Reading Half Marathon (Virtual)

In the two-and-a-half year lifespan of this blog amongst the most regularly visited posts has been one on the subject of Jeffing – the run/walk method pioneered by Jeff Galloway – that I wrote about way back last summer. I did 10k that evening, with run/walk splits of 60/30 seconds.

Given the popularity of that post I’ve always wanted to further explore the method over a longer distance and with greater splits and to write about my findings.

Today was that day.

There was the added incentive of some bling on offer at the end of it. I entered the Virtual Reading Half Marathon through the Virtual Runner website, and with a deadline of April 18th to submit my evidence to obtain my medal this was really my last chance to get it done. I also counted this as the third in my challenge to run 18 half marathon’s this year.

And because this wasn’t a ‘race’ in the sense that I had a start/finish line to cross nor any self-imposed pressure to achieve a particular time I thought this would be the ideal opportunity to experiment with Jeffing the entire run.

So, how did I get on?

Before setting off I decided upon a 4 minute/1 minute run/walk split. I wasn’t sure whether this would be too much, not enough or just right. I guessed I would soon find out.

My concern at the start wasn’t running four minutes, I was more worried about how my legs would find regularly stopping and starting. I reported the last time that I found it painful at the beginning but perhaps that was because I was walking after every minute. Maybe it’d be different this time with four minutes of running?

Unfortunately, it wasn’t really. Granted I wouldn’t call my legs painful during the first mile or so but they were definitely uncomfortable. Indeed, just after the first mile I began to question why I was doing this and wondered if I should abandon it and just run as I would normally.

But that would defeat the purpose of seeing if this method works for me over an extended distance, so I decided to persevere with it.

Happily, after the first 25-30 minutes or so it did gradually become easier. That’s often the case with my runs anyway so it would be perhaps unfair to blame it on Jeffing.

Pacewise, with 5k done, I was about five minutes slower than I would like. This partly because I was deliberately easing off because I had a half marathon to do and wanted to conserve my energy but also because run/walk has a bigger impact on time over a shorter distance.

By now I had settled into the routine and, it seemed, my legs had even come to accept it.

All was going ok, just a pity that couldn’t be said about the weather! At around 8km it started to absolutely pelt down, I got very wet very quickly. Just marvellous.

I had to go on however. I was due to meet Iverene at the 10k point. She wanted to experiment with Jeffing too, and wanted to build the distance back up in her legs after Larne … only she had the good sense and wisdom not to do it for 13.1 miles!

After taking a few minutes to find each other – we both tried to be clever getting to the pre-arranged meeting point and both abjectly failed 🙂 –  we set off back up the Broughshane Road heading for the Ballymoney Road.

This was the part of the course I dreaded. I knew I was going to have to climb at some point and this seemed the lesser of two evils, the alternative was the Fry’s Road and Grove Road which, while less extreme, went on for much longer. My theory was to get the ascent over and done with as soon as possible.

Solo training runs are so difficult. It takes a lot of mental capacity to keep pushing on so I was thankful for Iverene keeping me company just at the point when I might have been tempted to go back home.

Running with her also helped increase my pace and, for a while, I coped ok until I hit the Ballymoney Road. I knew it’d be tough, albeit ultimately rewarding, but I did struggle at times with it.

Yet, and here’s the puzzling thing, I’ve run up this road on a few occasions but according to my Strava segments afterwards today was my fastest time yet I felt I really laboured it. Perhaps this Jeffing thing really does work? Perhaps I had more left in my legs than I thought?

And it wasn’t just this portion, I set new personal records on four other segments dotted throughout the entire run. I’m a bit mystified by this because it certainly didn’t feel like it at the time but stats are stats.

Does this mean Jeffing produces results? It certainly looks that way.

One potential drawback was the pain I began to feel in my left calf going into the 2-3 kilometres. I wondered if it was easier just to jog really, really slowly rather than walk, or perhaps the pain was always going to happen with around 12 miles in my legs? It did actually pass as I approached the final kilometre so maybe it was just one of those things.

In the end it was a relief to have finished. A half marathon is never going to be easy, and this one was certainly challenging because of what I was doing but it was great to get the miles in my legs and, despite the niggles towards the end, I did feel fairly fresh.

So what are my conclusions?

Overall, my time was around six minutes slower than Larne three weeks ago. This was ok considering I went slower at the beginning today whereas in Larne I know I set off far too quickly. Remember how I was five minutes slower after 5k, that would suggest I didn’t really lose much time for the rest of the run.

Interestingly, each 5k segment was similar in terms of time and pace too. This consistency is a big positive I’m taking from today. It shows that if I’m struggling during a race I can slip into Jeffing for a spell and not lose too much time.

What about the 4/1 splits? By and large this worked well, although at some points the four minutes seemed to drag and the sixty seconds flew past … but we all know that’s all in the mind.

Anyway, that’s another half in my legs. That’s never a bad thing especially with so many races ahead of me this year. I’m learning from each one, and I know I definitely learnt a lot today.

Relive my run




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