If you think that you will walk any of the run then this article might help. The strategy took 45 min out of an athlete of my run time. I'd use it in your training as well.
Bobby McGee is a full time running coach and the author of Magical Running. He is also a columnist for the South African edition of Runnerís World. Born in South Africa, Bobby now lives in Boulder. He currently coaches or has coached several world class athletes. His website is www.bobbymcgee.com, and there you can find information on his personal coaching, gait analysis, and other services.
EOne: You were a teacher in South Africa. How did you get in involved in coaching?
McGee: In South Africa in those days all teachers coached and I coached cross-country. I started coaching a number of guys across the color line, which we werenít supposed to do and they werenít allowed to do either. Two of those kids were very talented and they were right at the top of the pile in their segregated area, and they wanted to spread their wings. One of them ran a 3:33 1500 meters. As a coach I was traveling to several meets and I was told I was going to have to choose between teaching and running. I became a full time coach in 1992.
EOne: When did you move to the US?
McGee: I starting coming to the US in 1992, after the Olympic Games, to help Colleen De Reuck. I would come her for the spring and fall. The last four years I have been here more or less permanently.
EOne: Whom do you coach?
McGee: Runners of all levels. Sometimes you lose business because people think you are only an elite coach. I also work with some Ironman athletes, helping them with their mechanics. I have been working with Barb Lindquist [Olympic triathlete] for three years. Most of my other clients are age group runners, beginners, and middle of the pack runners.
EOne: As a coach, whom have you learned the most from?
McGee: I was very lucky when I started my coaching career. We were part of the sports embargo, but I traveled extensively in Europe, and people were very open because we werenít considered to be a threat. I was influenced by Steve Ovettí coach Ė Harry Wilson. He used a very simple and very linear approach that was easy to apply across a group of athletes. Another coach who had a strong influence, but was eccentric, was Frank Horwill. He designed Sebastian Coeís programs, working with his father.
I came at it from a middle distance background. I always believed in strong before long. I believe in more quality. I believed an athlete had to be strong before they could do the long distance. Iíd have marathoners do hill training before having them doing 15 and 16 mile tempo runs.
Bobby incorporates walking for several of his athletes, and our conversation took a rather large tangent on that topic.
EOne: How do you convince an athlete to try walking?
McGee: I would prove it to that athlete first. Go out for your usual 3 hour or 2 hour long run. You know how fast you usually do it. Do exactly the same run but run for 10 minutes and then walk one minute. Do it from the beginning. Without fail people tell me that they were faster.
EOne: Why do you prescribe walking in a marathon?
McGee: You will have much more consistent and predictable results with walk-run. You will digest better. You will maintain your vascularity better. Iíve always been a very firm believer that the legs drive the heart and not vice-versa. Blood is coming up from the legs because the muscles are contracting Ė the heart doesnít pump it. In a marathon your legs get weaker and your heart rate goes down. When you do the walk-run the rest helps you maintain the run strength and keep your blood flowing. You will be able to have a higher heart rate and itís mentally easier. The one caveat is that you have to train like that. For 3:30 to 5:30 marathoners run-walk will beat the pants off the run system. The only downside of it is the minimal loss of speed.
You will find as soon as an athlete puts their heel down, the blood is able to flush out of the calves and quads. If you look at marathoners that are 2:45 and slower, if they want to run nine minute miles, they will walk one tenth of every mile in 14 minute pace. I have people run for 10 minutes and then walk for one minute, or variations of that. Doing this, they donít have the classic dropoff at the end of a race. These people will report that toward the end of the race they start passing people in droves.
Do you have your elite athletes incorporate walking into their training?
Yes. If you take Barb Lindquist, who does not have the best mechanics, if she has to do a two hour run she would break down. She would very seldom, if ever, run more than 45 minutes without walking. For Carrie Messner [All-American collegiate runner and world class post-collegiate steeplechaser] I have her do a five minute walk, then 4X15 minutes of running with one minute breaks, and then a five minute walk at the end. She would do that twice a week most of the year.
EOne: Youíve mentioned that you think even ironman competitors that can run a sub 3 hour marathon would benefit from walking. What would you prescribe?
McGee: I would look at their body weight, their dropoff from a 10k to a marathon, using a race prediction chart, and from a marathon to an ironman marathon. Is it a 20-25 minute difference, or is it greater. If they are a heavier runner, 165-175 pounds, with a bigger build and a bigger body surface area, and if they had bigger than normal dropoffs, I would have them run ten minutes on, one minute off. The better the mechanics, the less the dropoff, I would give them less walking. I would give them 15 seconds of walking each 10 minutes. You will maintain a more consistent pace.
EOne: What common mistakes do you see in runners?
McGee: Iím amazed at training regimens. How can you expect to get better if you keep doing something in the same way? People follow a very rigid routine and they get the same results. Iím also amazed how many people, especially women, do their easy days too hard, and they canít go hard enough on their quality days.
In terms of form, the three main things I see are overstriding, relying too much on strength, and too little rhythm. Bad form comes from having a weak core. They never work on mid-level and deep level muscles.
I look at guyís inseam and if they are anywhere from 34 or lower, their cadence should be 90 and above. For a higher cadence the first thing you need to do is bend your forearms to get the angle less than 90 degrees, and donít let it get away from you. The second thing is real simple Ė remember that running happens behind you. Donít reach and pull, you push and land. I donít believe in forefoot striking unless somebody is naturally a forefoot runner.