Experience By - Matt Mahoney , Howie Breinan#1 , Dave Hurd#1 , Dan Brannen , Howie Breinan#2 , Dennis Halpin , Earl Blewett , Dave Hurd#2, Karl King , Chuck Greene , George Parrott, Kevin Setnes , Chip Marz , Dan Baglione , Marv Skagerberg , Pete Ireland , Sean McDonald , Vic Culp , Melanie Jonker , Dave Littlehales , Kevin Tiller , Robin Holder , Kevin Mathineer , Gwen Heist , Nikki Robinson , Rich Schick , Rocky Waters , Eric Robinson, Ian Stevens , Mike Schupp, Norm Yarger , Kevin Kepley ,

Walk to Run Ratio
Experience From - Sean McDonald #2, Karl King, Matt Mahoney, Paul Hasse,

Matt Mahoney

Curt Simkins writes:

What I would like to know is at what point/distance/time would you advise starting to incorporate walking into my longer training runs.
As your runs become longer and farther apart, you can usually use races as training runs. The rule is to increase your long run by 1 mile per week (though your runs will be further apart, averaging 1 day per mile, but you can go 2 months either way for individual runs). If your race is longer than your planned run, then plan to walk the remainder. For instance, if your longest continuous run is a marathon and there is a 50 mile race a month or two later, than enter the race with the plan of walking half of it. The easiest way to do this is to walk all up hills and run all down hills. If you end up running 30 miles of it (use your best guess), then count it as a 30 mile run when planning your next one.

Howie Breinan #1

Like most other questions in running, you need to feel this one out yourself. The answer is obvious: if you are getting too tired and want to go further, you should do some walking. With experience you will throw a bit of walking in BEFORE you get tired, which will allow you to stay at an even energy level for much longer. If you have good mental discipline, you don't even need experience. Just walk a few minutes each hour or half-hour until you are confident you can complete the rest of your run with energy to spare. Then, if you want, use up that energy by picking up the pace or running hills you ordinarily wouldn't. Don't weigh your mind down by searching for the perfect training-walking strategy. There is none. Just do some, and do as you feel.

One good reason to walk in training is that it prepares you mentally to walk in races, which is a good strategy for 99% of us in attempting long and difficult races like WS. Don't worry about walking TOO MUCH in races, especially before the half-way point. Any time you have "lost" you will easily gain back by running more of the second half. Of those of us that need to walk at some point, probably 90% don't walk ENOUGH! By acknowledging your need to walk you are already winning the mental battle, which is probably 80% of ultrarunning.

As for physical preparation, I don't buy into it much. You can teach yourself to walk better/faster, but don't go crazy. I like to run hills in training that I walk in races. Makes me tougher. Gets me to the top faster, too.

One thing you do need to practice (or at least find what works for you) is eating. Since most eating means walking, you may want to walk when trying foods in training. I do loops on many of my long runs. I stop at the car to eat every 1-2 hours. It's just like an aid station, except I have to serve myself. I take a few minutes to eat/resupply, and that's my rest.

Dave Hurd #1

To do 100 miles or more in 24 hours is possible via another route. In 1963 at "FANS" in Minneapolis, I covered 103.3 miles at age 63 via a pattern of running 5 minutes, followed by walking 1 minute, and endlessly (for 24 hours) repeating that pattern. When it got dark, it was a nuisance to keep shining the flashlight on the watch, so I switched to 100 steps running and 10 steps walking, a few more than 10 steps when drinking. This idea came from a Berd Heinrich article in Ultrarunning magazine some years ago about the relative success of male frogs in lovemaking. Bend had found that some frogs sang in long bursts with long silences in between, and others sang in short bursts with short pauses. The latter group lasted all through the night, while the former pooped out before the night was over, Since singing is the route to attract females, the short song, short rest group attracted more female frogs. Bend suggested this approach to longer endurance might apply to ultrarunning. Following his lead, I had used a pattern of 20 minutes run and 5 minutes walk in 50 mile and 100k, and it had worked fairly well, but I was worried I wouldn't be able to go nonstop in a 24 hour. Therefore, the 5 minute/1 minute-100 steps/10steps effort. It worked. How much training did I have? Because of plantar fasciitis I can't run very often. In the 6 months preceding the 24 hour I had averaged 20 miles of running per week including races, and an additional six mile equivalent in swimming and biking. With an important goal, and careful planning, both age and lack of training can be overcome. I hope this is of interest to some of you.

Dan Brannen

Mark Donaldson asks:

Doesn't your pace gradually slow down from the beginning of the race to the end regardless? Has anyone run an ultra and not slowed down?... I have run a standard marathon where I missed my goal by about 5 minutes because, I believe, I went out to SLOW. Aren't miles 20-26 slow miles no matter how you slice it? And couldn't I have made up those 5 minutes by picking up the pace a bit in the first half of the race?
Some answers (or at least perspectives for further thought):

It's clear by statistics (I read an exhaustive scientific analysis somewhere recently: maybe in Track and Field News or Running Stats?) that world-class marathoners performing at their best DO NOT slow down through the race. In any given major marathon these days, it is not uncommon for the fastest 5km split to be somewhere in the last 25% of the race. The best marathons of today are run at dead-even pace (that's what Densimo did for his 2:06:50 WR) throughout. On a personal note, my two best marathons (2:35 and 2:31) were run with half-marathon splits within 10 seconds on the front and back ends.

