Whether you’re walking a marathon for the first time or using the run:walk method there comes a point in training where you start to freak out about the distance, the potential race cut off time and wondering if this was a good idea.
Great news, you’re part of the very NORMAL running community. We all have freakouts during training because no matter the pace we’re asking our body to do something new, hard and a little bit scary.The wonderful Carla – who LOVES to walk, not run her marathons.
Plenty of folks choose to walk a marathon for a variety of reasons, including:
- Pure enjoyment of walking over running
- Getting back into shape after an injury or pregnancy
- Health issues
- Crossing a major life goal off the list
I’ve talked to so many of you lately who feel a little left out of the running discussion because you aren’t Boston Qualifying. And I thought how crazy, the majority of runners haven’t done that and you should embrace wherever you are in your running, so long as you’re happy and injury free!!!
No worries around here about being a slow runner or taking too long to complete a marathon, the mere act of going 26.2 miles is an achievement to be freaking CELEBRATED. And the training is NOT to be ignored.
The general training, fueling, and recovery parallels running in many ways, however walking is a different sport and thus the preparation should be amended for the time on feet.
Training Tips for Walking a 5 to 6+ Hour Marathon
Do I need to train to walk a marathon? Hell yes because I want you to be injury free and have fun, 26.2 miles is still a long distance.
While some may certainly be able to go out and walk a full marathon without training, it’s not a wise idea. Like any other long distance event, training is what will prevent injuries, keep the enthusiasm high, and build endurance.
The average finish time to walk a marathon ranges from 6 to 8 hours. That is a lot of time on your feet. Think about how tired you feel after a day of city walking on vacation. Now think about it without all the stops for eating, drinking, shopping, sightseeing, etc.
Just because you’re walking and not running doesn’t mean the miles won’t take a toll on your body.
Your marathon training program will somewhat mimic that of a runner:
- consisting of long walks
- hill workouts
- tempo walks
- rest days
- Plan to walk or cross train 4-6 days per week
- Build mileage slowly each week
- Give yourself at least 5 months to train
- Instead of focusing on distance, you’ll often train by time
In your peak weeks before the marathon, you’ll have a long walk of up to 4 1/2 hours. Here’s a good outline from PBS.
Walking Endurance is Different than Running
Running uses different muscles than walking does, so even if you can easily run a marathon distance, long distance walking is an entirely different story. Did you know that?!! I think this is so phenomenal to consider because I guarantee you many runners would struggle to WALK 26.2.
In fact, many ultra runners become injured or experience intense pain because they don’t train to walk, yet need to reduce speed for many miles during long endurance events due to terrain or hills.
The walking gait uses a locked knee movement with a heel strike, where running uses the feet and the Achilles tendon to push the body forward using an energetic spring movement, ideally landing mid- or fore-foot.
Therefore, if you plan to walk, then train to walk to prevent aches during the event.
Can I Walk a Marathon in Running Shoes?
You can walk a marathon in running shoes, however, getting fitted for a pair of shoes designed specifically for walking will prevent discomfort and injury. Remember that our running and walking gaits are different, so the shoes accommodate the body’s different needs for each movement.
Running shoes provide more support and cushion, since our bodies take a harder beating. Walking shoes have less cushioning in order to provide more support and are also more flexible than running shoes.
What to Eat before and during a Marathon Walk
Eat breakfast and drink 16 ounces of water or electrolyte two hours before the race. During, you’ll want to follow a similar fueling plan as runners would in order to avoid hitting the wall.
Don’t know what to eat before such a long event? Here are 97 ideas for you.
Since you’ll be on your feet for such a long time, you absolutely MUST fuel to keep your energy levels up. The old rules about needing gels every 30-40 minutes are being tossed out, so don’t cram them down!
- Choose a mix of carbs and fats to keep your energy high and feeling satiated
- Practice what to eat on your longer walks in preparation for race day. Your stomach will thank you!
- Because of the slower pace, you may be able to digest more natural fueling options (that’s one thing that Ultrarunners are known for, so you’re just like them!)
- Sip on water and electrolytes every mile to to stay on top of hydration.
Keep in mind that the aid stations may be bare bones by the time you arrive, so bring a hydration vest or waist pack containing enough hydration and fuel will eliminate the worry of not having enough caloric intake during the effort.
I wish I didn’t have to add that note, but it’s true. Depending on the race I’ve talked to many friends towards the back who feel they are often short changed on course. Don’t let that impact your experience, just plan ahead.What you need to do differently for a 6 hour marathon! Click To Tweet
Choose a Walker-Friendly Marathon
Before signing up for a race, check to make sure you’ll be able to make the cut off times without stress. They vary wildly by race and can be anywhere from 5.5 hours to 7 hours, trail marathons will have longer cut-off times due to difficulty.
The most common cut off time for the average marathon is 6.5 hours.
A few good options:
- US FreedomWalk Festival (it’s literally in the name!!)
- Boston Marathon Jimmy Fund Walk (pictured above it’s for a great cause too)
- Honolulu Marathon has no cut off (I did this race in 2015, it’s pretty and hot)
- Most RunDisney races are very friendly to walkers
How long to walk a marathon?
That’s a great and reasonable question. Many marathon walkers and runners have trouble calculating their finish time. Partially because marathon pace is different than training pace for every runner and walker! You’ve got extra endorphins and the energy of the crowds which might push you initially and of course fatigue which might slow you later.
- A 5 hour marathon requires an 11:30 pace, which is a steady run or run:walk interval
- A 6 hour marathon requires a 13:43 mile pace
- Using run:walk can make that goal feel more doable. Even a 1:2 strategy.
- A 7 hour marathon requires a 16:01 mile pace
During the race, rely on your GPS watch to help you stay on track and moving towards that finish line goal.
Hats off to you my friends for taking on the marathon journey, which is crazy and winding and filled with days of incredible highs and lows. I have extra respect for those who spend more time on their feet because that sh** is hard!!!
Have you ever considered walking a marathon?
What training tips do you have for those aiming for a 6+ hour marathon?
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