I Used to Run and Walk

Like many runners (especially Canadian runners who started running at the Running Room), I was a big believer in the run-walk method. That means you run for ten minutes and walk for one minute…repeated as many times as needed.

I ran many half marathons, a couple of 30kms and a few full marathons using the run-walk method. It worked well for me for a lot of miles and a good number of years.

And then in the summer of 2012, I decided that I wasn’t going to walk anymore. I was out on a training run with Sam from our little group and we ran 26km without stopping for walk breaks. All of a sudden, running the full 42.2km of a marathon seemed like something I could do.

So I resolved to run every step of the 2012 Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon. And I did it, save for a couple of short walks of about 10 seconds at a few of the water stations.

From that day on, the walk breaks were gone and all my running was done “continuous”.

Why walk when you can run?

There’s a fair bit of controversy about run-walk. Some people seem annoyed by it and go as far as to suggest that run-walkers aren’t “real runners”.

John Stanton

John Stanton, probably telling people about the benefits of run-walk.

Others swear by it and say that they’ll run-walk the rest of their running lives, no matter what.

John Stanton, founder of the Running Room says that their programs rely on the run-walk method to reduce the chances of injury for newer runners and that it helps all runners finish “upright and smiling” because it reduces stress on the body and mind.

Do what works for you

I’m of the mind that you should do what works for you. If run-walk is what you are comfortable with and you’re able to reach your goals and stay healthy, then keep doing your ten and ones.

Conversely, if you want to give up the walk breaks and switch to continuous, then that’s your decision to make and you should give it a try.

For me, dropping the walk breaks marked the start of a dramatic improvement in my marathon time. My fastest marathon done with run-walk was 3:55:06. My best time since then running continuous is 3:36:01.

Is that all thanks to skipping the walk breaks? No. Mostly it’s that I’ve invested far more time in training and I’ve gotten much stronger. That said, my experience with running continuous is that I enjoy the latter stages of the marathon more without the walk breaks.

We’re all runners

Whatever you choose for you, resolve not to judge those who choose something different. Whether you run every step, or take a walk break every ten minutes or so, we’re all marathoners at the finish.

Eating and Running

Food and drink provides the energy runners need to run, but consuming the wrong things before a run can lead to less than enjoyable miles.

As a runner, you’ve likely had a few days where you regretted what you ate before you ran. Most runners will have a TMI story about the time they ate the wrong thing before a run and were left clutching their stomach on the side of the road (or worse).

You probably won’t be able to completely eliminate bad workouts due to tummy troubles, but there are a few things you can do to reduce the likelihood.

Keep a Journal

Because what you eat stays with you for up to 50 hours, what you eat even on the day before your run can have an impact. Like the running log you keep (you have a running log, right?), it’s worth tracking what you eat when you are in marathon training mode.

Having a log of how you felt on the run, and a similar log of what you ate in the hours and days before that run will allow you to identify which foods cause you trouble and which foods don’t.

Figure out what works well


Pho? Good.

On run days I stick to these “known commodities”. For example, chicken pho for lunch works well as does a burger from McDonald’s (as long as I stick to water or milk and skip the pop).

An mid-afternoon snack of a chocolate bar or a couple of cookies provides fuel when I run prior to dinner. I also drink some Q Energy Drink or water during the day, but I limit my fluid intake in the two hours prior to heading out.

If you know what sits well, you can plan to eat that on your run days and you’ll have one less thing to worry about.

ID the trouble-makers

Along with knowing what works for me, I also discovered a few things that don’t work well. Keeping track of food/drink intake helped me realize that consuming carbonated drinks even many hours before a run made for some very unpleasant workouts.


Pop? Not so good…

Armed with that intel, I’ve completely eliminated carbonated drinks for at least 24 hours before any runs. The difference has been immense.

I also noted that spicy foods like burritos and stir frys have an effect for up to a day or more after eating. Like the pop, I try to avoid that now on run days where possible.

I had always thought that eating food close to runs (especially when I ran after dinner) was the cause of cramps and other tummy discomfort. Through tracking my eating and running, it became clear that eating and running wasn’t all that bad. Instead, what and how much I drank had a bigger impact.

Too much water, milk or other liquids like coffee led to all sorts of problems. But eating a pasta dinner an hour before I ran with a small glass of water instead of milk was fine.

Find out what really messes you up and put those on the “avoid list”.

Add food and drink to your training routine

Your training schedule tells you when and how long to run. Knowing what foods are compatible with training will allow you to plan your eating and drinking into your training schedule too. It really doesn’t take much time when you already know what works and what doesn’t.

It’s pretty simple on run days for me. I stick to a lunch that I know won’t cause issues and I avoid pop and limit fluids later in the day. As a result, it’s been weeks since I had a tough run and my performance overall has improved.

The Importance of Weekday Runs

A lot of people point to the Sunday LSD (long, slow distance) runs as being the most important part of training. There’s no doubt that those 23-32km runs are a big part of the process. They teach you to run long, and they help you to learn about pacing, nutrition and other things that will serve you well on race day when you run for 42.2km.

foundationBut early on, it’s the weekday runs that build the foundation that you need to have to enable you to run big distances in a couple of months’ time.