As for running an ultra and not slowing down: to my thinking, the all-time best case is Derek Kay's 100 Mile WR just before Calvin Woodward broke it in the mid-70's. Woodward, of course, ran that incredible gradual-slowdown WR which Andy Milroy highlighted in a recent Ultrarunning feature piece (a strategy once described to me as: start out insanely fast and just die all the way to the finish). The irony is that Kay's WR which had preceded it was a NEGATIVE split race, with 50 mile splits of 6:00/5:56. Russian 100km star Aleksandr Masarygin ran his personal best 100km (6:20) on a certified course in Germany a few years back with 50km splits of 3:12/3:08.

An interesting recent case is Tom Johnson's 100km American Record 6:30:11 at the recent 100km World Challenge. Although he did slow down (3:12/3:18), he slowed FAR LESS than any other runner in the top 25. Johnson felt somewhat punk and had intestinal cramps for most of the first 50km, during which he took 2 pit stops totaling over 2 minutes. Did they serve as "breaks" which refreshed him just enough to stay stronger and faster than everyone else around him through the second half (he went from 24th to 3rd in the last 50km)? Another factor here is the clear PSYCHOLOGICAL edge of moving through the second half faster than everyone else around you. Once you commence an inexorable slowdown curve, you actually develop a kind of reverse momentum which you're then fighting the rest of the run.

For sub-ultras, I generally subscribe to even-pace theory (all of my best times from the marathon on down were even-paced). For ultras, there must be an overall fatigue factor which subjugates even-pacing to the "get it in the bank early" theory--but I still think that one is better off coming as close as possible to even-pacing.

Conclusion and recommendation for Mark's question: If you KNOW you will have to walk at some point in a race (no matter what distance), build the walking into the program in regular, measured intervals from the beginning. Scientifically (physiologically AND psychologically), you will optimize performance that way rather than waiting for an inevitable slowdown which then forces you to walk.

Howie Breinan #2

In response to Mark Donaldson on walking breaks

A reoccurring theme seems to be that taking breaks early on requires discipline - implying something like you don't feel that you need to take a break. Why are you taking the break then? I know the obvious answer is that you're saving energy for the long haul, but isn't this accomplished by simply going slower?
Not necessarily. Some runners run more "efficiently" (don't press me on this one- I can't explain it) at a faster pace. It is better for them to run at this pace with walk breaks than to go at a steady pace. Presumably they have trained closer to this pace and are used to it. Maybe they can push the "fast pace muscles" a bit then rest by using "walking muscles". Maybe this is all hogwash.

And aren't you going to be relatively exhausted later on anyway?
Sort of. Most of us: YES. But if you have paced well and taken care of yourself, you can run a good pace at the end. There have been negative splits in ultras. Elite runners will not be tired for having run 50 (or even 100) miles. They only tire from running the distance HARD.

Aren't miles 20 - 26 slow miles no matter how you slice it? And couldn't I have made up those 5 minutes by picking up the pace a bit in the first half of the race?
The easy part:
Certainly 20-26 don't have to be slow. Ask Cosmas N'deti, well known for his negative split runs. I also always run negative splits. The last mile is my fastest of the race.

The hard part:
Could I have started faster and made up 5 min? I doubt it, but this is debatable. Cosmas certainly can't. You go tell him he could have run 5 (or even 3 minutes faster- 2:02 or 2:04). I am around 3 hours. For any given marathon, I figure that if I run negative splits and am tired (but strong) at the finish of the race, then I am close to my best possible run for the day. I like the trade of losing several minutes early to feel GREAT at the end. By not slowing down at the end, I at least come close to making back the lost time. I have always thought that the positive feeling you get from starting slow then maintaining pace and PASSING people at the end gives you a boost that you can't get when you are struggling and slowing down. I say this boost (plus the faster second half) more than makes up for lost time in the first half. The conservative strategy helps you to enjoy the run more and virtually eliminates the risk of blowing up. The tradeoff is that on that one day where the conditions are perfect and you are feeling superhuman, you may end up a few seconds short of your ultimate performance. And I really mean a few seconds. If you are feeling THAT good, you will be able to continually accelerate near end and use up the extra energy to make up time. This will close the gap on your "theoretical" performance had you gone out fast and just held on.

NOTE*** This strategy assumes that you can run 26.2 miles with ease at a reasonable pace (a 'bit' slower than race pace). If you can't, then you probably will die off no matter what.

For ultras, I use a similar strategy. As I am not an elite runner, I probably can't quite comfortably finish 50 miles at that mythical "reasonable" pace. Thus, I tend to tail off a little, but remain close to even splits by going out slow. If I got my mileage up to 120/week, I would expect to run negative splits in 50's too.

Dennis Halpin

As I understand it, the walking breaks do more than just save energy. When walking, you are using your muscles differently and even using different muscles, so that the running ones are actually getting a short rest.

