For many runners, walking is a sign of failure; they only walk when they literally can no longer run. We have all walked at some point. In fact, a good method to build up mileage when you first start training is to alternate running and walking. You run a mile, walk a bit, and then run another mile and repeat. As we progress into our running career we tend to work more on time because we can run virtually any distance we need. But what if you could run a faster marathon by walking strategically?

For people who are completing a marathon in 4 hours or more, mixing some brief walks into your marathon can actually cut your time. What you do is plan to walk for 60 seconds after every few miles you run, even if you don’t really feel like you have to. Although this is counterintuitive, here are some reasons it’s not as crazy as it sounds:

  • Walking 60 seconds doesn’t actually lose you 60 seconds. The real loss is significantly lower because you are still covering ground while you walk.
  • Run-walkers tend to go slightly faster in the run segments than they would if they ran without stopping. For instance, you may find yourself being passed by someone while you walk but then you actually pass them and gain ground on them while your run.
  • Run-walkers tend to hold their pace longer. That one minute rest can save your legs and energy and push “the wall” deeper into the race.
  • Psychologically, you know you get a break at certain intervals so those 26.2 miles don’t seem quite so daunting anymore.
  • Many runners have tried this and reported decreased finishing times. In particular, 4-hour marathoners and above see great improvements.

Think of those terrible last 5 miles where you walked at a 15-minute pace, barely able to stand up. Wouldn’t it be better to walk a little throughout than to limp home?