Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Interview with Jeff Galloway

Jeff Galloway has helped countless people achieve their dream of completing a race by helping them train for 5Ks, half marathons and full marathons. The Galloway Run Walk Method, which I use, was something that he found would help avoid injury and exhaustion. Jeff has written numerous books on running, he coaches, he plans running retreats all over the world, motivates people to get moving and so much more. His program is for all ages and gets people who haven't run a step, to finish 5Ks, half marathons and even full marathons.

Jeff was a member of the 1972 Olympics for the 10,000 meters in Munich. He has trained with Steve Prefontaine, Frank Shorter, Bill Rodgers, Amby Burfoot, and Jack Bacheler. He was the first person to win the Peachtree Rad Race in 1970 and also won the Honolulu Marathon in 1974. He has run for over fifty years and over thirty of those he has remained uninjured.

How did you get info running?
Like many children in Navy families, I attended 13 schools by the time I finished the 7th grade.  At this point my father became a teacher, we moved to Atlanta, and my new school required each boy to work out with an athletic team after school every day.  Because of the moves I had avoided sports and exercise, did not have sports skills, had become lazy and had gained a lot of weight.

My patchwork of educational experiences had not prepared me for the demanding and competitive academic environment at this Prep school, and I was struggling.  The principal's comment on the report card was “A little more of a push next year and Jeff will make the top half of the class”  I was already studying more hours every week than most of the students I knew, who were scoring better on tests.  I believed that I was intellectually inferior.

During the Fall I tried football, which was a total disaster from my perspective, and that of my coaches.  Before choosing a sport for the next quarter, I asked several of the other lazy kids for their choices and was surprised to hear that many had chosen Winter Track Conditioning.  The consensus among the slackers was that the track coach was the most lenient in the school.  “Tell him you are running on the trails, and you only have to jog 200 yards to the woods and hide out.”

I did just that for 2 days.  On the third day, an older athlete I liked, looked at me and said “Galloway, you're running with us today”.  I quickly came up with my strategy: as we entered the woods I planned to grab my hamstring, claiming a muscle pull.  But the jokes started right away, and I kept going to hear the punch line.  As I began to get really tired, they started telling gossip about the teachers.  I didn't last long the first day, but pushed a bit farther with them day after day and started joining the political and psychological arguments.

Most of these cross country runners were on the academic honor roll.  But the controversial arguments led me to believe that I was just as intelligent as the others.  Each academic period my grades improved and I too, make the honor roll.  More importantly, I had become a member of the group and set a new standard for myself due to group expectations.

I was most surprised about how good I felt after a run.  The after-run attitude boost was better than I had experienced after any activity, during my young life.  The comradarie and fun during those runs kept me coming back and after 10 weeks I was hooked on endorphins and friendship.  I continue to be...over 50 years later.

It was commonly known, even back in the 50's, that over half of the cross country team members were among the best students and leaders in school organizations. University of Illinois Professor Charles Hillman, as reported by Newsweek magazine, noticed that the woman's cross country team set the curve on his neuroscience/kinesiology tests every semester.  So he started a study of elementary children comparing physical activity with academic achievement. He discovered that the kids who were fitter, were also the best students.  Various studies, around the world, have found the following:

  • Regular exercise increases the level of BDNF, necessary for learning, memory and higher brain activities
  • Regular aerobic exercise stimulates growth of new brain cells, at any age
  • Regular vigorous exercise causes existing nerve cells to work quicker and more efficiently
  • Even one 30 minute aerobic exercise session stimulates areas in the brain needed for critical thinking and produced better test results than before the exercise.

So there's more to it than the physical benefits.  That experience continues to enrich my life.

Tell us about your experience in the 1972 Olympics.
Just living in Olympic Village, during the Munich Olympics, was life-changing.  There were so many positive and interesting experiences every day that it was impossible to reflect on them during the games.  But the best part of this journey, for me, occurred during the marathon trials—during the summer of ’72.