As to deliberately going out slower (something I definitely need to do!) in marathon and longer distance races has to do with how your body burns fuel. As it has been explained to me (ok you experts, help me out here), above a certain pace (different for each person) your body will go after the more easily used fuel, carbohydrates, right away, and when that is gone, it HAS to shift to burning the less easily used fuel, fats, because that is all that is left. This, as I understand it in a simplified sense, is hitting the wall. So the goal is to go out a bit slower than your target pace to work on the fats earlier when you are not as tired and save the fast burning carbs for later. In other words, run negative splits. Unfortunately, if you go out too fast, you will have no choice when your body has to change gears and trying to make up those 5 minutes at the start by picking up the pace a bit in the first half of a race may translate into "hitting the wall" earlier.

Earl Blewett

At short distances my best races are always negative splits.

HOWEVER, one thing no one has mentioned is weather. This was the subject (actually the subject was "Are we running too fast?") during the 50 m at Sunmart this year. The consensus was get the miles in during the cooler morning. The first 2 loops were even paced (2" difference) but I slowed the rest of the race, especially when the sun actually came out of the clouds for a few seconds.

I can effortlessly run 45-60 seconds/mile faster in 70 F versus 80 so this strategy works for me. Having paced a number of people lately I've found it is more difficult to recover after a long run at a unaccustomed (slower) speed. I suppose the body's tendons, ligaments etc. are accustomed to a certain stride length and motions and the different pace emphasizes different movements.

Having said all this, when weather isn't a big factor I always walk early int he race, up hills and down hills if necessary, starting as early as 5 minutes into the race. It does make the last 10 miles easier.

Dave Hurd #2

Rather than debate whether walking breaks from the beginning are effective, why not try one race with them and another the way you do it now and find out what works for you? In my few ultras, I have always used walking breaks from the start, based on a reading in the late 1970s ( a book by Ed Dodd?). For me, knowing I am on plan, and only have to run x more minutes before walking is of great psychological benefit. That doesn't speak to early walking per se.

Karl King

Without getting deeply technical. Muscles can get energy from multiple metabolic pathways in the body, some of which derive their energy from carbohydrate, some from fat and some from fat and carbo together. All of these pathways are chemically self-regulated so that they do not convert energy faster than the muscles need it. They are also chemically cross-regulated so that they do not all simultaneously run at a high rate. This is generally done by a mechanism where ions produced by the action of one pathway reduce the activity of enzymes which are active on a different pathway.

A real danger in ultra running comes after your body has gotten into the ode where it is burning some carbohydrate and a significant amount of fat. If you "wind up the pace" because you are feeling good, you can, without any prompt indication, gradually turn off the fat burning and switch over to burning lots of carbos. It feels good to be flying along, eating up the miles, and leg muscle glycogen. Trouble is, when the glycogen runs out, the pace slows a lot and it is hard to get enough carbohydrate. Fat can produce a lot of energy, but when it comes to doing it at a high rate, carbohydrate is the king. Eating and walking will help, but it is very hard to get back to the carbohydrate -rich state you had in the early miles.

The beauty of the walking break is that it breaks the tendency to wind up the pace. When you walk periodically, you keep your body in the fat burning mode, conserving carbohydrate. Thus, for a small penalty in terms of pace, you prolong the time over which your body is functioning on an efficient metabolic pathway.

My favorite ultra quote is from Tom Bunk, "Find a pace a you like and stick with it". Said another way, find your most efficient pace and avoid winding it up to something too fast. If that is easier said than done, try a regular walking break.

Chuck Greene

Disclaimer: This is offered as opinion and not fact.

The wall is the runner's name for the condition bicyclist refer to as bonking. Medically it is severe hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) probably most commonly occurring as a result of injecting too much insulin.

Blood glucose is the only source of energy for the brain. Under normal circumstances. The blood glucose is supplied by ingested carbos and by glucose released by the liver. The liver stores glucose in the form of glycogen. If you go to bed with your liver glycogen stores filled, and don't eat any carbos, by noon or the middle of the afternoon, the liver glycogen stores will be depleted, blood glucose falls, and your brain complains. The absolute blood glucose level where the brain complains varies from individual to individual.

You will note that no mention has been made of fat. It is blood glucose level alone and has nothing to do with fat.

Above a certain exercise intensity, no fat is burned. If you exercise long enough at this intensity your liver glycogen will eventually be depleted, the blood glucose will fall, and you will hit the wall.

When your running at a pace that includes fat burning, your also running at a pace that consumes glucose, and eventually your liver glycogen stores are depleted. Again you hit the wall.

Novice marathoners regularly hit the wall at 20 miles, or so it is said.

Never ran a road marathon. They hit the wall at 20 miles because they were running at 20 mile race pace. Nothing more. Nothing less. It essentially has nothing to do with length or number of long runs, weekly mileage, amount of speed work, the phase of the moon, etc, etc. For to the degree they haven't trained optimally, they must compensate by decreasing the pace! Pace is everything. And carbos. And water.

If these novice marathoners were to run a flat 50K and were to run it at their flat 50K pace and they were to take in some carbos along the way, they need not hit the wall.

