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Running column: A run-walk strategy could get Mark Armstrong to the start line of his next marathon

Mark Armstrong on a training run in Long Stratton. Picture: Alison Armstrong Photography

Mark Armstrong on a training run in Long Stratton. Picture: Alison Armstrong Photography

Archant

Running…walking…it’s all the same isn’t it?

Well, it wasn’t to me…until last weekend.

When Neil suggested that I try run-walking as a way of getting the miles into my legs ahead of the Robin Hood Marathon next month, I turned my nose up.

I’m a runner, not a walker, I thought.

But I also knew I had to try something different. The top of my right leg has been getting tighter and tighter in recent weeks and the prospect of doing 15 miles on it wasn’t something I was relishing.

It’s an IT band issue, I know that, and I also know that if I’m going to make the start line next month then I’m going to have to tread carefully, literally.

MORE: Marathons, half marathons, 10ks - it can all prove to be a bit too much

The benefit of run-walking would be that it would save my legs from the constant pounding of the road because, of course, as you get more tired your form starts to suffer and that’s when problems can occur.

I was still to be convinced though.

I started off with a brisk walk for a warm up – it seems I can no longer just start running for fear of tweaking a cold muscle. It’s rubbish getting older.

I then broke my training run up into segments of six minutes of running followed by a minute of brisk walking.

My scepticism lessened as the miles ticked by and by mile 10 I was still feeling relatively fresh and the biggest surprise of all was that it had little effect on my overall pace.

It also really helped to break the run up knowing that every six minutes I would be rewarded with some brief respite.

Each time I walked it gave me a chance to assess how I was feeling – did I need any water? What fuel should I take on? What hurts?

It was only in the latter part of the 15 miles that the outside of my right knee was starting to grumble slightly but only on the uncomfortable end of the spectrum and nowhere near the pain I felt last week.

Towards the end I also had to remind myself that I was supposed to be walking ‘briskly’ not just merely ambling along wondering when I could have my next pack of Hula Hoops.

It has certainly given me some food for thought.

Would I prefer to run the whole way at Nottingham? Of course, but I’m not sure that’s an option with how my body has been coping.

I will look to extend the running segment this weekend to eight minutes followed by a minute’s walk (briskly remember), and if I can get through that without any significant issues then it really will be full steam ahead for the marathon.

MORE: If you want to get faster it’s time to go hard or go home

I am concerned that in a race situation that my ego would get the better of me and I would just start running. I get the impression it’s something you really have to commit to from the start.

If I just left run-walking towards the latter stages of a marathon I fear a significant amount of time will be spent merely plodding along.

So if I do commit to it then I’m going to have to exercise a bit of discipline – something that if you are a regular reader of this column you will know I’m not always great at.

But we’re getting towards the end-game of my training now with 18 miles scheduled for this weekend.

Sometimes the only thing that gets me through is what I’m going to eat at the end of it…it will be a lot more than a pack of Hula Hoops this weekend.

MORE: To run or to walk - sometimes it’s merely about putting one foot in front of the other

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