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Walking a Marathon: Everything You’ll Need to Know

Walking a marathon is no easy task, but it is much less abusive to the body than running the distance. If you’ve been wanting to complete the 26.2 mile distance but are not a fan of running, marathon walking might be a viable alternative.

Is it OK to walk a marathon?

Yes, absolutely! Walking a marathon is perfectly safe, and a great way to conquer the distance without causing too much damage to the body.

Most people assume that everyone runs a marathon – however, if you’ve ever spectated or participated in a long distance race, you’ll know that this is far from the case. Some people choose to walk a marathon simply because they don’t like running, while others choose marathon walking for health reasons.

How long does it take to walk a marathon?

Most healthy, physically fit adults can walk a marathon in about 6-8 hours. The finish time varies greatly depending on a number of factors that affect your walking pace.

If you’re contemplating the 26.2 mile walk, you’ll need to have a realistic idea of how long to walk a marathon. Although the distance alone sounds like quite an accomplishment, many are surprised to discover the reality of how long it takes to walk a marathon.

Can you walk a marathon in 6 hours?

The average marathon time for a beginner runner is anywhere between 4 hours 30 minutes and 6 hours. Although it is certainly possible, it takes incredible walking speed and determination to walk a marathon in 6 hours. A 6 hour marathon finish time equates to roughly a 13:40 min/mile pace.

This might be considered a “slow” running or jogging pace, but it is quite difficult to achieve when walking – let alone maintain for 26.2 miles.

Can you walk a marathon in 8 hours?

Walking a marathon in 8 hours is a much more realistic estimate. Most physically fit and healthy adults should be able to complete their marathon walking in around 8 hours if they wish. An 8 hour marathon finish time breaks down to roughly an 18:18 min/mile pace.

This pace is far from a leisurely stroll, but with training and adequate fitness, it is realistic to set a goal of walking a marathon in 8 hours. However, if you are hoping for a more laid back experience, you might discover that it takes you even longer than 8 hours to walk a marathon.

Having an idea of how long it takes to walk a marathon will help focus your training and set specific goals for race day.

Is walking a marathon harder than running?

Regardless of how you do it, completing 26.2 miles is no easy task. But even so, walking a marathon is usually easier than running. Walking means you are moving at a slower pace, therefore your heart rate is never as high as it would be if you were running.

While running a marathon is harder than walking one, that’s not to say that marathon walking is easy. Completing a 26 mile walk requires fitness, endurance and commitment.

Related: Couch to Marathon 6 Month Training Plan

Can you walk a marathon without training?

If you are healthy and used to regular physical activity, it’s safe to assume that you can walk a marathon without training. However, training to walk a marathon is still the safer, less abrasive method.

Walking a marathon without training, while possible, will likely require significantly longer recovery than if you had trained. Taking the time to increase your weekly walking mileage as well as building overall fitness will help prepare you for success with a walking marathon.

Use these 7 tips for walking a marathon, along with this 12 week marathon walking training plan, to cross the finish line. You’ll be able to walk 26.2 miles with ease! #walkamarathon #marathonwalking

7 Tips for Training to Walk a Marathon

Training to walk a marathon might be your natural next step or a brand new challenge, depending on your current fitness routine. Regardless of where you are now, these 7 tips will help you create a marathon walking training plan that sets you up for success.

Increase weekly walking mileage gradually

The key component of any successful marathon walking training plan is to increase your weekly mileage. As you begin training, remember not to let the excitement get the best of you. While you might feel exceptionally motivated when you first commit to the goal, you won’t want to make any drastic changes all at once.

Plan out your training, taking note of the amount of time you have until race day. If you have many months to go, you’ll be able to increase your mileage very gradually and over time.

If you only have a few weeks until the marathon, you’ll need to increase mileage a bit faster. However, regardless, be sure not to make any huge jumps in mileage, as this could result in injury.

Incorporate other forms of exercise

Although the main goal in training to walk a marathon is to increase walking distance, you’ll still want to improve your overall fitness.

Be sure to throw some form of cross training or strength training in your plan. The more cardiovascular fitness and muscle you have, the easier your marathon walking experience will be. Try incorporating different forms of cardio, weight lifting, yoga and more.

Practice fueling and hydrating

You’ll need to take in fuel and water when walking a marathon, but you shouldn’t do it for the first time on race day.

Try testing out different fuel and liquids during longer training walks. You’ll be able to observe how your body responds to different fuel sources and come up with an efficient way to eat and drink while walking.

Have a trial run

You certainly won’t want to walk 26.2 miles before your actual marathon, but turning one of your longer training walks into a trial run will help you prepare for race day.

Setting up a trial run during training will help you test your clothes, gear, fueling strategy and more, so you can adjust before the big day.

Break in your gear ahead of time

If you’re planning to wear new clothes or use new gear for your marathon, be sure to break them in ahead of time. Test out any gear to see how it works, and wear your clothes to make sure they all fit.