It is figuring out WHAT pace to run for a given race that is the problem. Experience will eventually take care of that. Not for everybody, of course.

Ultra runners regularly report a bad patch at about 35 miles, whether in a 50 mile race or a 24 hour race. This occurs because most of the liver glycogen is gone by then and the blood glucose level has "drooped" to a point where the brain knows. In general, throughout the rest of the race, the liver glycogen stores are marginal and only continually ingested carbos keep the wall at bay. So in a 100K or 100 mile race several bad patches or a continuous bad patch, depending on carbo ingestion rate and running pace, can occur. This may account for the "fatigue" that occurs later in ultras. If you slow the pace and keep ingesting carbos, the liver glycogen stores can be somewhat replenished.

Purchase an electronic blood glucose monitor. Measure your blood glucose when you are fatigued toward the end of a long run. Note the reading. Do it several times. Take it to a long ultra. Have your crew carry it with them if it is a trail race. Take a reading whenever you feel fatigued. Compare the value with the one obtained in training. If the readings are the same, you have the answer.

It is very important, if you want to run your best, and some of you don't because it is harder work, to become very sensitive to the symptoms indicating incipient "wall" so corrective measures can be instituted as soon as possible. Now you can eat all the fat and protein you want, hamburgers, fries, etc but the only thing holding the wall off are carbos. Non-carbos are "wants" not "needs". Don't confuse the two.

In training runs I could detect the onset of the decline, about an hour before I hit the wall, deliberately and hard. As the last hour progressed ever greater will power was required to both maintain absolute pace (actually effort level because it was hilly) and to maintain form. A point would be reached where my will broke and I would stop. Swaying gently back and forth, unable to walk, while digging out M & M's or Kool-Aid (sugar). Five to eight minutes later I would resume running albeit slower until the run was over.Happened a half mile beyond Tabor on the return at Leadville in 89 four or five miles from the finish. No carbos. Just stood for a minute or so. Then walked the flats and up hills and jogged the down hills.

To appreciate what willpower can do, someone else will have to supply the name and year, at the Ironman, the female finisher, winner?, crawling on her belly painfully, slowly the last few feet to the finish line. She had hit the wall big time. Or perhaps it was dehydration.

George Parrott

Going out even 20 sec too fast in the first mile will cost you up to 5 minutes in the marathon....and more in distances of 50 miles and up.

Check out the pacing patterns of the faster runners, and virtually all will go out "on target pace" for what they expect/want/believe they can run on that day. Sometimes even they will slow, but they are having an "off day," or perhaps they overestimated their own fitness, but THEY ARE NOT TRYING TO PUT TIME IN THE BANK!

In my best effort at 50 miles, I had predicted that I would break 3 hours at the marathon split and go under 6 hours at 50, and I went out at 6:45 pace for the first 3 miles or so...I recall being sorely tempted to pick up the pace at about 4 miles, as the "lead pack" was just about 400m in front of me....I resisted and about a mile later, somebody in that group DID pick up the tempo and that "pack" became a "string," and the string was shredding apart by about 10 miles...

I went by our club record holding in the marathon (a 2:32 runner) at about 20 miles (split was 2:15) and he soon dropped out....About 22 miles to 30 miles I was blistering badly (I did hit 26.2 in 2:56) and made a shoe change at 31 miles which helped...

My last 5 miles that day was in 34:30...finish time 5:57:09; I finished 4th overall and got most of the "lead pack" wannabes over the last 10 miles that day....

Check out Tom Johnson's 10k splits at the Winschotten 100km if you want to see "smart running" towards a personally held and planned goal....and a U.S. record achievement to boot.

Sorry, but when one tries to put "time in the bank" early in a race, what you are really doing is drawing "fuel and energy OUT OF THE BANK" that will be paid dearly for later.

Kevin Setnes

To see if the walking break will be to your liking try this:

Go to the track (or other loop course) and practice a routine, such as:
Run 25 minutes
Walk 5 minutes

Repeat this every half hour for 4 hours.

In the walking break consume your beverage and food.

A week or two later try and run the same pace, but run continuously. Note the difference. Figure out how much your mileage was in both and you might just be surprised. This is a simple routine but should help the vast majority of ultrarunners extend themselves in long ultras such as 12 to 24 hours.

Chip Marz

My own experiences don't necessarily confirm that I finish any faster when I try to run an even pace as opposed to going out fast and then hanging on. However, I FEEL a LOT better when I try to run even...meaning I include walking early and throughout. I would rather finish a little slower and feel good enough to drink beer, than to be faster and feel like I have the hangover without the benefit of the good time!

Dan Baglione

Larry Phillips wrote:
I do a lot of walking also but I do not consider this training and do not keep it as a part of my yearly running log. I don't know what your experience is in multi-day races; but you will be walking in the Sri Chinmoy race; and my experience is that walking can cause problems when done in unaccustomed amounts or at faster than usual pace. On more than one occasion I have had injuries that hurt only when I walked not when I ran. You can do whatever you choose in your log; but for performance in events which will require walking at good pace, walking should be part of training and should count as such. All your walking miles at Ward's Island in September will count.

Marv Skagerberg

I haven't followed this thread, but apparently you are going to tackle the 700 or 1000.

