Updated: Oct 5, 2021
"Giving up on my very public 2:40 goal was the most critical and hardest decision of my race."
Run for 19min walk for 1min - repeat
In my initial blog, I wrote about using the run-walk method to run a sub 2:40 marathon. (read that article here). The plan was to run for 19min @ 3:42min/km and walk 1min @ at least 10min/km. Repeating this six times would take me through to 32km, from which point I would run the remaining 10km. Although I may not have been able to run my goal time of 2hrs 40min, as you’ll read below, I was able to make up a 4min deficit at 31km to go from 4th to 2nd over the closing few kms.
Change in Plans - Run to the Conditions
The Hawkes Bay marathon is a point-to-point run, and unfortunately, we had a headwind almost the entire way. Luckily, I had run the event the year before and knew before the race I needed to abort my plan to run a specific time and instead run by feel. Giving up on my very public 2:40 goal was the most critical and hardest decision of my race. That wasn’t the only alteration I made to my initial plan - I also decided that rather than sticking to the 19-1 run-walk schedule, I would instead use the aid stations as my walking points because they were 5km apart (pretty much 19min) and I would be able to drink more comfortably.
Having made those alterations, I knew all I had to do was stay in control and stick to the plan. That may sound easy enough, but I’m not going to lie when you stop and walk at the 1st aid station, you feel like a complete idiot. I felt especially stupid because I was running in 3rd place at the time, and it only got worse as I watched the podium spots run completely out of sight by half-way. However, the main reason for incorporating the run-walk method is to avoid over-pacing early to allow for a strong finish rather than feeling like you're going to die for the last 5-10km. For a perfect example of this scenario, have a look at my splits Vs the splits of the runners who placed 3rd and 4th
You Slow Down; I Speed Up
As you can see, I ran the last 5km of the marathon 4-5min faster than the two guys, who were ahead of me by 4min at 31km, both of whom had committed to running the entire way. I can’t speak for these guys or say for sure this wouldn’t have played out the same if I had run the whole way. However, the run-walk method acts like a safety net that helps ensure you won’t get drawn into that first ¼ hype and run beyond your means because you feel good.
I hope the first part of this experiment has opened up the possibility to some runners that there’s more than one way to run a marathon. If I can do it at the pointy end of the race, then it should be worth a crack for the majority of runners out there, especially all those long-distance triathletes.
If you’d like to try the run-walk for yourself, I’ve put together some training plans which are available within the Endurance Training Hub. If you’d like a more personalised plan, you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A little extra for the number geeks;
The primary pacing feedback I used during the marathon was perceived exertion and average pace for each lap. Although I was using a Stryd running power meter, I didn’t look at the power numbers because I’m not wholly confident in the stryd just yet. I’m currently working on calculating training zones based on the critical power method and the Maffetone heart rate formula. According to my critical power of 404 Watts tested two weeks before the race and my average marathon power of 324 Watts, I ran at 80-85% of my critical power. This is very similar to what you’d expect from cycling as well, although the numbers themselves will be a lot different from cycling. (Read more about critical power here).
Dr Will O'Connor
Educating and Inspiring athletes to train smarter