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Can I walk a marathon? Sure, but follow these 6 steps to succeed


Have you ever thought about participating in a marathon? You know, those mass sporting events where you see athletes and large scale sponsors on the TV? Perhaps you’ve known someone whos ran a marathon or are training for one?

The truth be told is that the idea of completing a marathon can sound rewarding but also daunting. After all, 26.2 miles is kind of a big deal! Likewise, if you’re not an avid runner, the slightest thought of running could ultimately put you off.

What if we told you that didn’t have to run to complete a marathon? 

Yes, that’s right; you don’t have to run to participate or complete a marathon. As long as you completed it on the day of the event, you can WALK it. 

In fact, it’s pretty standard for people to attend marathons and walk them.

However, the distance of 26.2 miles is still a long one to cover to walk. In comparison to running done over a quicker period, walking involves a more significant portion of cardiovascular endurance where you have to build it up. Did you know walking also consists of using different muscles to running?

Yes, it’s true; when you walk, you use your knee and heels on your feet. Running involves using your Achilles to navigate your body forward, landing between your mid-front part of your feet.

Because of this, you must train to walk a marathon. This will reduce your risk of injury, and it will allow you to walk better on the day of the event. 

To help you further, follow these 6 steps to succeed.

1. Pick Your Marathon

No two marathons are ever the same experience. This may be due to the number of participants, the destination, or even the atmosphere. However, for walkers, you will want to consider the following:

Climate

Where you choose to participate in your marathon can be a big deal. If you’re selecting a marathon in a hot environment, for example, in the Sahara Desert, you’ll need to train accordingly based on being exposed to warm temperatures. Perhaps you like them to walk best in the cold? You might want to choose a marathon where it has a cold climate. 

Terrain

The ground you walk on can make a massive difference to your marathon experience and your overall completion. You need to carefully consider choosing a marathon that is either is on the road or off the road. This can be a huge factor as if you walk a marathon with terrain unfamiliar on your feet; you may struggle even more.

Elevation

Similar to the terrain, you may want to know how much altitude the marathon holds. If you’re not used to walking at a height, the event could become difficult for you to accomplish. 

On the other hand, if you’re used to walking at an elevation, walking a relatively flat marathon, it may become tedious for you, and you could lose interest in trying to accomplish the distance.

Length of Time

Normally, the organizers of a marathon provide all participants a specific time zone to accomplish the distance in. This means all participants for their completion to be recognized as successful, have to finish within the maximum time limit.

Otherwise, they stop handing out medals, and the organizers begin to take down the event. If you’re a walker, this can be a bit nerve-wracking, thinking of completing a marathon within a specific time frame.

Don’t worry, not every marathon is the same; therefore, we suggest doing some research to see how long the event is for and choose a one that will accommodate your fitness level.

Scenery

Do you like to walk for the sake of it? Or do you need to find ways to distract yourself and keep motivated? There are many marathons out there across the world to choose from.

Support

Marathons are fun to participate in. However, if you have any health problems or need assistance, you may want to think about selecting a marathon where there’s a large amount of support available to hand. 

We’re talking about first aid, people, and general assistance. Generally, marathons with lots of support are large scale ones with many volunteers on site. Think about your requirements and pick accordingly.

Attendance

How do you like to walk? Do you want to walk in open space or be around others? If you choose to participate in a marathon, which is a high profile event, you will be surrounded by many participants and spectators. 

Whereas if you choose one in a rural area, you may be able to walk the whole event in open space. Choose your marathon based on your comfortableness walking around others. 

Money

While most marathons charge an entry fee, you may want to choose one that is friendly towards your budget. Also, finely read the marathon terms and conditions as there may be additional fees! 

For example, there are slots where you have to participate on behalf of a charity, which involves raising a specific amount of money/sponsors before you can participate. Similarly, if you don’t hit the target, you will have to pay up yourself. 

Time Until Marathon Date

Taking part in a marathon is not something you can just ‘do.’ Well, you can; however, we advise against it. To successfully take part in a marathon irrespective of running or walking, you will need to train for it. 

Which means you will need an ample amount of time, we recommend at least six months before you can participate. Therefore, when you pick, choose a marathon six months in advance or longer.

You don’t need to follow all of these options to help you pick your marathon. However, it’s something you may want to consider and take on board doing so. Each individual is different and may have different preferences. One thing, we’d definitely recommend is to choose the right training gear. 

2. Purchase Training Gear

You don’t want to feel the disadvantages of walking (link here) when training for your marathon. To minimize your risk of not enjoying it or injuring yourself, you’ll need to purchase the right training gear and equipment. To help you do this, we have curated a list of items you should consider buying:

Sneakers

When training for a marathon, you don’t want just any sneakers. You want to wear sneakers that are designed to help your feet and support your posture. After all, you’re going to be training and walking in them for long periods! Similarly, if you have too much of a stiff sole/shoe, you could put yourself at risk of getting shin splints.

