Are you really a really Real Runner?

On our long run last Saturday ULUR Sister and I were discussing those people who insist that you’re not really a runner if you walk during a race. Or any run.
It’s one of those subjects that – to put it mildly – seems to divide opinion.
Obviously you know which side of the fence I come down on here, and I’ve spoken about it before, but it doesn’t mean I don’t admire people who can just keep running no matter how hard things get. It is pretty amazing to have that kind of strength.

The problem with an all or nothing attitude, as usual, is that it isn’t the best option for everyone. 
See, you’re a Real Runner if you just want to finish the race, so you walk a bit towards the end.
You’re a Real Runner if you walk for 2 minutes for every 20 minutes you run.
You’re a Real Runner if you only run on treadmills, or only run when it’s nice weather or only with friends, or only on your own.


It’s ALL running.
In any arena of life there are certain kinds of people that will always find a way to put you down to make themselves feel better.
I prefer the idea of supporting those around you so you can all improve together.

Maybe you’re reasonably new to running and it is just mentally easier for you to walk every 20 minutes (or whatever). So what if you walk for 5 minutes out of an hour? You still ran for 55 minutes right? Your body remembers those chunks of running. Trust in yourself that you will eventually string longer and longer running times together.

Do what works for you. Putting rules and limits on yourself is the quickest way to ruin your enjoyment of anything.

Still not convinced? Well here’s a more practical idea to consider: you may be faster (or at least not any slower) using the run/walk method. Test it out and see.

Whenever I am doing something really hard my brain tries to logically get me out of it. And one of the things it tries as a Let’s Stop Running NOW excuse is ‘Don’t be stupid, I can walk faster than this!’ I usually ignore that voice and distract myself, or I concentrate on my breathing and making sure my form is good etc etc. (Because there is no quicker way to slow yourself down than to be so hunched over that you can’t get a deep breath in!).

Anyway, sometimes my brain is telling me the truth.

On last saturday’s run we finished up with this reeeeeally long hill…

wonga rd

It’s about 500 metres long, with a steep but – not ridiculous – gradient (thank you Google maps)

…and ULUR Sister and I decided it would be a brilliant idea to challenge ourselves and run the entire thing without stopping even though it was at the very end of a 19k run.
I don’t know why we thought this was a brilliant idea. I guess the previous 18km of pain had turned our brains to mush.
So I settled into granny gear and got going. By about three quarters of the way up I knew I could make it if I wanted to. But…I checked my watch…aaaand I was running 8:25 min/km pace.
Which is pretty damn slow for me to be running.
I thought “this is ridiculous!” and started powerwalking instead, only to see my pace drop from 8:25 down to 8:15.


The run was ULUR Sister’s longest run to date, she is training for the Run Melbourne Half Marathon at the end of July. Congrats my dear – you smashed it!!

gayle yarra

ULUR Sister managing just fine at the turnaround point on the bridge at Warrandyte

So my advice in the run vs. walk argument would be to know how fast you can do both and practice knowing when (and if) to switch.
This tactic is more likely to help when you are running longer distances, and at some point most ultra runners walk during a race, so for me it’s never been an issue, just something I plan for and work into my training.
However, I am a fast walker and some people just aren’t; get to know your speeds.
(In other words, yes, all you shortarses out there are probably better off running the whole thing).
Next time you’re out on a longer run try checking your pace during a hilly portion.
Run some of it then powerwalk some of it. And I do mean powerwalking. Not ambling along, or checking your phone, or eating. Full on arms-swinging, knees-lifted, hips-swinging powerwalking. And see which is better for your pace.

Me? Well the fastest walking pace I’ve ever managed during a race is about 7:30.
On hills it’s been up around 8:00. For really steep sections it could be as high as 8:30. So if I am tired on a long run it is well worth powerwalking to recover. Losing 30 seconds by walking, refuelling and letting yourself recover over a few minutes of walking so you’re strong enough to keep going is a pretty good swap as far as I am concerned.
Some people don’t find it any easier to powerwalk. As in it doesn’t help them to recover.
Others find it impossible to start running again once they stop.
For these and many other reasons, run/walking may not be for you. Practice during training to see if it is a suitable tactic for your race.
And whatever you do, do not try this (or anything new for that matter!) for the first time on race day.


Need further validation? If this is you, congrats! You’re a Real Runner

As far as I am concerned, if you are getting out there running a few times a week, signing up for races, doing speedwork or hill reps or trying in any way to improve your running, well, you are a Real Runner. I’ve been running for over 5 years now and it all started in the first place because I was bored of walking and decided to see what would happen if I ran for a bit.
I used to run only 10 minutes out of an hour. To say I started out slowly was an understatement.

Now? Well I am about to run my fifth marathon, my first trail marathon and begin training for an ultra marathon.
So don’t try and tell me that walking during a run means I’m not a runner!

P.S. Talk about serendipity. Just as I finished writing this, a new post from a blog I follow called No Meat Athlete landed in my inbox: How to enjoy running (and how to get over feeling like you’re not a Real Runner). It’s worth a read.

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