During the past week I fretted somewhat as to how things would go today on my 22 mile long run. After seeing how my 15 mile long run went last Saturday as I consistently took walking breaks every 2 miles and how much it helped, I decided to do a little research into the Jeff Galloway method of run-walk-run. I don't have any of his books, but I have read through his website several times and after watching a multitude of YouTube video clips featuring him, I decided to give his method a try on this morning's run. For those of you unfamiliar with Jeff Galloway, he was on the 1976 Olympic running team in the 10,000m and an alternate on the marathon team, who now, with over 150 marathons under his belt has written numerous books and does seminars and training groups for marathoners and half-marathoners using his run-walk-run method. The idea is that if you start taking walking breaks right from the first mile of your long runs, you "re-set" your muscles and avoid premature muscle fatigue, leaving you with more energy at the end of the run. You base your running to walking ratio on your minute per mile pace, so for example, someone like me who does a 10-11 min./mile pace on shorter runs, would run for 3 minutes, then walk for 1 minute and do that the entire time.
So this morning I woke up at 4:45, ate a Clif energy bar and drank a little water, got my gear ready, setting my Garmin to do intervals of 3:1. (Oh, how I LOVE my Garmin!!) I was picked up by my friend at around 5:30 and we headed up to the start of the marathon route. There were 7 of us running, two women running 12 miles in preparation for the half marathon, the other 5 of us running 22+. I started doing my "new" method, and at first it felt a little weird to be taking a walking break after only running for 3 minutes, but after doing it a couple of times, I started to embrace the idea that each time I walked for that minute, my legs were resting and I would picture in my mind how I would feel strong at 20 miles, instead of being half-dead like I usually am. At around mile 3 or 4, I was alone...the rest of the runners had moved ahead since they were not taking any breaks yet. I heard a noise off in the trees, a huffing, low moan, and as I looked over to my right I saw a moose in a small clearing just off the side of the road and up a little hill. I started to panic for just a moment as I realized that if that was a mother with a calf, I might be in trouble, but thankfully it just stood there staring at me as I picked up my pace to high-tail it out of there!
Anyway, by mile 6 I had actually caught up with the two (older) guys we were running with and they pretty much stayed with me the rest of the run, even taking on my 3:1 run-walk method. Having them to talk to made it go by much faster, but even aside from that I noted a noticeable difference in how I felt during the second half of today's run compared with my 20 miler two weeks ago. Even at typically one of the hardest points for me, at around 18 miles, I was starting to really feel my legs weakening, but mentally using this method made a HUGE difference - I only had to run for 3 minutes at a time before I got to take a 1 minute walking break, and knowing those breaks were coming so soon kept me going steady. By the time my husband reached us to give us all a ride back home, we had gone just over 22 miles, and get this...it only took us 3 hours and 58 minutes! For me that is an average pace of 11:12 min/mile. That is the fastest time I've ever had on a run that long, or even any run over 17 miles for that matter! So even with all the walking breaks, I still kept a really good pace. I am definitely going to use this method on marathon day. My only complaint about today's run is that it was pretty hot, especially during the second half, and I ran out of water around mile 20 so I was really wishing for an aid-station or something! ;) Luckily I had planned ahead a little bit and stocked a cooler in our car with enough chocolate milks for all of us so when my husband picked us up, we could indulge! I am very happy that my longest run before the taper went this well. Keeps me excited for the marathon...3 weeks away, baby - third time's a charm! ☺
P.S. My knee did bother me a little bit, but I wore my knee brace and the pain was minimal. I attribute it to the frequent walk breaks.