Week 7 – walking is not cheating!

This week I introduced racewalking into my long run. It has been a real mental thing for me. I have never stopped and had to walk in any half marathons or marathons, and as my mini-ultra is only 8kms more than a marathon, surely I could run the lot??

The successful, the experienced and the wise ultrarunners all racewalk during their events, and make sure they also practice their racewalking in their training. I have read this many times in blogs, books and magazines. Yet it has felt almost like I would be cheating. And end up with a slower time.

With a ~26 km run scheduled for the weekend, I prepared myself by mapping out when I would do any racewalking during the run. In the sage tome by Don Allison, A Step Beyond: A Definitive Guide to Ultrarunning, Tom Kline advises that about 10-15% of the distance to be covered as a whole should be racewalked. OK, so I had a 25.75km run scheduled, thus I would have to allocate 2.57kms to racewalking.

What about the pace?

I have been training for escalating negative splits so it made sense to me to use the racewalk ‘breaks’ to be the trigger to increase pace. It also seemed sensible to use the racewalk breaks to ‘refuel’ if needed (I ended up using the 3rd and 5th racewalk breaks to consume a tube of Gu each time). Kline racewalks at 12-14 mins/mile (or 7.44-8.69 mins/km). A bit quicker than my normal walking pace, but that is fine, I will give it a crack! My plan was to run as follows:

  • first 4km at approx 6.20-6 mins/km pace
  • race walk the next 0.4km at less than 8.6 mins/km
  • 2nd 4km at a pace between 6-5.45 mins/km
  • race walk the next 0.4km as before
  • 3rd 4km at a pace between 5.45-5.30 mins/km
  • race walk the next 0.4km as before
  • 4th 4km at a pace between 5.30-5.15 mins/km
  • race walk the next 0.4km as before
  • 5th 4km at a pace between 5.15-5 mins/km
  • race walk the next 0.4km as before
  • remaining distance at a pace below 5mins/km (to my surprise, I actually ended up doing 4.45-4.38 mins per km for the last few kms).

And how stylish should I look?

Well I assumed I would look something akin to a cross between Forrest Gump and the olympic racewalkers. Kline’s instructions are to adopt the racewalking style as much as possible. There would not be any rude dude popping into my lane with a disqualification sign if I bend my knee on occasion, so I didn’t have to be religious about technique. Kline’s guidance is to racewalk upright, not leaning forward, swing the arms in front of the body like a pendulum with a bend of approx 45 degrees at the elbow, momentarily straighten the knee of the striking foot, and strike with the heel.

Awkward! But, OK – what have I got to loose except my stylish reputation?

The result?

I was surprised at the ease with which I moved up in my pace brackets of running after each racewalk ‘break’. Often I was running at a pace faster than I had planned soon after the racewalking, so had to slow myself down. Where I had assumed I would fatigue towards the last 5kms or so, I was running at 5mins/km and faster with ease and had very little trouble with my breathing, and more importantly – very little trouble from my legs!

My final distance and time was 26.01km in 2:30.57. Average speed of 5:48mins/km, max speed of 4:09mins/km. Fastest km (the final km): 4:38mins. Number of laps of The Tan: 6 (yes, 6 times up Anderson Street hill).

In conclusion

Racewalking is not cheating, nor does it slow you down.  : )  It seems to refresh the muscles somewhat, possibly due to the slightly different use of them to propel you forward. And finally – yep: listen to the folks who have done it a million times before. They do know!

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4 Responses to Week 7 – walking is not cheating!

  1. Greg says:

    Very interesting post and something that as a newbie runner I enjoyed learning new ideas and techniques. Only recently found this blog, but loving learning and will certainly keep follwoing. I am just working my way up to my first half, so looking at your distances is scary but inspiring as well.

    • ultraprimed says:

      Hi Greg.
      Thanks for your support! Good on you for aiming for your first half-marathon! It is quite an achievement, and a stretch beyond the 10k fun runs that are proliferate.

  2. Carol says:

    I went to a running clinic that one of the fellows at work held recently – he’s done about 40 marathons and a handful of ultra marathons, so I figure he knows what he’s talking about. 🙂 He tells me time and time again that there’s no shame in walking. It’s all about the endurance. So my longest run (without stopping) now is 5.4km and that has me jumping for joy. And I’m about to enter an 8km run. Will I run the lot, who knows? But there’s no shame in walking. Although I can’t quite do the jiggy jig race walking, but I’m intrigued at it giving you that extra stamina.

    Love your blog.

    • ultraprimed says:

      Hi Carol, I have never been to a running clinic or gone to a coach, but have always wanted to. Did you find it useful? I completely agree with you in the endurance comment. Even though some days I need a bit of motivation to start my long runs, the hours in the legs they bring make doing half marathons and marathons so much easier – well, they are never ‘easy’, but I think you get my point 😉
      Good luck on your first 8k!

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