Thursday, April 9, 2009

The “Runalker”

For months I have been confused about my orientation. No, not that orientation! My racing orientation – am I a walker? A runner? Both? Neither?

For my three marathons, there was no confusion. I was a walker, plain and simple. I walked the first marathon in about 6 hours 35 minutes, the second in about 6 hours 14 minutes, and the third in about 5 hours 57 minutes. The first one, in Anchorage, was in a cold rain, and I got bad blisters from wet socks at about 12 miles. The second one, in San Diego, was also purely walking, and included standing in line for 9 minutes for my first porta-potty stop. So really, I rationalized, I walked a marathon in nearly 6 hours if you take that 9 minutes standing around off. Last year, in Phoenix, I did break 6 hours for the first time, but for the last 10-12 miles, I ran the first two minutes of each mile, so I probably ran about 2 - 2.5 miles of the 26.2. That race also involved standing uselessly in a line for 7 minutes, and when no one came out of the porta-potty I just started walking again. So clearly, I really was closer to 5:50, right?

This year, I started splitting my time between walking and running, and for some time now, I am running more than walking. I am probably running about 70% and walking 30% of the miles. I usually will run for 8 – 10 minutes and walk for 4-5 minutes, then repeat, then repeat again, etc. Sometimes I am running and check my watch every 5 seconds – is it time to start walking yet!!!??? Other times I check my watch and I have been running for 12-15 minutes and didn’t realize it. There are times that every step feels like I am running uphill through sand and others when I am gliding along so effortlessly that I feel like I could run for an hour. How weird is that?

Then in the 10K a couple of weeks ago, I completed it in just over 63 minutes, including stopping to take a half dozen photos along the way. That is a slow pace for good distance runner, but no one but a world class race walker could walk 10 kilometers in that time. I ran about 54 minutes of the race and walked about 9 minutes.

The only thing I can conclude is that I am now a “runalker”. This was really brought home today, when I decided to walk my 4 miles this morning to see how it felt to walk that distance again. It was coldish start to the day – maybe upper 30’s – when I began at 5AM. But in the darkness, I could hear robins and song sparrows singing, and the nearly full moon was a gorgeous and huge orange orb as it slowly set. Now and then this striking moon became partially obscured by clouds so that it looked almost like a lunar eclipse. It was beautiful, and if I were not up early I would have missed it. I did my standard 4 mile route and saw not a soul. The world was still asleep.

When I got done, it hit me – walking is hard! If you are used to running, which I now am doing most of the time, walking is harder in its own way. If you are a walker, then the opposite is true – running is much harder. Since I am both now, they both seem hard at times. A year or so ago, walking a 10 – 12 mile route at a 13.5 to 14 minute pace would have been routine. Now, after just 4 miles at that pace, my legs were tired and complaining.

When I am done with the race in a couple of weeks, I need to find a way to walk more, but also to continue with at least some running. Now that I have become a “runalker”, I don’t want to have to start all over again should I want to run another race, or even try running a marathon or the race part of a triathlon.


TNTcoach Ken said...

I definitely cannot walk for that distance, I would die! I think I run because I can't walk.

Racn4acure said...

One of my teammates, Kristi, is walking the half in Nashville. She will not run a step and is hoping to get to the 2:50 area. I think her PR for walking a half is something like 2:55. A couple of months ago on a super cold training day, I decided to walk with her since none of the other walk team were going more than 6 miles. We walked 11 miles, and were actually keeping ahead of many of the run team who did 12 miles (6 out and 6 back). She can walk at a 12:45 / mile pace for mile after mile and I just gritted my teeth and kept up with her. But that was then. I couldn't do that now. Plus she had surgery for a hernia and had her cancerous thyroid removed about 6 weeks ago, but she is back to walking strong and living strong.

Running is harder than walking, but I never realized how tough it is to walk at a fast pace for a long distance until I because a runalker this year! Like I said in my post, in the winter of 08 I could walk 10-12 miles at a less than 14 minute pace without even thinking about it. Not now.

Jennifer said...

Nothing wrong being a runalker. For our IronTeam training, our coaches recommend a run/walk plan to help in the endurance we need, recovery and injury prevention.

Just found an article on Runner's World on this topic:,7120,s6-380-381-386-236-0,00.html

Racn4acure said...

Thanks Jennifer. Great article!

If I were training for an iron man like you, I think I would be doing run-walk-crawl intervals. It is amazing what you are doing!