For anyone training for their first multi-day, you cannot walk too much in training, at almost any pace. I suggest 5 minutes at a slow walk, and 5-10 minutes at a very brisk walk at the beginning and end of every training run. Also, long weekend runs in which you do 20-25 or so, and then walk out 10 more at brisk walking pace.

Why? Simple. You will walk a lot in the race. If you do not incorporate quite a bit of walking in training, you will have shin splints - or various forms of front of the foot or shin tendinitis from about the 3rd day on. Unless you are a cousin of Yiannis or Park Barner and run only. Trust me.

However Larry, if you are talking to Charlie Eidel, he can tell you all of this. He's been there lots and lots of times. Say hello for me.

Pete Ireland

At the risk of overkill, some further (and final) comments on my 2/24/97 post and the various responses. The initial posting included the statement:

... the respiratory system is not normally stressed in an ultra.
The inadvertent omission of the words "as much" evoked comments. This was intended as a relative comparison - ultras do not normally stress the respiratory system as much as shorter, faster races. Exceptions - for sure - people who are pushing to the max, high altitude ultras, etc.

The initial posting dealt with the merits of easy running ("junk miles") vs walking. My point was you can get a comparable CV workout from fast walking (particularly but not limited to race walking) with much less stress on the joints, muscles, and tendons. Thus, it is a good alternative to an easy run and is an especially good option for people who are injury prone or recovering from an injury. An 11:00 - 12:00 per mile walking pace (depending on your condition) can be very comparable to an easy run. And, as Ultrawalkr correctly pointed out in a response, crank it up enough and you can also get a good respiratory system workout. But that would not necessarily be an "easy" day.

Race (or simply fast) walking is not as natural or easy as running (which is why you get the CV benefits at a slower than running pace). It is not for everyone any more than 75 or 100 mile weeks are. However, for those who can or will, it is an alternative the value of which should not be underestimated. The world racewalk record for a 50K is under 3:45. I venture to say not all that many ultra runners can run a 50K that fast. More than enough said. Walk (or run) on!!

Sean McDonald

There are many ways to mix walking into your long runs and ultra distance races. This has numerous benefits: more even pacing, faster recovery after, gives time for fluid and food intake, gives the running muscles a break, and lets you look more at the scenery !

Some of the schemes by which one can do this are: run for a set time, and then walk for a set time, and repeat until end of run or race (ie. run 10 mins. then walk 2 mins.); a ratio of 4 or 5 to one for run to walk time often works well walk any uphill steeper than a certain grade, and for more gradual hills walk a minute, run a minute, etc. or based on how you feel (effort-wise) run for a set distance, then walk for a set distance, and repeat; works best for flat terrain (such as a long road run or track ultra). Here one might run 4 laps on the track, then walk one. The length of run and walk can be changed as you fatigue, going to more frequent transitions between the two.

when walking, use your arms in a swinging motion, and push off with each stride; think about propelling yourself forward, not upwards or side to side use the walk time to drink some fluids, eat a bit, adjust clothing, figure out if you feel any blisters coming on, etc.

If you work on your power walking in training, you will get faster with less effort, and figure out the scheme that works best for you. Some people prefer long walking breaks, others short ones, some like timed schedules, others go by the terrain.

Vic Culp

Will Brown wrote:

"A guy named Don Clark from St. Paul, MN was my saviour. We had been hopscotching each other for a few miles, and I fell into his pacing routine. I asked him what it was, and he grinned and said it was Run when you can, walk when you can't. From my limited experience, I now can relate that walking can be either a mental positive or a mental negative."
If you develop an achievable walking plan an reward yourself with a walk after meeting a distance goal, this is positive walking. Mentally, you're still feeling good about yourself and will maintain good walking form.

If you run when you can and walk when you can't, this is negative walking. Mentally, you're beat. Once beat, it's hard to turn around to a positive.

So, walk early and walk often. Set your walking goals by distance rather than time. (ie 3 minutes in every two miles or up a hill)

Melanie Jonker

David Sill wrote:

"I've been told many times that walking is important in longer ultra races. I'm doing a 24 hour race this coming weekend. I don't normallywalk very quickly. Can anyone give me some tips on technique etc?"
I'm in training to walk my first marathon on 13 July (Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia). I posted a message a few months ago on the Walklist asking for assistance from other walkers. I received the following message from Jim Fisher (a 61 year old racewalker). I tried it and it certainly works.

"About the only advice I can supply is that I would suggest you learn to bend your arms in racewalk style for the 26.2 miles. The reason I say this is the hands start to swell when the arms are fully extended plus it is harder on the heart to be pumping the blood to and fro from the extended pendulum. Also, a shortened pendulum can/does swing faster which brings along the legs. We will get you to racewalking yet. Actually for long distances it really is important to bend the arms, not necessarily for speed but for the heart and comfort. 26.2 miles is a long ways. Try the bent arms in one of your long workouts and compare with a regular long power walk workout. At the end compare your times and comfort through the workout."
I don't know whether I'm actually bending my arms in the true racewalking style but I'm certainly keeping them bent and close to my body. My legs automatically accelerate in time with my arms.

