Visha Patel, left, and a group from the Dallas Running Club walk up a hill at White Rock Lake in Dallas. (Ron Heflin/Dallas Morning News/MCT) - MCT

Run, walk, run

DALLAS — Karen Lester initially scoffed at incorporating walking into her Ironman training.

After all, she had run (not walked) three marathons, and she knew how to run. It didn't include walking, but her coach kept encouraging her. After swimming 2.4 miles and biking 112, he said, she'd need every last bit of energy to run 26.2 miles, the third leg of the Ironman tripod. Not until a training run on the actual course in St. George, Utah, did she change her mind.

"I saw those mountains," says Lester, 46, of Dallas. "Twenty-six miles up and down, up and down. I decided that run-walk was going to be a great idea. I've been faithful to run-walk training from then on."

Vishal Patel, 34, was a beginning runner when he started using the run-walk method. He was overweight and had shin splints. Going from running to walking to running again was, he says, "pure survival."

In 2001, Claire Oliver ran 18 miles of her first marathon and then "hit the wall," she says. "Everything hurt in my body. I probably walked four of the last eight miles."

Then she began incorporating walking into her training.

"I always thought it was really wimpy and was for people without the stamina to run," says Oliver, who lives in Dallas. "But I ran my next five marathons with the Galloway method. It made a huge difference."

The Galloway of whom she speaks is Jeff Galloway, the 1972 U.S. Olympian who is widely credited with creating a run-walk program in 1974. His books, including "Galloway's Book on Running" (Shelter Publications; $18.95 paperback), have remained popular, as have his programs in dozens of cities.

Long before the concept became synonymous with Galloway's name, running and walking were fraternal twins of movement. They jockeyed for position in our activity repertoire, as our ancestors decided how fast they wanted to get someplace, and whether they could maintain their pace to get there.

"Anthropologists believe running was the first form of two-footed locomotion," Galloway says from his home in Atlanta, "but it was only designed for very short bursts, like to escape predators and other dangers. More efficient was walking, and it served us extremely well. It was very, very efficient."

If muscles are used continuously, as is the case when you run without breaks, they fatigue more quickly, he says. If you intersperse walking with running, muscles used for running revive themselves during walk segments.

"Hardly ever do I see people have to push their weak links — some have knee problems, some Achilles tendon or ankle or hips — into a state of injury or abuse when they're doing run-walk-run," he says.

After Oliver's first marathon, she had troubles with her iliotibial band, the tissues that run down the outside of the leg. She hurt everywhere, she says. But after using the run-walk method of training and competing, she had no injuries.

"Doing Galloway helps you stay injury-free, meaning you can run more often and often longer distances," says Oliver, 33. "That's what I did. I'm a stronger runner because of it."

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