Different days, different runs

Over the first six weeks, I run the same schedule on my weeknight evenings: Tuesday is a 6km at tempo pace; Wednesday is another tempo run for 10km; and then Thursday I run 8km at a steady pace. Each one contributes to the overall training program in a different way:

  • Tuesday’s tempo over a 6km shorter distance allows for some additional recovery after the longer Sunday runs. The up-tempo pace helps build strength and cardio and teaches you to push yourself a bit as you run near your limits.
  • Wednesday’s 10km longer run, with some of that at tempo pace teaches how to run fast over longer distances and while fatigued. Later in training, these runs transition to hill repeats which build cardio and leg strength.
  • Thursday’s 8km run stresses the body and mind to build mental and physical toughness. These are steady pace runs, meaning you can run at an easier pace than Tuesday and Wednesday. That said, you’ll quickly realize that three days in a row makes for some tired legs. Knowing how to hold your pace in the last few kilometres will serve you well after about 35km on race day.

Commit to your training from day one

These first few weeks are super important. Avoid the temptation to skip runs when you are tired and do all the work now to build a strong foundation on which to build in later stages of the training program.

Your Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon awaits on May 29th.

The First Few Weeks

Maybe you just started your “real” training for the Ottawa Marathon, or maybe you are about to. Whatever camp you are in, these first few weeks are always a bit of a stress test on the body and mind.

I’m rolling into training in pretty good shape, having run nearly 2,100km in 2015, and with some reasonable rest under my belt through December.

Early aches and pains

Still, now that I’ve ramped it up to full marathon training mode, my legs are starting to cry foul and the usual aches and pains are creeping back in. My brain is already questioning why we’re doing this.


Become friends with this thing.

It’s normal for the first few weeks to be a bit of a struggle. You’ll be adapting to a life of five-days-a-week running and putting in more mileage than you maybe are used to.

Form good habits

Keep it up and develop all the habits that will help you get through training and your race. That means foam rolling, stretching, and paying attention to the little things like sore IT bands or tight calves so you can stay ahead of any potential injuries.

Resist the temptation to run hard now. Tempo runs should be a bit easier than normal, and your long Sunday runs should be a nice easy pace while we’re still running the relatively short distances.

If you want success later, you need to execute on the training plan now. Build that strong foundation that you’ll build on over the next four months.

Getting the Most Out of Strava

strava-logo-350There are a bunch of different run tracking, social fitness websites out there, but Strava does a nice job creating a real community regardless of which GPS device or app you use.

I’ve been a long-time user of Dailymile over the years, but a lack of updates of late, and a bunch of missing features like segments, goals and easy uploads from my Garmin had me looking elsewhere this fall.

Strava is free to join and use. They also have a premium account level with a few additional features, but up until recently, I’d been a happy free Strava user for a few years and found it pretty suitable for my needs.

Tips and tricks

Here’s some tips to help you get the most out of Strava, if you opt to go that route for your run tracking and community:

Support for 50+ devices

Take advantage of Strava’s integration with various services to automatically sync your uploaded runs. Strava supports more than 50 different devices.

Log into your Strava account and go to Upload Activity to connect your Garmin Connect, Fitbit, Polar, TomTom (and other) accounts to Strava. For many popular devices, whenever you upload a run to whatever service your GPS watch maker provides, it’ll automatically get added to Strava within a minute or two.

img-mobile-phones-21f956d49fed137ecb6bb9bda90a39e0If you don’t use or have a GPS running watch, the Strava App for iOS and Android offers GPS tracking. You should probably download it even if you do have a GPS watch as you can give kudos (likes) and comment on your friends runs and view the details on your own when you are away from the computer.

Challenges, Segments and Clubs

Make sure you check out Strava’s Challenges to keep yourself motivated throughout the year. Strava has monthly distance challenges each month, along with different virtual races that will get out out to run 10km, 21.1km or more in certain months.

If you are the competitive type, check out Strava’s Segments for more fun. Segments offer little races within your runs and are generally short hills, or specific sections of popular routes.

Strava keeps track of your performance over these segments and also matches you up with other runners so you can see how you rank against everyone who runs the same areas as you do. You’ll see the various segments when you upload your run. You can also create your own if you want to track a portion of your regular route.

If you are looking for more community, then make sure you connect your Facebook account to Strava so you can find your running buddies and connect with them on Strava. You might also want to connect to your Instagram account as Strava automatically finds your Instagram photos taken on the run and adds them to your uploaded activity.

There are also virtual run clubs to create and join with discussion boards, a leaderboard and a way to plan events. The clubs feature is super handy if you want to train together with a group with the same goal race. While many run clubs use Facebook for this, Strava offers similar features in terms of discussions, but also incorporates running data, and the ability to share routes.

Flybys, training progression, suffering and more

Some more advanced options:

  • Routes: Strava has a route maker with a few neat features. It’s a bit finicky at times (pro-tip: turn off “Use Popularity”), but it does a nice job helping you create good routes to run.
  • Strava Flybys: A neat mapping feature that plots your runs alongside anyone who ran either the same route as you did, or who crossed paths with you during your run. Here’s an example.
  • Runs on this route: if you run the same routes often (like a regular neighbourhood loop), Strava will tell you how you are trending over time.
  • Suffer Score: Strava Premium users ($5.99USD/month) get a few extra features including the Suffer Score which uses heart rate data and other metrics to assign a value for how much you suffered during your run. I scored a glorious 217 during the Marquis de Sade.
  • Personal Heatmap: another Premium feature, Heatmaps plots all your runs on a map and the more you run a street, the more red it gets. My 2015 heatmap is here. You can create various different ones for different periods of time. There’s also a Global Heatmap available to everyone that will help you find popular routes when you are running in different cities.

As with any service, the more you use it, the more you get out of it. Find some friends, comment, give kudos and provide enrouagement and you’ll get the same thing back.

Considering the cost (free for a regular account, $5.99USD/month for Strava Premium), Strava offers an incredible service for any runner.

Some screenshots from Strava: