Running a marathon is hard work, not just the race but the training too. I've run 5 marathons and in all of them I've incorporated the Jeff Galloway run-walk-run method into both the training and races. Even though I've incorporated walks into my runs, I've approached other aspects of my training with a little more variation. What I found that in addition to the well known run/walk strategy, there were two more things in the training that made big differences in getting my best time- slow long runs and fast weekday runs.
In the past when I wanted to get faster, I would focus on running faster every time I went out to run, but trying to focus on speed and increasing distance on the long runs would often end in a drastic slow down and increase in walking near the end of my training runs. When I slowed down on my weekend runs by increasing the amount of time walking from the begining and keeping the running time conservative I was able to maintain my pace through all my training runs. Being able to finish each long training run feeling strong really helped my confidence and kept me from getting discouraged.
I still wanted to get faster, so the approach I took was to focus on speed during my weekday short runs. I found a neighbor who ran just a little faster than me, and we were able to help each other stay accountable to running a couple times during the week. We would run 3-4 miles and alternate between running the whole time with little to no breaks, running speed intervals and running hills.
Going in to the St. George Marathon I know that I would be able to finish with no trouble, but I didn't know if I would be able to improve my time from the previous year. For the race I planned out my strategy, of keeping the pace slower in the beginning and up the hills and pushing the speed on the downhill- a pace chart from tazrunning.com helped keep me on track. In the end I finished just 2 minutes slower than the time predicted from my last Magic Mile run in training.
The lesson is that using a little bit of the training plan can help you finish, but the more you incorporate it the better your results will be, it just takes a little trust in the process.