Neil Featherby: To walk or to run? It’s all about putting one foot in front of the other

Tom Bosworth on his way to seeing a new world record in the men's one mile race at the 2017 Muller L

Tom Bosworth on his way to seeing a new world record in the men's one mile race at the 2017 Muller London Anniversary Games at London Stadium. Picture: PA - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

Working with people of varying abilities, one of the things I notice most is how conscious many of them are to define the difference between what is running for some and a walking pace for others.

No runner wants to stop running but sometimes you have to give your body a rest, says Neil Featherby

No runner wants to stop running but sometimes you have to give your body a rest, says Neil Featherby. Picture: Archant - Credit: Copyright Archant Norfolk.

Why do some people appear to be circling the track effortlessly at five-minute miles whilst others appear to be busting a gut trying to run under 10-minute mile pace?

Needless to say it comes down to a person's natural ability and fitness level, as what is perceived as a great effort for some is nothing more than a jog in the park for others.

With this in mind, I am constantly asked by people who say they want to be able to keep running for longer, but get out of breath or want to run in a race without having to walk and what is the best way for them to do this?

Even more so when it comes to those running in marathons or indeed races well beyond the marathon distance (ultra marathons) when in truth they haven't really completed enough training miles.


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My answer is: 'Why not mix it with a run-walk strategy?'.

Their response is normally: 'But I want to run all the way.'

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Whilst I can understand where they are coming from, at the end of the day it is about just putting one leg in front of the other and getting to the finish in the most efficient way possible.

When I also say it is all relative to current fitness levels and I know people who can walk quicker than many can run, needless to say the look I get back is one of doubt.

This was perfectly highlighted by two runners in one of my groups this week who were really blowing for which I said, relax, slow down and just walk for a bit.

Whilst one of them did the other didn't and ironically the walker was moving more freely and quicker than the runner.

Unless you are in the elite category, good club runner, or of course have completed lots of long training runs with the miles under your belt, it is far better to be realistic about your capabilities when taking on such challenges.

A run-walk strategy of 5, 10, 15 or 20 mins of running followed by one minute of brisk walking can most definitely work out to be far more efficient for those who are extending themselves beyond their normal limits.

This tactic can often result in a better finishing time too for those in long distance races. However, it does need to be adhered to right from the start of the run as once forced to walk or indeed shuffle those last few painful miles that is when you know things are going wrong and the smile turns into a grimace.

Now when saying there are some people who can walk quicker than many can run, a huge well done to race walker Tom Bosworth from Kent who shattered the World Mile Record by just over 5 seconds with an absolutely staggering 5mins and 31.08 seconds at the London Diamond League meeting last Saturday.

Watching him and the other competitors in this race was pretty awesome and when you weigh up that the pace of his record performance relates to that equal of running a 10k in 34:17 or marathon in 2:24:59 proves that whilst race walking itself is technically different to running, when it comes to putting one leg in front of the other be it walking, jogging or running, it is relative to each person's ability and shape they are in.

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