There is nothing worse than heading out to walk a marathon and discovering that your shirt rubs or the headphones don’t work. Testing everything out ahead of time will help you arrive at the starting line feeling confident and prepared.

Take care of any pain or injuries

As you increase walking mileage during training, you’ll probably have a few aches and pains along the way. The increased activity level might cause some soreness, or you might discover some isolated tightness or muscle imbalances.

When aches and pains arise during training, be sure to treat them properly so they don’t result in injuries. Take time to recover, stretch and ice any areas of pain. Taking a few days off during training won’t impact your end goal, but winding up with a full blown injury two days before race day will.

Brush up on marathon etiquette

If you’re planning on walking a marathon, you’ll want to be respectful of those around you who are running. While marathon walking is perfectly acceptable, it easy to accidentally get in the way of the runners on the course if you’re not aware.

Here are some general rules of etiquette you’ll want to be aware of when you walk a marathon.

  • Line up at the back of the starting corral
  • Stick to the right on the course
  • Avoid walking in large groups
  • Smile, wave and encourage those around you
Use these 7 tips for walking a marathon, along with this 12 week marathon walking training plan, to cross the finish line. You’ll be able to walk 26.2 miles with ease! #walkamarathon #marathonwalking

3 Month Marathon Walking Training Plan

Training to walk a marathon is no easy task, but with enough time, you’ll be able to work up to your goal in a natural progression. Here is a simple Marathon Walking Training Plan to help you prepare for race day.

Week 1

During the first week of marathon walking training, you’ll want to establish a schedule. Plan which days you’ll walk, when you’ll rest, and how you’ll cross train. Take this week to get in a groove and set yourself up for consistency – don’t worry about increasing mileage just yet.

Week 2

As you dive into the second week of training, you’ll begin to increase mileage ever so slightly. Take care not to increase too drastically, and aim for no more than 1-2 miles added on to your longest walk for the week. Continue to prioritize consistency.

Week 3

Your long walk should be at least 6 miles in length this week. Continue to stay consistent, and focus on getting at least one day of higher mileage if the other days are lower. If you haven’t already, begin incorporating a few days of cross training.

Week 4

By week 4, you can begin increasing the length of your mid-week walks. Bring up the intensity of your cross training, which will help to improve your cardiovascular strength and build muscle for race day.

Week 5

Continue to gradually increase mileage during the week while still building on that long walk. Take time this week to focus on recovery, giving yourself at least one full rest day.

Week 6

Your long walk this week should be at least 8 miles in length. Focus on stretching and cooling down after every walk or workout. As your walks get longer, you can begin experimenting with mid-walk fueling and hydration.

Week 7

As mileage continues to increase, you’ll want to start making a plan for race day. Buy any new clothes or gear that you plan to wear so you have a chance to test them out ahead of time.

Week 8

Your long walk this week should be at least 10 miles in length. Bring fuel and water along with you to practice eating mid-walk. Continue to build upon mid-week walking as well.

Week 9

Now is a great time to have a trial run for your walking marathon. Try walking in your new clothes, using any new gear, and settling on a fuel source that works well while walking.

Week 10

This week will be your peak long walk. Depending on your fitness level, you’ll want to aim for a walk with a length between 12 – 18 miles. Maintain your regular walking mileage on the other days, but be sure to give yourself plenty of time to recover.

Week 11

It is now the beginning of taper! Your mileage will start to drop to give your body (and mind) a chance to rest and recover before race day. A drop in weekly mileage of about 25% is normal this week.

Week 12

The week before the marathon! You’ll want to scale your mileage back by at least 50% this week and give yourself 1-2 full rest days before the race.

This marathon walking training plan provides a few general guidelines to follow in order to arrive at the race feeling prepared and healthy. The plan can be adjusted depending on the amount of time you have to train and your current fitness level.

If you’ve committed to walking a marathon, one of the most important decisions you’ll make is selecting your race. When you’re ready to make your goal official, you’ll want to be sure to sign up for a walker-friendly marathon. Here’s how to find your perfect race.

How to Find a Walkers Marathon

Walking a marathon is well-supported in the running community, but many races are designed with certain time standards in mind. Oftentimes this is simply due to the fact that streets aren’t able to remain closed all day, but it’s important to know ahead of time.

Related: The 20 Best Marathons in the USA

Walking Marathon Time Limits

Just about every marathon will share if they have time limits for the course. The best place to find this information is on their website or social media.

When planning to walk a marathon, you’ll want to over-estimate the amount of time it’ll take you to finish just to be safe. If you see that a marathon has a 6 hour time limit, it is probably not a great choice for walkers.

Look for marathons with no time limit, or a time limit that is 8 hours or more. One of the biggest marathon walking mistakes you can make is putting yourself in a position where you’re not sure whether you’ll be able to finish within the time limits.

Walking a marathon is a great way to earn bragging rights, accomplish an incredible feat, and improve your fitness. Committing to a marathon walking goal is a decision that you won’t regret.

More tips for walking a marathon: