When I first started running back in 2006, I went with the run/walk method advocated by Jeff Galloway. For someone like me who had never been athletic, it was the perfect way for me to become active. It was work but as I trained, I got stronger and was able to increase how much I ran versus walked. I was thrilled when I finished my first marathon and so I kept running. So far I have completed 20 half marathons and 8 full marathons using the run/walk method, many of them as a fundraiser for charity.
I remember when I started running people would say that I really wasn’t a runner because I did the run/walk. Somehow that minute of walking I would do disqualified me as a runner. Apparently for some people, you are either a runner or a walker. Splitting between running and walking means you are not really a runner. It seems insensitive to discredit what I have achieved, as well as anyone else who has completed a marathon using the run/walk method.
When I was training for the 2009 DisneyWorld Marathon, one of my teammates had a recurring injury. I encouraged him to try the run/walk method as an alternative to straight running. I could tell that he did not think much of the idea, like it was wimping out to do a run/walk. He kept pushing himself to run faster and his injury never really went away. On race day, we were in the same corral but within a few miles, he took off, leaving me to my run/walk. I did not see him again until I passed him around Mile 20. He ended up walking a lot of the last part of the course. Yes, I walk but just a little bit each mile and I can keep going at the end.
I have had the privilege to spend time with John Bingham, also known as the Penguin, the godfather of slow runners. John knows many of the famous distance athletes personally – Frank Shorter, Joan Benoit Samuelson, Meb Keflezighi, just to name a few. John also knows the not-so-famous atheletes, the ones that are crossing the finish line as they are taking down the signs. What impresses me the most about John is that he does not distinguish between the super fast runners who smoke a marathon course and the slow ones. He cheers equally for them all.
This is one of John’s quotes that is often repeated:
“If you run, you are a runner. It doesn’t matter how fast or how far. It doesn’t matter if today is your first day or if you’ve been running for twenty years. There is no test to pass, no license to earn, no membership card to get. You just run.”
I think that the spirit of John’s quote would also not make a distinction between runners or run/walkers. Because at the end of the day, runners and run/walkers are all athletes. We should encourage and cheer for everyone, no matter how they cross the finish line.