The Beauty of the 13 Minute Mile

runnerOOBThere is something interesting about conversations with newer runners…..and even slower runners….ask them how they feel about walking.

I have had the conversation with many runners over the past few years. There seems to be a very stark line between people. Of course you have the people who honor walking as a legitimate activity. Those people who walk marathons and half marathon. But lately there seems to be a growing number of people who seem to equate walking with failure. I have heard things like, “My goal is to do this whole race without walking” or “I would have done so much better if I hadn’t stopped to walk.” or even “I was doing great until I had to walk”……Since when does walking equal failure? Even my beginner people that I mentor in the No Boundaries program set goals that involve never having to stop and walk again. People seem to get genuinely upset when they have to stop and walk during a race. I’m all for setting goals to push yourself further, but why the stigma about walking? Even with the increasing information suggesting that walking while running is better for you then straight running. Then of course there is Jeff Galloway’s programs that promote walk/running.  So why the snickering when people admit to walk/running? Why is this looked down upon and suggested that it is not “real running”. Tell me, is not the 10 mile distance the same?

Truth is, walking does make running easier at time. For example, this summer I completed a 5 mile run around a standard loop that I use regularly. I ran the entire time and ended up with a time of about 56 minutes. I completed the same run the following week at run 10 and walk 1 minute intervals. I ended up with a time of about 53 minutes. It turns out that I actually run faster when I know I get a rest break at regular intervals. What a concept!

I’ve been faced with a new set of questions lately. Upon challenging myself to complete the winter Beast of Burden 50 Miler I knew that I would have to embrace walking even more then I already do. Coming off a new half marathon PR I had to face the music that I could not maintain that pace for 50 miles. I had to slow down. I had to start walking more. Now, as I have been slowing my pace to actually hope of completing the distance it seems to bother me more and more that people are so biased towards walking. In Vegas last weekend I passed spectators who shouted at me to “get moving because you are almost there”. Several encouraged me that I could do it if I just started running again. A little girl even ran up along side me and told me to run like her. She was adorable so of course I did, even though I was on a scheduled walk interval. I had never realized before that even spectators (who may or may not be runners) equate a walk break as something negative.

I did a long run yesterday from my house to my fiance’s house and passed many things I probably wouldn’t have seen if I had been running my normal pace. I didn’t freak out when I had to stop to use the bathroom in Tim Horton’s (or again at Walgreens, still working out fueling issues!). I embraced the journey and the slowness of it all. Yes, it took me much longer then normal to complete 31.5 miles this weekend. Yes, I walked A LOT (I’ve been working with 5:2 run/walk intervals). But it didn’t bother me as much as it would some people. I get frustrated that I may be loosing speed, sure….. what if I finish my ultra and it takes me forever to build back up my speed? I’ve always focused on distance because I’m not a particularly fast runner. 11 minute miles are a thrill to me. Anything below that is a miracle. Running a 2:19 in Philadelphia sent me through the roof. Now, just as I was getting faster I take on a new challenge that slows me down. I found it to be beautiful that I still had something around 13 minute miles yesterday when I spent so much time walking. It may be strange, but I was damn proud of an average of 13 minute miles.

Now I ask you…..what is your opinion on walking? Do you hear negativity about it? Do you think it is more about the journey or the speed? What do you think of people who walk entire marathons and half marathons (not necessarily for charity, just for “fun”)? I’m really curious to know people’s thoughts.




17 thoughts on “The Beauty of the 13 Minute Mile

  1. Ashley B

    I’m trying to up my miles; maybe I shouldn’t give up on walking when I need to, either-I’m totally one of those “walking=failure” people…

  2. Excellent points, here. I too struggle with the walking thing. Is it ok to walk so much? What if those bikers pass me again and think I’ve been walking this whole time (actually happened once)? One day I’m going to try out the walk-run theory. Actually, I’m running a 24-hour race over NYE and I’ve thought about employing a 1:1 walk/run schedule, just to keep myself going for as long as possible. So this article comes in a timely fashion.

    Also, thanks so much for the pingback on my article!

    1. No problem! And I think it really does come down to balance. I find it hard to justify walking sometimes when I feel like I haven’t been running hard. But I feel like no one can possibly make it through an ultra without walking. It just seems crazy to run for so long without stopping. I’ve tried a couple different intervals (10:1, 5:1, 1:1, and 6:1 and the one that leaves me feeling most rested and strongest is the 5:2) I will go over sometimes but not for more than a minute on either interval. Best of luck in your race!