Good luck with your 24 hour race - something I'll be aiming for in the near future.

Dave Littlehales

Maintain an eriect, but not rigid posture. Bend your elbows to form a 90 degree angle. Concentrate on walking on a straight line that is not more than 4" wide so that your foot strikes the line on every step. Keep your trailing foot on the ground for a longer time, pushing off with each step. Realize that you're making relentless forward progress with each step. By walking.

Kevin Tiller

Andrea wrote:

"A question for all you ultra-types: if you're doing the 5/1 thing, what about hills? Do you ignore them and just do 5/1 no matter what the terrain, or do you do 5/1 *and* walk the hills? Or does 5/1 only really work when the trail is flat, like on a track? Just wondering...."
That's an interesting question and that's why I could NEVER be so "disiplined" as to clock watch when I am running, especially trails. The WHOLE point is to get into a "groove" so that you are doing the most natural thing for whatever the conditions are at the time, and that would depend on how you are feeling also.

ie if you are going up a slight hill, then run it easy. When it gets too steep, then walk. When you are tired then have a walk and take it easier. If you are feeling strong and the track is good, then run. I think that depending on a watch etc could see you walking when you are feeling fine, then having to try and run when you don't feel so good etc.

Maybe it depends on your perspective or summink, or maybe its just me, but I am not really a watch sort of person. I often wear a watch in a race, but not all the time. And if I do it is only of vague interest.

Robin Holder

Gery wrote:

"I am cross posting this to both lists to get as many responses as possible. There is this guy that I know who shows up for many timed runs - 6, 12, 24, 48 hours - and if the weather is bad, or an injury occurs, or he gets sick he simply drops from the race because he does not believe in walking. He spends a lot of money going to a lot of these races and it is a shame that he feels this way. I know and most of you know that many miles can be achieved through walking. For his sake, and he is on one of these lists, and the sake of the new ultra people on these lists is there anything wrong with walking? Should it be done on a schedule or just when necessary? There is an unspoken rule of trail running that you walk the ups and run the downs and the flats. This worked very well for me in the beginning; but, now I find a lot of those hills that I walked I can now run. Am I doing myself in especially if on a new, never-before-run course? Some track ultras will suggest that you walk the curves and run the staightways. How does this help during a timed run? "
Answering your question in context to the 6, 12, 24, 48 hour competitor: no. In fact, walking is advisable in any timed race, for the objective of competing in a timed race is to accumulate the most possible mileage within that time period. If fate or injury or withstandable illness dictates that a participant should have to walk some, walk he should do, to continue accumulating mileage, no matter how slowly.

In fact, runners who walk almost always dominate the timed events. When I ran/walked the Sri Chinmoy 700 Mile Race in '95, Nirjhari Delong, a proficient multi-day performer, told me about how Canadian 48-hour record holder Trishul Cherns (224 mi) and American 6-day record holder Stu Mittleman (577 mi) both acquired shin splints in a multi-day event they were contesting; both walked the remainder of the event and finished quite well. What ardor would possess these men to walk for days on end through injury?

According to 59-year-old Don Winkley of Corpus Christi, TX, a stout multi-day performer in recent vintage, when a multi-day runner can't run, he or she walks to remain competitive, sometimes for 20 hours or so per day to achieve the same daily mileage as if they had run. Eleanor Robinson (formerly Adams), 50, of Great Britain, just completed contesting the Dallas 48 hours race; in response to an enquiry, many listers wrote me to say she set out to capture Sue Ellen Trapp's 48 hour record, but torrential rains and other problems slowed her to a walk; nonetheless she kept walking -- until she developed a foot injury and discontinued. Stout performers never quit without walking some first to see if their goal is still attainable.

Walking disgraces none. Furthers many. Is our primordial form of ambulation, an insurance policy when we can no longer run. Geraldine, it doesn't matter whether one walks or runs to the finish line, as long as you get there within the time limit and cover the distance. Who knows this better than you, who finished the '94 Broadway Ultra Society 6-hour run with 26.2 miles -- simply by walking, as opposed to my 30 miles acquired by mostly running? Shout it out over the mountaintops, over the hills, all along the trails: when inability to run strikes, rest if you must, but do not quit! Walk a few or many miles. Hopefully walking -- for those runners who are given to discontinuing instead of walking -- will be only a intermittent transverse over that injury or ill-feeling leading you back to running again.

Kevin Mathineer

I used to be in the "No way I'm taking walking breaks, damnit!" camp. However, I read an article in the magazine, "Marathon and Beyond" about using walking breaks in long runs and races, so I tried it on a long training run. I was coming back from an injury and having trouble building my long run distance back up. Using a 25/5 run/walk pattern, I ran a 20 miler and felt good afterwards. Compare this with the 14 mile run which was the best I had been able to manage without the walk breaks. I has sold!

Since then, I incorporate walk breaks in training runs and in races. I find that it is the EARLY breaks that help the most. In a marathon, I'll use a 25/5 strategy early on, then start shortening the breaks in the middle, and finally run in the last 6-10 miles without any breaks at all if I'm feeling good. I have run a 4:30 marathon both with and without walk breaks. My PR is about 4:25, so I'm clearly not a fast runner.

