Better Running Through Walking & My Biased Reflections

Leave the first response June 2, 2009 / Posted in Injury Prevention, Mindful Running, Oz On Marathoning, Psyching Series, Running Form & Style, Running Injury Prevention, The Running Mind

Marathoning is about mindful movement. The article Better Running Through Walking in the New York Times gives some helpful hints and testimonials to the run/walk approach championed by Jeff Galloway for many a year.

Over the next 5 months as Tara Parker-Pope prepares for the New York City Marathon on November 1st, there will be several different training methods shared along with many coaching tips and helpful hints at the NYT Well Blog.

Remember to check out my Marathon Psyching Series

I champion Nicholas Romanov’s Pose Method and Danny and Katherine Dreyer’s ChiRunning and ChiWalking. I came to many of the same conclusions regarding proper running form and style over my 30+ years of marathon and running coaching and doing psychotherapy on the walk and run.

For me the walking breaks help runners who are heel strikers delay or diminish the deleterious effects of this improper running form. Minimal awareness of good running form and style continues to be taught by a large number of marathon training programs that focus on running time or running distance.

What is minimized is the teaching of proper running form and style. So the walking breaks keeps runners from the Bataanesque death marches that deteriorate into injury increasing, bad running form over the last few training miles of long runs.

Over the last few miles, survival running increases chances of injury and reinforces bad running form. Not only can you see (head down, hunched over, tightened leg muscles, grimacing faces, cramps, bloody toes, men with bloody nipples, chaffed inner thighs) it but you can hear it (slapping feet, complaining, whining).

In 1975 when Tad Kostrubala and a group of us started the San Diego Marathon Clinic, the idea was to be on your feet for four hours from the beginning. It didn’t matter if you walked the whole time or if you walked and ran a little.

What happened over the months of weekly four-hour events of being on one’s feet and moving, was that walking became less and running more. Four hours, then, never became something to build up to. Each person knew 4 hours was just the accepted norm. When we began training to run a marathon, being on one’s feet over 4 hours was never a mental barrier. The Tarahamara Indians’ tesquinada was the model. (
Sally Byram a few years ago running her 68th marathon on her 68th birthday at the Carlsbad Marathon downed her end of the run drink: a cold beer.

What was interesting back then is that the cut off time for San Diego Marathon was 4:20 or a 10 minute mile. That meant that the finish line was shut down at 4:20.

On the other hand, from the beginning Jack Scaff and his crew at the Honolulu Marathon were there until the last person finished. Terry Cavanaugh, the head of the Toronto Cardiac Rehabilitation Center, would train his patients to run the Honolulu Marathon each December.

I wondered what all these good looking young women were doing riding their bikes next to a bunch of old plodding men and a few women. Later I found out they were nurses with telemetry and life support should any of these marathoners have an episode. I remember crying as 25 people stood on stage in their black sweats with their red broken heart emblem receiving their marathon finishing recognition.

Marathoning in 2009 has a new face. For many it is a rite of passage. Doing something that was thought impossible. Honoring a loved one by taking on the challenge of the marathon. There are as many reasons for doing a marathon as there are marathoners. There are as many inspiring stories as there are those who started and finished their marathon.

The marathon remains a marvelous metaphor for life and can be experienced, no matter the time, in 26.2 miles, aka 42 Km.

Marathons can have 200 to 30,000-plus participants. What remains an amazement to me is that no matter the size, it is always a parade of individuals doing their own individual Odyssey. No matter what one does to deflect their accomplishment by praising coaches, volunteers, training buddies, the weather, the marathon always remains an event of one. Each person ran, ran and walked, walked the marathon distance on their own with thousands of others doing it on their own.

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