The results are in, literally. I’ve completed 2 IAAF certified marathons one in which I used the run-walk method (read about that here) and the other in which I ran start to finish.
Hawkes Bay Marathon 13th May 2017 = 2:45:52 (Garmin file)
Wellington Marathon 18th June 2017 = 2:43:18 (Garmin file)
There it is, running a marathon without walking is faster by 2min34sec. BUT, and this is a big but, there is a lot more to take into consideration when looking at these results.
The reason I did this experiment was to show the mass running population that there is more than one way to skin a cat or in this instance, train for and run a successful marathon. The run-walk method shouldn’t be looked at as something that will allow you to run faster than your abilities or current fitness level. Instead it acts as a safety net that stops you from stuffing up your race. What I mean is that most people start a marathon too hard and slow at the end. By using the run-walk method, you eliminate or at least significantly reduce the risk of doing this by forcing yourself to slow down over the first ½ – ⅔ by having walk breaks. This means when you get to the last 10 or so kilometers you haven’t over exerted yourself. The other potential benefit is that as you walk, you’re better able to absorb fluid and nutrients as well as recruit different muscles and lower your heart rate. All of which may help to give you that little boost at the end. If you look at the splits of my last 6km, you’ll see what I mean.
As for my race comparison. I believe my times are equivalent because we had a lot better conditions in Wellington for the 1st 30km compared to Hawkes Bay where we had a staunch headwind a majority of the way (it was point-to-point). I’d say the conditions for the last 10km were near identical and I was a lot faster in Hawkes Bay (run-walk) and Wellington. Both races were run on entirely flat courses.
For those interested in the data from my Stryd running power meter it wasn’t too much different between each. Both races could be said to be the same based on the stryd’s range of accuracy (± 2-4%). To summarise I think it’s a bit of a waste of time. There is definitely a space for something along the lines of Stryd but for now it’s just an expensive foot pod.
If you’d like to try the Run-Walk method for yourself you can try one our trainingpeaks plans available here.
PhD Sport Scientist