As for walking only when necessary, I think that it is more important to walk BEFORE it is necessary. In the last few mile of a marathon I usually am passing LOTS of people who look like crap and are clearly NOT having a good time. One once asked me where I got my energy as I passed by! It certainly isn't from being married, working as an engineer, and having small children at home!

Gwen Heist

I do walk some during training but actually not as often as I do when actually "running" an ultra-- there it is a necessity for me in order to keep an overall good pace. When doing a long training run, I generally run only as fast as I feel comfortable. I'll walk to drink, restroom stops or really steep hills but usually not more than 2-4minutes at a time, maybe 4 times or so over a 28 mile run. In a race, I'll generally walk all the steeper uphills, from the very start of the race. This is a method that has worked well for me, but I've only raced up to 50 miles.

Nikki Robinson

One of the most interesting things about a "time" race (6, 12, 24, or 48 hour event), as opposed to a "distance" race, is that one can do WHATEVER one wants. That is, one can run. One can walk. One can alternate running and walking. One can compete for the entire duration of the event. One can compete intermittently. Or one can go for a while and then quit all together.

Walking certainly has its virtues in ultra events; however, walking does not have to be used if one chooses not to use it. This is especially true in "time" races. In my opinion, each competitor determines his own race agenda in "time" races. Each competitor's goal can, and probably does, differ from any other competitor's goal. This is a fascinating and compelling aspect of this type of ultra racing.

So, I guess I want to suggest that perhaps we should all mind our own bee's wax when it comes to giving advice to a fellow competitor in a "time" race. Which is a suggestion that I just ignored.

Rich Schick

I have always envied good walkers. If Dave Horton reads this one I hope he will comment- the man can walk uphills faster than I can run them when I'm fresh. I do incorporate short walks on steep ups in training runs spefically to try to become a better(read faster) walker. Even when fresh there is a point of diminishing returns when walking is a better investment of your energy budget, even when balanced against time. Another good use of a short walk is when footing becomes too treaherous. A bad sprain or other injury early in a race can make for a real long day, often a couple steps to a minute or less of walking is all that is required to avert disaster.

Rocky Waters

Fred Vance asked some questions about walking versus running.

"Do you use different muscles for walking vs. running?"
Yes, I find that the muscle use is different. I believe that pretty much all the same muscles are used, it is more a matter of the proportions they are used that makes the two activities different. So this would be better termed "different use of muscles" than "use of different muscles".

"Is walking beneficial because it is a lower level of >energy expenditure?"
This depends upon how you are walking. One can expend as much (or more?) energy walking as one can running. Walking can be a lower level of energy expenditure, which can be beneficial at times. Walking can be used for either 1. or 2. or both depending upon the situation.
"On hills, do you decide to walk vs. run when the speed/energy expenditure favors walking or just because you're not in condition for running uphill? "
When I walk hills it is because speed/energy expenditure favors walking (or because that is part of my training that day). Of course, it is more favorable the more I am out of condition. But, for me at least, that is because of overall conditioning, not because of lack of hill conditioning. I run hills quite a lot. One has to go out of one's way to avoid them where I live.

"I wonder if there isn't an optimum speed for running which is dependent on factors like conditioning, form, and incline. When I pass mountain bikes on the uphill, I think of myself as having an infinite number of gears against their twenty-one. "
I would think that there is an optimum speed based upon the factors you mention plus a few more. Passing mountain bikes on the uphill is one of my favorite things to do when running in the forest. It can really quicken my pace on the uphills when trying to catch the better riders.

Eric Robinson

"A lot of other people advocate 5 minutes running and 1 minute walking (i.e. 5/1), but a one minute walk is usually not enough time for me to feel the "recovery" that the walk is supposed to provide.

I used a 9/1 in a marathon once to help a friend who was struggling and she finished faster than the goal she had set after almost dropping out. So run/walk works...

I thought about using a similar run/walk method in my first trail ultra a couple weeks ago at the Glacial Trail 50k but it didn't work due to the hills. So how does one use a run/walk ratio when dealing with hills that you have to walk most the time? Doesn't it ruin the ratio you set up (did for me)."

You're right: fixed run/walk ratios don't work well with hills (and a few other things like wind). That's an important reason why I have settled on the more flexible rule of "run no more than 10 minutes in a row".

I walk all of the significant hills AND I walk for a while if I've just run 10 consecutive minutes on the flat or downhill.

While running downhill, my walk breaks don't need to be very long in order to get that sense of recovery. But I do try to make sure to take one, no matter how short. It's also a good time to check/use the water bottle, mentally verify that you've seen some course markings recently, etc.

Ian Stevens

"A lot of other people advocate 5 minutes running and 1 minute walking (i.e. 5/1), but a one minute walk is usually not enough time for me to feel the "recovery" that the walk is supposed to provide. "
I used a 9/1 in a marathon once to help a friend who was struggling and she finished faster than the goal she had set after almost dropping out. So run/walk works...

I thought about using a similar run/walk method in my first trail ultra a couple weeks ago at the Glacial Trail 50k but it didn't work due to the hills. So how does one use a run/walk ratio when dealing with hills that you have to walk most the time? Doesn't it ruin the ratio you set up (did for me).

