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Walking During A Race: Faux Pas Or Acceptable?

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Despite having a stigma, many runners use a run/walk method to help them cross the finish line. Walking During A Race: Faux Pas Or Acceptable? www.runnerclick.com

Give it all you got to the next light post then it’s back to a walk. Recover for two minutes. Control your breathing. Now run with your heart.

This inner monologue runs along the lines of what many people tell themselves during a race. There are plenty of runners who use the run/walk method, which successfully takes them to the finish line. But if you a runner who struggles with owning the title because of walking, it can be intimating to sign up for a race. Is it even acceptable to walk during a race (where the whole point is to run fast)? Or is this a major fitness faux pas?

Dear Runner, You Are A Runner

First off, anyone who runs is a runner. That means you who runs an 8-minute mile is. It means you who runs a 12-minute mile. It’s you who runs and then walks and the runs some more without a workout. It’s also you who feels like or is called a “jogger.”

Dear runner, you are a runner. What makes you a runner is putting one foot in front of the other no matter how fast or slow that is. Well, unless you are walking. And if you need to walk that’s okay too.

Photo by Jenny Hill on Unsplash.

The Run/ Walk Method

The run, walk method is very much a real thing. Made popular by American Olympian Jeff Galloway, this approach to running is known as the Galloway Method. Established back in 1973 to help beginners start running, it continues to be used today—even in races. In fact, there are studies that show some can improve their finish time when using the run, walk, run approach during a race.

And there is science behind it. According to Galloway, “walk breaks will significantly speed up recovery because there is less damage to repair. The early walk breaks erase fatigue, and the later walk breaks will reduce or eliminate overuse muscle breakdown.”

Having that time to walk and “take a break” from the run helps to limit exhaustion while recharging the mind.

Benefits Of A Run-Walk Approach In Training

Besides being a solid gameplay for race day to make it to the finish line, it also is great for training and every day running. It breaks down time and distance so that a new runner doesn’t feel overwhelmed or intimated.

The Galloway method can help to make the runner faster. This might sound far-fetched because the runner is slowing down by walking. However, giving the body and mind time to recover in the workout can result in a boost in performance. The body is then “ready” to kick it into high gear knowing that another recovery period is just ahead. This means many runners wish their pace, which impacts their overall pace during the run.

The run/walk method also helps the body recover from the workout quicker with a lower risk of injury like a pulled muscle of IT band problems associated with going too fast too soon.

Other benefits include an increase in overall fitness since it might take longer to complete a run. Instead of speeding through 2 or 3 miles in less than the daily recommended 30 minutes of physical activity, the runner is easily reaching 30 minutes thanks to walking breaks. That means more calories burned.

Photo by Arek Adeoye on Unsplash.

Racing Faux Pas Or Acceptable?

It is totally acceptable for participants to walk during a race—despite with elite runners might think. It’s both beginner runners and even more seasoned runners who prefer this method. If it works for that individual then go for it! Throw out all fears of judgment and remember that you are lapping all those people who are sitting on their couches.

There are some races that have specific walking options for their 5k or other distances. Some even have specific awards for walkers. This is always an option to be grouped with those who are looking to sprint the other way so that you can focus on walking and running when ready.

Keep in mind that some races are timed events. While there is no rule to not walk, be mindful of the time requirements to be able to finish. There typically isn’t a problem for most run/walkers.

At races, there are all types of people who run/walk, from younger to older—both male and female. Just don’t line up in the front of the starting line so that the faster runners can go first without having to dodge around others.

Enjoy the race and do so at your speed.


  1. Jeff Galloway, Jeff Galloway, Personal Website
  2. Amanada Brooks, Galloway Method – Run Walk Marathon Training Overview, Running Blog
  3. Coach Jeff, How to Ultilize the Run Walk Method for Smarter Training , Running Website