I had no illusions of making the team.  Six months before, I had qualified to run in the Marathon Olympic Trials and felt that I had an outside chance--ranked about 9th or 10th.  It was my hope to be able to run in the trials for the 10K also, but I needed about a one and a half minute personal record to do so and had only one more chance: the AAU Championships, about three weeks before the Olympic Trials.

My friend Frank Shorter suggested that I train for two months with him and Jack Bacheler at high altitude, in Vail.  I got a part-time job, saved my money, and drove to Colorado on this new adventure.

Jack was the founder of our Florida Track Club.  He had run in the 1968 Olympics and helped us out a lot with training advice, race strategy and many little questions that popped up along the training trail.  He helped me through several tough workouts.  The combination of the tough workouts and the altitude really worked:  I improved about 2 minutes and qualified for the 10K!  This was encouraging but I was still ranked about 14th or 15th and only the top three were selected for the Munich Olympic Team.

The 10K run was one week before the marathon and I was excited just to compete on this unusually hot day in Eugene Oregon.  Having trained in Florida for two years and in Honolulu for nine months prior to that period, I knew and had experienced the adverse effects of heat.  I stayed in last place for the first mile.  Most of the other runners had run too fast for the temperature and I started passing them one after another.  My mental game was to guess when I would pass the next runner.  Because I had saved my resources, I kept moving up—still without any hope of making the Olympic team.
With about 6 laps to go, I was still feeling pretty good so I did a reality check on my position in the race.  Looking on the other side of the track I saw my friend Frank Shorter in first, my friend Jack Bacheler in second, and……WOW, I was in third place!!  About a lap later I passed Jack who was really fatigued and finished second.

The joy of making the Olympic team was diminished as I watch Jack weaving in fatigue as he came down the final straightaway in third place.   Just before the finish line he was passed by Jon Anderson and due to fatigue, bumped his competitor.  A mature AAU official disqualified Jack for bumping.
I wanted to help Jack qualify in the marathon and he needed me.  Jack often started too fast, and I was a very good and conservative pacer.  He didn’t believe that he was going to have to run the marathon trials and had not run a long run nearly long enough.

It was hot again for the marathon trial.  We calculated the pace needed and I had to hold Jack back during the first five miles.  I clicked off the miles within seconds of the pace.  We moved up from about 50th at 5 miles to 6th place at 18 miles and then moved into a tie for third at 21 miles.  The last five miles were the most bizarre in my racing career.

I can now say that I was close to the best conditioning of my life—in the marathon.  Jack was having a number of problems.  As we ran together I looked around to assure him that we were not being challenged, gave a pep talk, and then realized that he wasn’t along side, so I circled back.  We entered the stadium in a tie for third place and the crowd went wild thinking that there would be a race for the third position.  Instead, I ran with Jack to the finish and dropped back so he could be the official Olympic qualifier.

I ran the 10K in Munich, but was not at the level of speed conditioning needed at that time.  The three runners who qualified for the final broke the Olympic record.  While I did not run in the final, I am still glowing from helping my friend Jack.

In the Munich Olympics, the US scored better in the marathon than any country in the history of the games: first, fourth, and ninth.  I am still glowing from helping a friend make the team, so he could finish in the top ten in the world’s greatest running event.

Tell us how your met Steve Prefontaine. What did you learn from him?
It was the Summer of 1971 and I had been accepted to run in the Pan American Games marathon trial.  During that week I was hanging out in the athlete’s tent in the infield of the track and this young guy came right up to me and said “You’re Galloway aren’t you...Want to go for a run?”  I recognized Pre from his pictures.  He was an up and coming star in the US but had not been tested against many of the faster runners from Europe and Africa.   I wanted to get in a second run that day so I said “sure”.