Mike Schupp

I find that in the distance between marathon and 50 milers a 10/2 run/walk works very well for me. With that kind of timing I have been able to adjust pretty well for hills by watching when a hill was approaching and maybe walking a little early or a little late, but generally trying to stay on the 10/2 schedule. Mentally it is a lot easier to track the time on a 10 minute basis rather then a 5 minute bases also. I try to time the walks with the aid stations also. Two minutes in the aid station is pretty much part of the normal time, not additional time this way.

Norm Yarger

I use the hills to set my run/walk ratio. I walk all the uphills and run the flats and downhills. As I tire, I redefine flats and downhills sometimes and thus increase my walk to run ratio. This works for me. The best bet is to try it during training (requires conditions similar to the race) and find out how to tailor this to your own body. Nice thing is you don't have to keep track of your watch, the course tells you when to walk.

Kevin Kepley

In answer to Shelli's question:


Pav = average pace (in min/mile)
Pw = walking pace
Pr = running pace
T = period = tw + tr (in minutes)
tr = time running
tw = time walking


Pav = T / ( (tw/Pw) + (tr/Pr) )


Pr = tr / ( (T/Pav) - (tw/Pw) )

so, given your running pace, your walking pace, the time per period you will spend running, the time you will spend per period walking, you can calculate your average pace from the first equation. From the second, you can calculate the pace at which you will have to run given your walking pace, and the times.

If you are a fairly slow runner, like me, and a fairly fast walker you'll find that the walking doesn't slow you down all that much. In the long run, it may help you to keep moving at a better overall pace than you might otherwise be able to maintain as fagigue sets in.

Walk to Run Ratio

Sean McDonald #2

There are many ways to mix walking into your long runs and ultra distance races. This has numerous benefits: more even pacing, faster recovery after, gives time for fluid and food intake, gives the running muscles a break, and lets you look more at the scenery !

Some of the schemes by which one can do this are: run for a set time, and then walk for a set time, and repeat until end of run or race (ie. run 10 mins. then walk 2 mins.); a ratio of 4 or 5 to one for run to walk time often works well walk any uphill steeper than a certain grade, and for more gradual hills walk a minute, run a minute, etc. or based on how you feel (effort-wise) run for a set distance, then walk for a set distance, and repeat; works best for flat terrain (such as a long road run or track ultra). Here one might run 4 laps on the track, then walk one. The length of run and walk can be changed as you fatigue, going to more frequent transitions between the two.

when walking, use your arms in a swinging motion, and push off with each stride; think about propelling yourself forward, not upwards or side to side use the walk time to drink some fluids, eat a bit, adjust clothing, figure out if you feel any blisters coming on, etc.

If you work on your power walking in training, you will get faster with less effort, and figure out the scheme that works best for you. Some people prefer long walking breaks, others short ones, some like timed schedules, others go by the terrain.

Karl King

Subject: 5:1 Ratio

Thom Mahoney asked what 5-1 means. For interesting information pertaining to 24 hour runs and 25-5, see:

"Reaching Your Potential in the 24 Hour Run" by Tom Perry in Ultrarunning, May 1991 and March 1992.

"The Advantage of a Run/Walk Strategy for 24 Hour Runs" by Karl King in Ultrarunning, May 1994

The latter article discusses the 25-5 strategy used by Kevin Setnes at the Olander Park 24 Hour run to set the North American record of 160.4 miles.

Every runner is different, so what Kevin used to set the record may not work for all. Anyone training for such an event will normally run several training runs which can be used to determine what ratio works for them.

It is quite likely that the optimum strategy for any given runner will vary with his/her current level of fitness and pacing on the running section.

Nobody can tell you, a priori, what is best for you. You'll just have to work it out for yourself. But then, the discovery of your true nature is at least half the fun.

Matt Mahoney

Subject: 5:1 Ratio

Kevin Kelleher writes:

When you run 5:1, do you do it from the start of the race or wait until you've run a bit and begin to need a break?
Do it from the start. Always. No matter how good you feel. The first half of your ultra should feel almost effortless. It has to. If you wait until you're tired before you walk, you're in trouble. I know it is difficult to imagine getting to the 50 mile point in a 100 and feeling like you've done nothing, as fresh as when you started, but that is what it should feel like.

Also, this 5:1 run:walk ratio (or 3:1 or 1:1 or 1:2 depending on distance and your conditioning) applies only to flat courses. On hilly courses, walk uphill, run down.

Paul Hasse

Subject: 5:1 and 25:1 Ratio

On the topic of 5:1 strategy, I agree you need to do it from the start. A variation that I have done with some success is using 25:5 from the start and then switching to 5:1 when I become fatigued. My reasoning is that I use the walking portion to get serious amounts of food in and I personally cannot eat that much in 1 minute. Maintaining fuel levels early on is critical. The switch to 5:1 maintains the same ratio of running vs walking but when survival is the issue, it feels more manageable than 25:5. If 5:1 becomes intolerable, I have used other strategies beyond that point, but quite frankly, its simply too ugly to discuss...