up by the crowd and fellow runners, it can be challenging to stick to your planned walking breaks.

Imagine you’re in the middle of a race, people are cheering, and you’re filled with excitement and motivation. You might be “in the zone” and really want to keep running instead of taking those scheduled walks.

However, some runners find ways to adapt. 

They might adjust their plan on the fly and take shorter or fewer walking breaks to match their race-day energy. 

Others stick to their plan, knowing that the walk breaks will help them finish strong, even if it means missing out on a bit of that racing buzz.

Despite the challenge of sticking to your run-walk plan on race day, it’s clear that this approach offers numerous benefits that outweigh the drawbacks.

Now, let’s look into how you can train using the Run-Walk approach…

How To Train Using The Run-Walk Method 

Once you’ve decided to give the Run-Walk method a shot, the next step is finding the right balance between running and walking that suits you best.

Galloway conducted extensive research and suggests that most runners don’t need more than a 30-second walking break, no matter how long the running segment is. 

You can also find a helpful calculator on his website that can assist you in figuring out the right Run-Walk ratio for your needs.

But here’s what I need you to keep in mind; What works for one runner might not work for another. 

So, the best approach is to experiment with different Run-Walk ratios until you discover what feels right and works best for you. It’s a matter of trial and error.

Here at Coach Parry, we’re big proponents of the Run-Walk strategy, and here’s how to incorporate it into your Chicago Marathon training plan effectively:

You don’t need to use the Run-Walk method on every training run. 

The best place to practice it is during your long runs (any run longer than an hour) so that you can establish a comfortable rhythm. Remember, it’s not about how much running or walking you do; it’s about finding a routine that works for you right from the start.

Begin with a Run-Walk sequence like running for three minutes and walking for one minute, especially for the first 10 km (6.2 miles). 

If you’re further back in the field, you might benefit from more frequent intervals. 

If you’re a beginner, consider starting with 60-90 seconds of walking every 2 to 4 kilometers (1.2 to 2.4 miles) is a sensible approach. It allows new runners to build stamina gradually and get used to the rhythm of walk breaks. 

Adding extra walk breaks on hills is a smart strategy since hills can be particularly challenging.

If you’re an intermediate runner, moving on to 60-90 seconds of walking every 4 to 6 kilometers (2.4 to 3.7 miles) is a step up in intensity. 

Intermediate runners have likely built more endurance, so you can stretch out your running intervals while still benefiting from walk breaks, especially on longer runs.

For advanced runners, incorporating 60-90 seconds of walking every 6 to 8 kilometers (3.7 to 5 miles) is an approach that allows for a higher level of continuous running. 

These runners have developed significant stamina, but they can still use walk breaks strategically, especially in the latter stages of long races.

For steep or extended hills, try a 1-minute run followed by 1 minute of walking, or adapt it to your comfort level, like running 2 poles and walking 1 pole. 

Adapt your strategy to the terrain. 

When you encounter a hill, don’t push yourself to run the entire way if you’ve just had a walk break. 

Similarly, don’t be reluctant to take walk breaks downhill; it can prevent fatigue and help your muscles recover.

Start practicing the Run-Walk method early in your training cycle to get comfortable with it. This will make it easier to implement during the Chicago Marathon.

Always aim to take a short walk before you feel you absolutely need it. This proactive approach will keep you feeling fresher and help improve your overall speed in the long run.

The Best Run-Walk Ratio For The Chicago Marathon 

Given the Chicago Marathon’s cut-off time of 6 hours and 30 minutes, it’s important to approach the run-walk method wisely.

But what is the best run-walk ratio? 

Determining the best run-walk ratio is a highly individualized process that depends on your preferences and race time goals. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer because what works best for one person may not work as effectively for another

So, the key is to find a run-to-walk ratio that works for you while keeping your race time goal in mind.

This ratio allows you to maintain a steady and consistent pace when you run, which is essential for reaching your target marathon time.

For instance, you may train by running for 90 seconds and walking for 30 seconds to run 1 mile in 10 minutes. 

Then, continue doing this throughout the entire run. 

Additionally, you can choose your run-walk ratio based on your mileage. You could run for 1 mile (1.6km) and walk for 30 seconds).

It’s very important to keep in mind that running requires different muscles from walking, so even if you can complete a marathon with ease, using the run-walk technique is quite different. 

For this reason, you must use the run-walk technique during your long runs and training.

Is the Run-Walk Method Better Than Just Running?

The best way to finish a marathon or a long race is to do what suits your body the best.

In many cases, runners discover that they can adapt and recover better if they include walk breaks in their runs.

This method is often seen as a safer way to train and race, with a lower risk of injury. It can be especially good for new runners or those who tend to get injured easily.

However, it’s important to note that many marathon runners complete the whole race by running continuously and doing just fine. 

For some, using the run-walk-run method gives them a mental boost to finish a marathon.

Who Can Benefit From The Run-Walk Method?

The Run-Walk method is versatile and can benefit a wide range of individuals, including:

  • New runners
  • Those recovering from injuries or prone to injuries
  • Individuals aiming to improve endurance without feeling burned out
  • Runners who find their runs stressful or unpleasant
  • Those facing challenges in training for a race

In a nutshell, it’s important to know that everyone’s different when it comes to running. What works for you might not be the best for the next runner, and it’s crucial to train in a way that keeps you safe from injuries.

The run-walk-run method is a neat trick for both amateurs and pros in running. 

During your training, try different run-walk ratios to see what feels best for you and keeps your breathing comfy. It can make a big difference on race day.


Devlin Eyden has a passion for seeing his athletes grow and excel. From novice runners or cyclists across all disciplines to elite mountain bikers representing South Africa at World Championships. In addition to helping you ride faster, for longer, Devlin also has the personal touch when it comes to your bike setup, aiming at improving the overall rider experience. With his background as a Sport Scientist as well as a Strength & Conditioning specialist, performance is Devlin’s main priority, be it in the gym, the lab or out on the road or trails. Being a keen runner & cyclist and having completed the Cape Epic among others, Devlin has first hand experience in what it take to reach your goals. If you’re looking for a once-off training program or ongoing, high touch support Devlin has you covered.

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