People who run marathons have definitely earned those “26.2” stickers on the bumpers of their cars. It’s a tremendous physical feat to complete and a significant investment of time to train.
Many runners can cite a long list of physical and mental benefits resulting from marathon running. But it doesn’t come without the potential for a toll on the body and relationships. And in fact, some people just aren’t capable of distance running, no matter how much they might like to be. That doesn’t mean a 26.2 bumper sticker is out of reach, however. A walking marathon might in order instead.
A walking marathon isn’t akin to deciding to quit jogging shortly after the shotgun start. Some traditional marathons don’t even allow participants to walk the entire distance. (For a list of walker-friendly marathons, see www.marathonwalking.com.)
Why You Should Try a Walking Marathon
Rather, walking might be an entirely separate event. And whether it’s built into a traditional marathon or stands on its own, a walking marathon requires training and preparation.
Much of the equipment needed for walking a marathon is the same called for in a running marathon. You’ll want moisture-wicking clothing, a portable water supply and some sort of supplemental nutrition. Good shoes are a must—high-quality, supportive, broken-in shoes and comfortable socks. Thanks to the distance, you’re still risking blisters and foot cramps. Talk to an expert at your local running store to find a shoe specifically designed for your walking gait.
The training program for walking a marathon is similar to that for a running marathon as well: increasingly longer walks interspersed with interval walks, tempo walks and regular cardio and strength workouts. Race time limits mean you can’t just stroll to the finish whenever you feel like it; you’ll want to track your pace and be sure you can complete the race before the roads are reopened and everyone goes home.
Nutrition is a little easier to manage when walking a marathon vs. running a marathon, due in part to the simple fact that you’re not bouncing as much, so it’s easier to handle food, get it to your mouth and chew and swallow.
Recovery is often a little quicker after a walking. You still need to engage in light exercise and attend to hydration and rest after covering this kind of ground, but with less jarring of the joints, you’ll likely experience fewer aches and pains.
The preparation for walking a marathon also offers more potential for family and friends to participate than a running marathon. Even those who aren’t up for a run can join you on shorter walks, turning training time into a chance for socializing while everyone gets more fit.
There are resources online that outline training programs for walking marathons. If you want some support, check with area running stores to see whether there’s a group meeting in your area or talk to a personal trainer at the gym. If you can’t find a program where you live, consider starting one!
If you’ve always admired the hardy souls who’ve run that daunting marathon distance but never dreamed you could do the same, consider a walking marathon. For those of us who can’t jog for more than a few minutes but can walk all day, it’s a way to push your limits and earn that magical mileage.