A few months ago I decided to run a spring marathon. At the time I was planning for a trail marathon, but the Michigan weather and persuasive friends convinced me to switch to the Flying Pig Marathon in Cincinnati, OH (look for a race write up after May 1st).
One of these persuasive friends also happens to be my running buddy. We’ll call her JP. This is the first year that I’ve run with JP, and I have discovered that she is an enthusiastic conversationalist. Normally I’m not a fan of exhaustive conversation but I have found that it is a nice distraction when on a long run. The miles go by quicker when we run together so we agreed to do our long runs on the same days.
Together we faced the single digit temperatures, the freezing rain and the bone chilling wind. It was nice to have a running buddy as crazy as I was. However, I discovered that JP may be a touch crazier that me. It seems that as the race gets closer she gets more and more caught up in the different articles and arguments about marathon running.
One morning she tells me she just read Jeff Galloway’s book about the “Run Walk Run” interval method. She says she wants to try 4/1 intervals, running 4 minutes, walking 1 minute, and then running 4 and so on.
It just so happens that after reading “Born To Run” by Christopher McDougall (Review on that coming soon) I have become very interested in running ultra marathons. Research on ultras has revealed to me that many middle of the pack ultra runners incorporate a 5/1 interval. So I told JP that if she could change her plan to a 5/1 that I would be willing to give it a try. And it just so happened that the running app I was using on my phone handled the interval running perfectly (read my reviews of running apps here).
On the day we were to try out the new interval method our training plan had us doing a 16 mile run. Off we went.
At first it was a little weird stopping every 5 minutes to walk, but we also noticed that it wasn’t slowing us down too much. In fact our running pace was a bit faster than we had planned. As the mile progressed and the intervals added up I began to notice that my legs felt pretty good for the distance being covered. At mile 8, my legs felt as if I’ve only run a couple of miles. Sure the minute breaks seemed to go by faster and the five minutes sometimes felt like ten, but overall I felt pretty damn good.
At the end of the run I stop to look at our overall time and was shocked. We completed the 16 miles in 2:46:46. I know some of you faster people are saying things like “so what” or “what’s so shocking about that” or “was he listening to sesame street music again”.
I know that number by itself doesn’t tell you anything but when you compare it the the 14 mile run we did two weeks earlier without intervals it paints a clearer picture.
- March 05, 2011- Distance: 14 miles, Duration: 2:40:24, Avg Pace: 11:26
- March 19, 2011 – Distance: 16 miles, Duration: 2:46:46, Avg Pace: 10:24
There may be something to this interval thing. I know what you are thinking, I thought the same thing. “Maybe it was just a fluke. Maybe the app was bad or they just had a good day.” I too was still a bit skeptical until April 02, 2011
- April 02, 2011 – Distance: 18 miles, Duration: 3:06:43, Avg Pace: 10:20.
Holy crap! The 18 mile pace was actually faster than the 16. Okay the Jeff Galloway method works for the long runs, what about the shorter ones.
6 mile run
- March 12, 2011 – No intervals, Duration: 59:49
- March 17, 2011 – No intervals, Duration: 59:01
- April 12, 2011 – Intervals, Duration: 55:23
4.5 mile run
- April 14, 2011 – No intervals, Duration: 40:10
- April 16, 2011 – Intervals, Duration: 36:30
So it is obvious that, for me, the Jeff Galloway method works. I think the key is in the walk. You have to make sure the walk is a brisk one and not a casual, lolly-gagging, smell the flowers, kind of walk.