Ask the Coach: “Walk” a Four Letter Word?

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I am new to trail running and currently run three miles on roads to nearby trails then three miles on trails and back. I want to train for at least a 30K, and wonder if walking is allowed.
—Troy Brandes, Warrensburg, MO

Not only is walking allowed, it is encouraged! Even elite runners do it during long training runs and races. Walking allows you to conserve energy for the distance, to recover from a tough section or take a moment to re-assess strategy or drink and eat. For those building mileage, walking is an essential tool.

Says Tim Twietmeyer, 25-time, sub-24-hour Western States 100-miler finisher, “Mixing in walking breaks is a great way to cover more miles and prevent overuse injuries. Plus, walking stretches the leg muscles to allow a more comfortable effort later.” In his first ultra, a 50-miler, Twietmeyer says he employed a run-9-walk-1 (minutes) formula, changing to a run-8-walk-2 routine as he fatigued, then to a pattern of running 25 strides and walking 25 strides to make the finish line.

Progressing from three trail miles to 30 kilometers may take at least three months, says Twietmeyer, depending on your previous road-running experience and weekly mileage. (Coach took about three months to train for her first trail 50K but had already run a couple of marathons.) “Take plenty of time,” advises Twietmeyer, “and enjoy the process of increasing the mileage rather than pushing too fast.”

Coach’s tip: Many ultrarunners simply run the flats and downhills and walk the uphills, albeit with “vigor.”

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