The Run-Walk-Run Experiment

After yesterday’s unexpected PB, I thought it would be interesting to see how close I could get to the same time using run-walk-run for the whole 5K. The theory is that by using short run/walk ratios, you can actually run faster than if you run the whole way. By allowing your body time to recover between running sections, the idea is that you will be able to run fast enough to compensate for the walking and come out with a better time overall.

Now, I know I’ve been going on about how much I’m enjoying run-walk-run and how it has helped me get back to running again regularly, but on the whole I have found that it tends to give me a slightly slower average pace than when I run the whole way – not by much though, and it is difficult to judge when you’re running different distances each week, so I decided that I would try a little experiment to see how much difference there is between run-walk-run and running the whole way.

Yesterday’s 5K run was a bit of a mish mash, running continuously for the first three kilometres before breaking down into a 3:1 run/walk ratio, but it earned me a PB of 31:16, which was 12 seconds faster than my previous PB. However, it’s difficult to judge whether this would have been faster or slower had I stuck to the same strategy for the entire run. So, curious to find out, I decided to do another 5K this morning using the same 3:1 run/walk ratio for the entire run.

Conscious of the fact that I really wanted to put run-walk-run to the test, I started off at a good strong running pace and trying to keep the average at around 6:20 per kilometre. This can be difficult to judge when you’re switching between running and walking, especially as some splits have more walking than running in them. However, I didn’t do too badly and was averaging 6:16 over the first 4K, which is pretty much in line with yesterday’s run.

By the final kilometre, however, I was starting to feel pretty tired. The walk breaks had helped a lot, but it was tough keeping the pace in the running sections. When I finished the final walk break at 29 minutes though, I realised I only had about half a kilometre to go. So I went for it!

I pushed hard, trying to get my legs turning over as fast as they could. I accelerated, then decelerated, then pushed again, then dropped again. I glanced at my watch. Just another 100 metres and I would be done.

I didn’t feel great. My legs were numb. But I kept going and then, finally, the Garmin beeped. I pressed the stop button, and looked at my time. It was over. I’d done it. A new PB of 30.54! That’s 22 seconds faster than yesterday!


The question now though, is how close can I get to that if I run the whole way? Well, I still have one more run to do this year, so I guess I’ll have to try it out if I really want to know what difference run-walk-run really makes.

How’s your training going? Have you experimented with different running and training strategies? Please share your thoughts in the comments.


14 thoughts on “The Run-Walk-Run Experiment”

  1. I’m a believer in the run/walk strategy- I got a 5K PB earlier this year using it. I never seem to keep up my speed for long when I just try to run the whole way. Congrats on your PB!

    1. Thanks Sarah. I definitely couldn’t have kept up today’s running pace for the whole 5K, but it will be interesting to see if I can match the time with slower running and no walk breaks. I’m hoping it will be close at least. 🙂

  2. I heard about this a few times and met a couple of runners who actually adopted this to their regimen. According to them, it helped them run faster, or at least, finish their runs. Of course, I am talking about half or full marathon, not 5 K or 10K. Like I noted in the reply to you on my recent post, I think that it is extremely important to find what works for you. Hope it continuously helps you reduce your time.

    1. Thanks. I’m generally quite happy to run a whole 5K but have been using this to help come back from injury while training for the half and full marathon, so I thought it would be interesting to try my ratio on a distance that I’m more familiar with.
      I’ve been reading a lot about Jeff Galloway’s run-walk-run program and it seems a lot of people have found real success with it. As you say, it’s important that we do what works for us and this seems to be doing the trick for me at the moment. 🙂

  3. I’m a big advocate of run/walk training and I find it particularly good for two things. It’s good building fitness levels up without becoming disheartened and it’s good for recovery on the days when you’re tired but still want, or have to, run. It’s interesting to read that it could improve times though. I’ll be watching keenly to see how you get on in your next run.

    1. Hi. I agree, recovery is definitely a lot easier. I’m planning on running the full 5K next time to see how close the times are, but I’ll be using run-walk-run on my next long run – that will be 24K and my longest run so far so we’ll see how that goes. 🙂

  4. Congrats on another PB. As you know Adam only ever uses the run/walk method but we are using it as a way to increase his running intervals. I hope that he will run the whole 5k one day but in the meantime, we increase the run interval by 30s when he gets a PB so we can get used to running faster for longer. I’m not sure I could run a full 5k in the same time now.

    1. Still not quite there with the sub-30, but it feels good to be making some real progress now. Experiments with running are a lot of fun, and if nothing else helps to trick me into going outside for a run when it’s cold and frosty. 😉

    1. Thanks. That’s an interesting article – thanks for sharing it. I walk to and from work every day (half hour each way) and definitely believe it helps. I’m sure you’ll see some results from your walking too. 🙂

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