  3. colleen

    I actually found I am more of a walker than a runner. When I did couch 2 5k once the walking intervals were gone I was dying for my workout to be over with. I plan on trying the program again but after initially getting to the full running segment I want to try intervals. I tend to view running as a way to boost my time and keep my heart rate up more than walking alone.

  4. My goal is always to run without walking. If I have to walk I realize that I am either running too fast or too far. I think that we are all competitors at heart and our goal is to run not walk. If we are walking we have not met our goal.

  5. What an awesome article! I once had the goal to run a full half without walking. But I got injured during training and was turned on to Jeff Galloway’s plan with 2:1 intervals. Walking was the best thing I physically did. I got through half training, ran four prs in a year, and remained injury free.

    But emotionally, it did me in. Not only did I get upset with myself, but I dealt with the stigma of other runners. I’m going to be honest that the reason I quit was because every race became an embarrassment. And I constantly dealt with a community that vocally shunned both slow and walking runners. Maybe I shouldn’t have let it get to me, but the discouragement was constant even in the face of big and little running victories.

  6. I’ll admit, I’m one where I beat myself up if I have to stop to walk during a race or a run. I’m not sure why. To me, if I stop to walk, I feel like I’ve let people down. I feel like I’ve let myself down. I have gotten better though and there are times when I head out on a run and tell myself that if I have to stop & walk, then I have to. I’ll get the x amount of miles done no matter what. I still have days though where I get frustrated.

  7. Anne

    I used to be an avid runner, not fast but did some 5 mile and 10k fun runs at a 9 minute mile pace. That was in my 20s. Over the years running began to give me back problems and I switched to power walking. I usually do a 12-13 minute mile. I plan to walk/run a 10k race. I am 61 and I could care less if the runners think I “couldn’t make it” because they see me walking. But I remember when I was younger I felt bad for people who “had to walk” during a race. I enjoy walking and at my age I am more in it for the enjoyment than for the competition.

  8. Naomi Oliviae

    I love walking 13 minute miles. There *is* a pride that comes with walking 13 minute ?miles!! Thanks for sharing this!

  9. Interesting. As a walker, who is just now trying to add in some running, after having walked two half marathons, I have felt like others have judged me while I walk. The photographer said it looked like I was relaxing too much, when I walked past him in my first half marathon. Then some runners commented to each other in my hearing wouldn’t it just be awful to walk across the finish line, as they were walking just then. It all helped to make my half marathon less of an achievement in my own mind. My twin seemed to say that walking wasn’t exercise, even if my walk was faster than her jog. For a long time, I refused to jog/run because I felt it would be saying that the runners around me was right and the walkers weren’t exercising and pushing themselves. But in my attempts to do an under 3 hour half marathon, I have to add in running. So I am now trying to add in running, and well, it is hard. At first my calf muscles objected mightily, then after the first 1.5 months, then that stopped. Mostly for me, it is my exercise induced asthma. I know I will probably never completely stop using walk breaks. Even when walking I would do speed walking intervals and always preferred a break. I think I got up 15 minutes speed walking, 1 minute walking break. So far I am only up to 3 minutes jogging, 2 minutes walking. (Well, did do some 1.5 minutes walking in my intervals at one time, but then hurt my back so didn’t jog/run for 2.5 weeks and now working bak up to it again.)

    1. There is no shame in running or walking because there are so many people out there who wont even try. I have severe asthma and dont think I will every complete a marathon or half without walking. My fastest time ever was with scheduled walk breaks. You try harder because you know you get a break. Just do what your body is capable of, feel proud in your accomplishments and to hell with everyone else. Honestly walkers and slower runners have more mental strength anyway. How many people can handle doing something for 3-6 hours?! Most runners cant make it to a half because they “get bored”, imagine them trying to walk a half marathon! They’d never make it! Be proud of yourself and I am proud of you too!

  10. Jeff

    Hi, just wanted to let you know that I can walk a Half Marathon in under 2hr 56mins. I have been doing a lot of walking. Is this a good pace for a man at 61 years of age

    1. Jealous here. I walked a half in 3 hours and about 6 minutes, and decided to go faster I would need to add in some jogging. So more, power to you! Seems like a great walking pace to me.

  11. Pingback: “Stay home slowpokes” | breathlessrunner

  12. I love this article! I have ulcerative colitis and running itself is a dream for me as I am often unable to do anything strenuous when I am in a flare. Today I completed a 5K and was so proud of myself and my 13 minute miles. Walking/running helped me to finish strong, despite my medical condition.

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