Why It’s Okay To Walk
By Paul Towers
Image © Boggy / Fotolia
Society often has an unhealthy obsession when it comes to running. Or exercise in general for that matter. Too often you hear people say that run wasn’t ‘really’ a run because you had to take a break, if you stopped to smell some roses, or god forbid walk!
I’m not sure what lead to this unhealthy focus on ‘perfect’ but I’m here to say that it is okay to walk. I was thinking about this concept just recently in terms of my own running. After almost a year away from running due to family, work and other obligations in life, I started to run again. I wasn’t sure how hard (or easy) it would be but I knew I wanted to get back out there.
Coming from a background of ultra marathons I set my sights on running 10kms as a starting point. The first run wasn’t pretty. I was slow, my legs felt like lead and it took way, way longer than I expected. I was, however running, and that was all that mattered to me.
Fast forward three days and I wanted to get in a second run for the week. I knew from previous experience that consistency is key. And having set a goal of running the Sydney Half Marathon on 15 May, I knew I had to stay on track or I wouldn’t reach my goal.
I set off early Sunday morning and within 500 metres knew it was going to be a struggle. It had been three days, but my legs still felt like that had just finished the previous run! I was even slower than last time, but I stayed focused on my goal and went out to run the 10km.
On this particular route I take the run out is downhill. This means that after turning around at the 5km mark I am faced with a couple of hills on the way home. As one would expect, this is where the fatigue started to set in and my lack of fitness reared its head. I hit the first hill and I was stuffed! I started to walk.
I am used to walking in ultra marathon races. It can often be a smart strategy. It allows you to conserve energy on the up hills and use the flat or downhills to your advantage.
Training is normally a different story. In the past when I had a long training run, say four or five hours on my feet, I always used to beat myself up when I walked. I felt like I had failed at what I set out to do.
This Sunday however I had a revelation. I didn’t beat myself up when I had to walk. I realised that this was exactly what I needed. If you get to the point where you have to walk, then you knew that the goal you set for that training run was just right. You see, if I had ran the whole 10kms that day, who would know if I still had another kilometre or two in my legs.
By ‘failing’ to run the whole 10kms, I knew I had pushed myself just enough. I had run most of the distance, but needed to walk the harder sections. That is now my benchmark for the weeks that follow. When I can run the whole thing again without a worry then I know it’s time to push the distance, intensity or number of hills. I will search for that point where I need to walk again, whether it be at 12kms, 15 or even more. Because when I find that point where I am forced to walk then I know the distance is just right. And my body will be forced to adapt.
The real insight I gained from this personal story is that when you see someone who is walking on their run, and when they looked completely stuffed, it’s not because they have failed. It’s because they are doing exactly what they need to do. It could be they may have even run further than you and are only now just finding their breaking point.
So lets celebrate the fact that walking in a run should be seen as a sign of achievement, not failure. And let’s get past this whole notion of a run doesn’t count as a run if you need to walk!