The pacing strategy alternating periods of walking and running is known as the Galloway Method, after Jeff Galloway, the former US Olympic runner who popularized it. According to his theory, walk breaks help to endure fatigue and reduce or eliminate muscle breakdown.
Worth to mention that this run-walk method is not used only when the athlete is tired, but throughout the whole race. By reducing overall impact on the body, it has allowed many runners, especially beginners, to go farther, and even faster, than they would have achieved simply by running.
According to the runner level and strategy the running:walking intervals may differ greatly, going from an easier 1:1 ratio to a more demanding 8:1, when the runner would run 8 continuous minutes and then walk during 1.
Despite the Galloway Method popularity, a question remains:
Does a runner need more energy when changing speeds or while running at a constant pace?
A recent study has used a treadmill and a group of recreational runners who did the following:
- 6 min continuous running
- 6 min continuous walking
- 12 min alternating 2-min periods of run and walk
Being measured the energy expenditure per kilometre (kcal/km), the distance traversed per litre of absolute oxygen (m/L O2) and the rate of perceived exertion (RPE) for each of the conditions.
- Energy expenditure
Walking consumed less energy (9 kcal) for a given distance than running, although when alternating every two minutes participants required 4 kcal extra to traverse one kilometre than running it. For a marathon race it would mean 168 kcal more.
- Distance traversed
Walking allowed participants to traverse 12.31 metres farther per litre of oxygen consumed than while running. There was no difference when between participants running or using the Galloway method.
There was only a small reduction in perceived exertion for the runners when using the run-walk method than with continuous running.
- Alternating periods of running and walking did not save any energy per kilometre when compared to continuous running and only offered a slight reduction of perceived fatigue.
- On the positive side, the Galloway method can reduce the risks of injury and allow a better management of fatigue, pain, and discomfort in marathons, although limiting the performance.
Run-walk marathon pacing: the energy cost of frequent walk breaks. William P. Nolan & Andrew R. Moore (2021), International Journal of Performance Analysis in Sport, 21:1, 170-179, DOI: 10.1080/24748668.2020.1862493