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Galloway - Devil or Angel?

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6/23/00

Saint or sinner? Yoda representing The Force or Darth Vader representing the Dark Side? One guy on the RW Marathons forum openly calls him Darth Vader. :-) I think he's a bit of both.

Galloway is very passionate about what he is preaching. The question is what motives are behind his passion? I think there are a couple. Certainly, it's a business for him. It's the way he earns a living. The more he sells it, the more he earns. And he is certainly a damn good salesman. However, his enthusiasm can't be all salesmanship. I just don't believe he is that good of an actor. Or, if he is, he could probably make a lot more money in the acting field. It's said that most successful salesmen believe in what they are selling. I think that's the case with Galloway. I think he truly thinks he is helping most, maybe all, runners who adopt his philosophy.....and I think he's right, to a point. I believe that Jeff Galloway has, arguably, probably helped more runners to finish a marathon than anyone else in the history of the sport. First time and novice marathoners looking to finish a race; recreational marathoners looking for a "good marathon experience"; runners who are susceptible to injury and break down under more demanding training/racing methods; and experienced marathoners who are unable to discipline themselves to run a good marathon with even or negative splits can benefit from his approach. However, there is a better alternative for the last category, the experienced runner striving to run a better race.....learn to pace a marathon properly without walk breaks.

Certainly, his system is sound. It has helped many runners to complete marathons and many experienced marathoners to run them faster than they had previously. However, as I also said, I doubt that his run/walk methodology has helped anyone run the best marathon that s/he is capable of running with proper pacing. I believe that running a properly paced race without the walk breaks is best. The problem is that many runners don't or can't pace properly. I think Galloway is helping experienced marathoners who have pacing difficulties to run better marathons than they had previously been able to run. I think these are the people who fuel his data base that shows 13 minute average improvement for 4-hour marathoners and 7 minute average improvement for 3-hour racers. Also....and this might be a very controversial point on this forum....I do believe that his approach produces marathon performances that are close to peak potential. I think that the perfectly paced, even split marathon run in the traditional way will be only a few minutes faster ( maybe 2-5 minutes) than a "perfectly run" Gallowalk race. But, simply because of the "built-in conservatism", the Gallowalked race probably has less crash risk leading to a really big blowup

Some people use the argument that they have been able to run progressively faster marathons using Galloway's program. However, many have never not used it. I believe that a lot of the improvement they see is simply due to getting better with experience and improved conditioning, which would occur with or without Gallowalks. In other words, the more you do it, the better you become, regardless of the methods used. Demonstrated improvement using Gallowalks doesn't mean that it's the best way to improve or that it will result in eventually reaching an optimum peak.

One "negative" about Galloway.....he certainly is part of the "less is better" movement that has been growing throughout the '90s, along with Bingham, RW and others. (Heck, even Bob Glover, whose training guidelines I follow, "dumbed down" his marathon training schedules in the 1999 edition of his book, "The Competitive Runner's Handbook," compared to the earlier 1983 and 1988 editions.) And that has both hurt and helped the sport. It has hurt because it has siphoned runners with competitive potential from hard training and competitive performances to more mundane levels. OTOH, it has helped to fuel the growth of participation in the sport.....and I do view that as positive and healthy for the sport.

I haven't said anything about whether you truly "run" a marathon if you use walk breaks vs. running every step of the way. I think it's a moot argument. Other than elites, few runners run every step of the way. Most runners at least walk through water station while drinking.....including at least one elite named Bill Rodgers. And I'm not about to suggest that he doesn't "run" his marathons. :-) Once you open that subject, all kinds of variations can be discussed. How about the person who finishes in 3:00, but has to walk a lot of the last couple of miles because s/he crashed? Or someone who runs every step of the way, but at less than 100% effort? I'm basically a 4-hour marathoner. But, I jogged through MCM last year, with a lot of walking in the last 10 miles, in 6:18 to help a friend finish. In my opinion, she "ran" the race....it was the best she could do and she didn't use scheduled walk breaks, although we did walk a lot. I "completed" it, but certainly didn't "run" it. It wasn't even a good long training run for me. In my opinion, "running" a marathon means running the best race you can with no planned, unforced walking.....except when drinking. Anything else is run-walking, race walking, or simply completing a marathon. Bottom line, though, all who finish are marathoners. I still count last year's MCM as a completed marathon.

Sorry about the length of all this. I warned you that I am long winded. :-)

Jim2