Pre liked to lead the conversation and the pace.  When I told him that I needed to run slowly, he agreed and started at my pace.  But as he started to tell me about how he was going to race his next race, the pace got faster and I told him to run on.  He backed off the pace again, started into another train of thought and the pace picked up again.  I survived that run and sensed that this was one of the most focused competitive runners I had met.  I was inspired, race after race, at how he could push himself farther into fatigue and doubt than anyone.

What is the Galloway Method?
When I started coaching, over 40 years ago, my mission was to give each client tools to run injury-free while maintaining control over progress and motivation.  After interacting with over 300,000 runners and fine-tuning for higher success I am finding that almost everyone can benefit from using these components of the method:  1) The “magic mile” can predict current performance potential and set a safe pace for long runs. 2) Long runs that are at least 2 min/mi slower than current marathon potential and build to race distance or beyond result in better performance and greater confidence.  3) Run Walk Run strategies give each runner control over their training, almost eliminate injury risk, often improve race times, and take away the debilitating fatigue so that even marathoners can carry on activities.

Your run walk run technique has helped millions get into running, allow beginners to finish half marathons and marathons and help veterans improve times. How did you come up with this method?
I was asked to teach a course in beginning running, in 1974.  None of the 22 who enrolled had been doing any running for at least 5 years.  I ran with each of the 3 groups on every run and each person finished either a 5K or a 10K, ten weeks later.  Greatest benefit—no injuries.  I realized that running doesn’t cause injury—non-stop running is the cause.  I have continued to evolve the method with new adjustments

Is it for all ages?
Yes.  Young people and veterans run faster and almost eliminate injury risk.  Many runners who had stopped running due to repeat injuries have returned by using the method.

Tell us about your running retreats.
These feature scenic running with clinics that give individual direction and solve problems to  stay injury free, improve endurance, run faster, improve overall nutrition, what to eat before/during/after runs, motivation and mental training and topics of individual interest.  More than this, these are motivating experiences, with supportive and interesting people who become new friends.

How much do your run now? Are you still racing?
I don’t focus on “racing” for time but run a marathon about every month and about 20 other races between.  Finishing an endurance race still bestows all of the empowerment I discovered first over 50 years ago.  Because of what happened in Boston last year I wanted to qualify for this year’s race.  So I revved up my training last Fall and qualified for the first time in 10 years.  It was a glorious run.

Do you have any running rituals or superstitions?
No.  As I have discovered the tools to gain control over running problems, I have set up strategies for each challenge.  I love writing about these in the “trouble-shooting” sections of my books.

What are your principles of diet and nutrition?
My wife Barbara studies this area and keeps me up to date.  We tend to eat mostly vegetables, fruit and lean protein.  She has discovered seasonings that make salads and cooked combinations taste great.  Pre race eating means not over-eating the evening before or the morning of the race.  Every 2 miles during the race: 2-4 oz of water and 30-40 calories of a source of sugar.  For more information see my book Nutrition for Runners at

What was your epic race? Tell us about it.

  1. Running the 100th Boston Marathon with my 75 year old father in his last marathon.
  2. Unexpectedly qualifying for the Olympic team in the 10K by starting in last place and passing one runner after another to finish second behind my teammate Frank Shorter
  3. Pacing my friend Jack Bacheler through the Olympic trials marathon and dropping back at the finish so he could run in the Olympics.  He finished 9th.

You were born in Raleigh and lived there during your early years. What are your favorite memories?
Wandering the woods of my grandfather’s farm on Falls Of Neuse road, helping him with various projects and experiments.

You can follow Jeff on Twitter and Facebook. His books may be ordered and autographed at His site has tons of info on training, educational resources, schedules, retreats, and news. I know I'll be reading up on his retreats, because they sound amazing!

I want to thank Jeff for this interview. I know his schedule is crazy, so I am grateful he took the time to do this interview and answer my questions. I hope this will inspire you to put on some running shoes and get out there! 

1 comment :

  1. Great interview! I just adore Jeff Galloway and his love of running and how encouraging he is to ALL runners - his article in Runner's World is one that I look forward to every single month! :-) Thank you for doing this for us!