Running (and walking) for their lives

"Galloway Israel" is a thriving running club based in Tel Aviv that uses the popular RUN-WALK-RUN method made famous by former Olympic runner Jeff Galloway.

Galloway Israel (photo credit: Courtesy)
Galloway Israel
(photo credit: Courtesy)
For someone who spends hours each day on his computer replying to emails, anyone would think that Jeff Galloway wouldn't have much time for exercise. Nothing could be further from the truth. Galloway is a former Olympic runner with his very own world-renowned running technique with thousands of avid followers around the world.
Galloway is responsible for developing popular group training programs, which he did as a result of trying to find an injury-free marathon training method. The Galloway RUN-WALK-RUN method has been adopted by thousands of experienced runners and beginners alike around the world. The method is based on strategic walk breaks and encourages individuals to manage fatigue and prevent injury. The correct use of walk breaks means that runners are less likely to slowdown at the end of a race and will have more energy to complete the race in a good time.
While Galloway himself has never visited Israel, his influence has reached the Holy Land in the form of a thriving running club headed by the very eager Gila Alter, who is the national program director of "Galloway Israel."
"Galloway Israel" was established about a year and a half ago in the Center of the country and has grown considerably in size over that time, attracting experienced runners as well as beginners who are attracted by the family-like atmosphere.
Alter is a running enthusiast and a qualified personal trainer. She took an interest in Galloway's approach while she was living in California for two years where she stumbled across one of his books. After returning to Israel she took part in three marathons and picked up injuries each time. In the fourth marathon, which she did in Florence, she decided to put into practice what she had read and tried the Galloway approach."I literally trained by the book," she recalls during an interview with The Jerusalem Post at the end of a weekly "Galloway Israel" training session in north Tel Aviv.
After doing all the calculations herself, Alter ran the marathon with relative ease and didn't succumb to injury as she had done during previous marathons. "I didn't expect a good result but I finished in the same time that I did the other marathons even though I spent so much of it walking," she explains.
Gila Alter (R), national program director of Galloway Israel (Yoni Cohen)Gila Alter (R), national program director of Galloway Israel (Yoni Cohen)
Convinced that it worked, Alter decided to bring the Galloway method to Israel. Not wasting any time, she found Galloway's details on Linkedin and contacted him about opening a running club in Israel using his technique. "He answered very quickly and said he would be happy for me to open something in Israel," she recalls. Alter signed a contract and became the official representative of Galloway in Israel. She did a course over the Internet, took a test and became fully qualified as the national program director.
Alter is passionate about the method and believes the approach lets everyone get involved in running, no matter what their level of fitness or age. "It's friendly and pleasant," she says. "It attracts great people."
As well as being suitable for all ages, genders and performance levels, Alter stresses that the Galloway method is especially useful for those runners who are prone to injuries.
The running club offers a number of different courses throughout the year such as the intensive marathon course lasting eight months (NIS 1,600) a half marathon track (NIS 1,000) and a shorter 10 km course (NIS 650.) The price is per program and not per month, as is the case with many other running clubs.
At "Galloway Israel" each person runs in the group best suited to them and the atmosphere is not competitive compared with other running clubs in Israel. Despite this, there is no denying that Israelis can be competitive when they want to be. "We are a competitive people," Alter says as she recalls that many people when they first join running clubs want instant results. "Israelis don't have any patience," she says. "They want to see results 'yesterday'."
As well as being competitive, Israelis also have a tendency to interfere with other people's performance, according to Alter. "A lot of Israelis will ask another person what their personal time was, whereas in the US it's not considered polite to talk about that because it's personal," she says.
Being polite is something that comes very naturally to Galloway, a real southern gentleman who took some time out of his busy schedule to talk to The Post from his office in Atlanta, Georgia.
Jeff Galloway (Courtesy)Jeff Galloway (Courtesy)
The 68-year-old, who qualified to run in the 1972 Munich Olympics, became interested in coaching back in 1974 when he owned Phidippides Running Stores. He was involved in a beginner's running course at the time and in order to avoid injury he realized it was important to insert walking breaks while running. At the end of the 10-week course all the 22 participants completed their respective races with good times and no injuries. "I'd never seen a similar situation with no injuries," he says.
As a competitive runner, Galloway became interested in the research side of the sport and spoke to a number of people in the industry in order to gain a better understanding. Galloway says his most reliable source of research, however, comes from the base of over 300,000 runners who have used his methods and are in contact with him on a regular basis. "The resulting feedback has allowed me to know what works for most people and as a result of this I've been able to build a program that is injury-free and allows people to improve their performance," says Galloway.
Galloway is as well known for sitting in front of a computer for hours on end as he is for being an extremely active running coach. He wakes up early at around 5 a.m. every day and spends on average about four to five hours answering emails he receives from runners who use his method. "It all started during the email revolution," he says. "When email started becoming more widespread the volume of feedback I received increased dramatically."
He says that he responds to some 100 runners per day via email, something that allows him collect a lot of feedback and a better understanding of what works and what doesn't work. "It's a wonderful feeling to solve problems for people," he explains.
When not spending hours replying to runners' emails, Galloway finds the time to run every day and the 68-year-old also runs a marathon once a month as well as various other shorter races. "I am constantly putting myself to certain challenges," he says. "I apply these [challenges] in the advice that I give."
Galloway is confident that his techniques have the ability to change people's lives and give them a huge sense of achievement. He is very happy that a running club in his name was opened in Israel because in his eyes "there are no barriers to the enhancement when people use the technique."
Each person that signs up to "Galloway Israel" has direct contact with Jeff himself via email and he personally answers all the emails.
Galloway receives regular emails from Israeli runners, just as he does from runners from around the world. However, he says the comparative volume of questions from Israeli runners is relatively low "because Gila [Alter] is doing is such a good job."
Registration for the latest "Galloway Israel" training program is now open. For more details call 054-454-3543 or email [email protected]