A Q&A With Olympian and Coach Jeff Galloway

As runDisney’s training consutlant, Jeff Galloway designed a series of training programs for runners tackling Disney races. (Photo: runDisney)

Jeff Galloway knows running. He’s been an Olympian, a U.S. record holder, a coach and a running innovator. Galloway developed the RUN-WALK-RUN method to help runners train injury-free. He has coached more than 250,000 runners, and his books on running have sold over 1 million copies. As runDisney’s official training consultant, Galloway designed a series of training programs, videos and tips for runners tackling Disney races like the upcoming Disney Princess Half Marathon on Feb. 26. Galloway has a long history with Disney—he’s run the Walt Disney World Marathon every year since its inception in 1994.

“Run, Karla, Run!” caught up with Galloway at the Tinker Bell Half Marathon social media meet-up on Jan. 28, where he led a group of 45 runners on a two-mile morning jaunt though Disneyland and California Adventure parks. Participants were chosen through Disney’s social media channels like the Disney Parks Blog, Disney Sports’ Twitter handle and the runDisney Facebook page. Having a chance to run with Galloway is a once in a lifetime opportunity for most runners. Getting him to tackle your burning running questions? Even better. After the run, Galloway sat down with the meet-up to answer the group’s training questions. Here are the highlights from all of the runners’ questions:

Q: I’ve never done your method until this morning. You guys were running really fast. How long does it take your body to get used to your method?

A: Well, we were running fast today simply because we had a time limit. The normal use of RUN-WALK-RUN is to go at your pace on the run, at your pace on the walk, so you never ever huff and puff. That’s the Galloway program. You determine how much you run, how much you walk.

Jeff Galloway (left) leads runners through Disneyland as part of runDisney’s Tinker Bell Half Marathon Meet-Up. (Photo: runDisney)

Q: Do you have an app or a website that says, “I want my finish time to be ‘X.’ I want these to be my intervals. What pace do I need to run to offset my walk rates to then achieve this net pace?”

A: There are several adjustments and formulas for that. Quite honestly, they don’t work, and the reason is that we have found in numerous surveys, when we’ve tried to study this, is that the walking pace is individual. In other words, each person practically walks at a different pace. So guess what? Each person runs at a different pace.

The other interesting thing is that within an individual the pace of the run and walk will change during a half-marathon. And it changes rather significantly. So there’s really no set amount that I can tell you.

But the formula is actually more simple than that. And that is: you just do it the old-fashioned way. If you want to hit a certain pace per mile, then at that mile that’s what it is. And if you’re behind, then pick up the pace. We all have a timing mechanism inside us that we can access once we get into the RUN-WALK-RUN, and people tend to be within just a few seconds of that once they start pacing themselves.

Q: For training you suggest that we slow down a little bit, but I find I always have such a normal rhythm for running that I really have trouble slowing down. Do you have any suggestions for that during training?

A: Walk more. The point of slowing down on long runs is quite simple. If you do not run 2 minutes per mile slower than your race time, then you’re going to incur a great risk of getting injured. And we have many, many studies showing this. The most common reason people get injured in distance running is running just a little bit too fast on long runs. So the rule that I like to use is 2 minutes per mile slower than your marathon race would be or 3 minutes per mile slower than your half-marathon pace would be. But the Kenyans actually go between 3 and 4 minutes per mile slower. They’ve been smart for well over 40 years knowing that that is the key to staying injury free and recovering fast.

So the way you facilitate that is you put more walking into the mix. If you’re not slowing down enough by doing 30/30 [Galloway often recommends alternating running and walking every 30 seconds] then run 20 seconds and walk 40. If that doesn’t work, run 15 seconds, walk 45. I’ve not found any pace or any amount of walking versus running that is too slow or too much walking. You’re going to get the same endurance, even if you walked the whole amount.

Karla (second right) runs with Jeff Galloway (right) at the Tinker Bell Half Marathon Meet-Up. (Photo: runDisney)

Now if you’re planning to do some RUN-WALK in a race, I do recommend that you put some amount of running into the mix to maintain the adaptations. But it doesn’t need to be much. I’ve had a number of people who have run well below 5 hours in the marathon who have only run 10 to 15 seconds and the rest of the minute has been walking. Fiddle with the walking so that you stay within that range and you’ll avoid the bad stuff.

Q: How do you determine the magic formula you should do?

A: You will find that on the JeffGalloway.com site and also the runDisney.com site. Basically, it’s based on pace per mile. So give me a pace and I’ll tell you what the ratio should be.

Runner: The pace I’m going for is 7:35.

Galloway: 7:35 pace would be: every 5 minutes, take a 40 second walk break. Or every mile, take a 30-40 second walk break. That’s a fast pace, by the way.

Runner: So obviously I have to run a little bit faster to accommodate for the walking, though?

Galloway: A little bit, yeah. But it’s not much. When you walk for 40 seconds even, most people are only loosing about 12 seconds net. So it’s really not much.

Q: Can you talk about nutrition for both halves and fulls during the race?

A: I really have studied the nutrition part a lot because one of my major rules is no puking. [The group laughs.] One of the leading causes of puking is simply eating or drinking too much during the event or for breakfast. Unless you have a low blood sugar problem, you really don’t need to eat anything for breakfast. If you have a blood sugar problem, eating a little bit of sugar within 30 minutes before the start usually does the job on that. So you don’t have to overload with that.

During, I’ve found two rules of thumb. 1) One for water, and that’s 2-4 ounces every two miles. 2) Sugar for the brain, 30-40 calories every two miles. You can take them both at the same time. They’re absorbed more quickly. The more pure forms of sugar get to the brain a little more quickly. I’m talking about sugar cubes, Gummi Bears, hard candies like Life Savers, and they work really well. The more stuff that is in your blood sugar booster, the more likely it is that you’ll get an upset tummy as a result of it.

And you want to drink regularly. That’s why I recommend every two miles to have 2 to 4 ounces of water. But you can drink too much. I’m sure some of you have heard of hyponatremia. This is clearly due to drinking about twice as much as I just said or more. So if you limit the amount of fluid that you take in, then you’re going to tend to have fewer problems. Your digestive track actually shuts down and very little is digested—even water. So those figures, those rules of thumb, really will keep you within the bounds that will work for you.

The runDisney Tinker Bell Half Marathon Meet-Up group in Disneyland’s California Adventure park. (Photo: runDisney)

Q: Jeff, can you talk a bit about the advent of compression garments in the running world?

A: Compression sleeves on the calf have been studied for more than 30 years and found to be beneficial. One series of studies has shown between a 1 and 2 percent performance benefit. The bottom line is that the compression sleeves on the calf muscle increase circulation in that most important muscle for running—the calf. Fatigue seems to be reduced, but the studies show quicker recovery. In other words, people can come back much more quickly when they’ve worn those. If you’re taking a plane flight, circulation is enhanced while wearing them on a plane flight home, and during the next day or two after a long or hard run, recovery is enhanced by wearing them around.

The compression sleeves on other areas don’t provide as much benefit for running. They may provide some fashion statements and things like that. There are some individual issues, like folks that have quad problems or whatever. Compression garments in that area can sometimes help individual people. But as a whole, the calf is where you get most of the benefit.

Q: A friend just messaged me. She’s a brand new runner and she said, “I think that’s so interesting that you can do RUN-WALK. How would it work for a new runner?”

A: Well, what we do with beginning runners is we have a series of Galloway programs around the country called Getting Started, that build people up to our regular training programs for halves or fulls. We start beginners off with 5 to 10 seconds of running and the rest of the minute walking. And some proceed more rapidly and some don’t. We do not force anyone to keep going if they’re not feeling comfortable. So the whole key is to let the body adapt gradually. And most people end up getting up to 30/30 within a 10 to 12 week session.

Jeff Galloway will be at Disney’s Princess Half Marathon Weekend in Walt Disney World from Feb. 24-26, speaking at Disney’s Fit For A Princess Expo at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex throughout the weekend, as well as leading another runDisney Meet-Up run.

As part of the running media, runDisney provided me with complimentary race entry, hotel, and park tickets for the Tinker Bell Half Marathon. But as always, all opinions are purely my own. I really do believe in being honest about my experiences and Disney is no exception. For more information read my Disclosure Policy.

Karla Bruning


Karla Bruning is a race announcer at the TCS New York City Marathon + other major events, TV host for the New York City Triathlon + contributor to Shape, Redbook, Runner's World + other publications. She used to report for Newsweek but spent her free time squeezing in workouts. Now it's her job. She's run 8 marathons, 30 halves, 10 triathlons + open water swims. When she's not running, talking about running or writing about running, she's snuggling her baby, spoiling her dog + compulsively traveling.


02 2012

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  1. 1

    Interesting interview. My long runs (only 15-16k) are right around that formula of 3 minutes per mile slower than half race pace. I thought they might have been too slow.

    Have a great run on Sunday. Not too many stops for photos this time .)

    • Karla Bruning
      Karla #

      Thanks, Ewen. It is very interesting. I think most people tend to run too fast on long runs. Slow and easy really is okay per every expert I’ve talked to.