Trail Shoes

Depending on the terrain you undergo your marathon on, you may want to have shoes with more grip, yet are still flexible for your feet. Trail shoes are great if you’re planning on participating in a marathon off-road. They are adjustable for your feet and help you navigate easier through difficult terrain. 

If you’re not sure about the best shoe for you to wear, we’d recommend seeing an expert for advice. Often, in running shops, you can get your gait and balance checked. Gait is how you walk, and balance is across specific movements. 

What happens typically is an expert makes you walk on the treadmill. After some time, they observe your way of walking and then help supply your shoes accordingly. 

Then they will provide you with flexible shoe suggestions and advise upon what soles are the right ones for your feet. Having a comfortable shoe can make a significant difference to your walking and on the day of the event. 

Running socks

What pairs well with your sneakers is wearing comfortable running socks. You will want to wear running socks that are light on your feet and allow them to breathe when walking for a long time.

Clothing

Depending on how often you walk, you’ll want to wear comfortable clothing. We recommend wearing a flexible material such as lycra on your legs, making it comfortable around each stride you make.

Similarly, for your top a comfortable noncotton sports t-shirt, that will absorbs sweat quickly. If you’re walking in the sun, you may want to wear a cap to provide your face with shade and stop you from burning. Similarly, if you’re walking in a windy environment, a windbreaker type jacket may help you walk more easily.

Backpack

Whether you’re training or on the day, you’ll be walking for long periods. Therefore, you may wish to carry a lightweight backpack where you can store snacks or a water bag. 

Band-Aids

One great way of being prepared is by carrying band-aids on you. Make sure you get different types, you can get ones for blisters and others for cuts. If you’re walking for an extended period, you may encounter blisters or want to have back up if you injure yourself. 

Snacks

Alongside water, you’ll want to purchase snacks for your training walks. High energy-releasing snacks are bananas, protein bars, nuts, cookies, and sugar releasing energy gels. 

Walking for long durations and over a long distance can use up a lot of energy; therefore, you’ll want to put the calories back into your body you’ve used up.

For more information on what gear to wear for a marathon, check out our similar post on Recommended equipment/outfit when walking a walkathon

3. Prepare Your Training Plan

To walk a marathon, you’ll want to have at least six months set aside to get used to walking 26.2 miles in a certain period. Just like runners do, we suggest preparing a training plan to later implement for your marathon. Over time and after consistent practice, you’ll smoothly and successfully walk the marathon you set out to do.

Not made a training plan before? Here are some recommendations to help you:

Consult a Doctor

Before creating your own training plan, we recommend you consult a doctor first. This is especially important if you have any health problems and the training could put you at risk.

Likewise, it’s always good to gain approval from a doctor that you’re fit and healthy to train for the marathon. Even if you’re walking! It’s also good practice to inform them of your training plans for your medical records, in case you need treatment at a later date.

Make a Calendar

While there are many training plans out there you can find online for running and walking events, we suggest making your own. However, to give you an example of how one looks like, check out Walk The Walk. We recommend making a training plan on Microsoft excel or google spreadsheet.

Build Your Training plan

The reason why we suggest creating your plan because you know what your schedule is like—build-in distances over the week according to your personal or professional life.

Add in Different Workouts

Even though most of us walk all the time, putting a constant focus on walking in preparation for your marathon, may become dull. To mix things up a bit, we suggest adding a variety of workouts into your week. Then, by the time you come around to walking, it’ll be more fun and exciting to do.

Walk 3-4 Times a Week

Similar to the above, you don’t want to be walking ALL the time. Therefore, we recommend at maximum scheduling your walking sessions only 3-4 times a week. You’re most likely unintentionally walking every day anyway and want to enjoy the activity.

Add in Tempo Walks

After some training, you will become familiar and used to walking long distances. If you want to push yourself on the day of the marathon, you may want to walk faster. 

Also, if you’re participating in a marathon with a lot of attendees, the participants’ energy and atmosphere may carry you along, and naturally, you may walk faster. 

Walking fast when not used to it may cause you to exert more energy. Therefore, we recommend adding in a tempo walk into your training plan once a week. This type of training is for a much shorter period; however, it involves a faster stride. 

Just like runners, by implementing a tempo walk into your training plan once a week, you will gradually increase your walking pace, which will allow you to walk quicker on the day of the marathon.

Add in Different Terrains to Your Routine

Ideally, you want to be practicing walking for your marathon on various grounds. This way, you’ll be used to walking on many different surfaces, posing a challenge more than others.

 When you find yourself walking on the ground similar to the one of your marathon, you may find it easier to do. 

Add in Stretching

No doubt walking is a fantastic activity to do; however, if you’re walking more than usual, you’ll also want to take time to look after your body. One way is to stretch every day.  

In particular, you’ll need to stretch your legs as walking can tighten up your hamstrings. If you don’t stretch, the tighter your muscles could become, and you could put yourself at risk of snapping a hamstring muscle limiting your chances of walking, which could cause you to pull out the marathon.

Include Rest Days

On top of your regular daily calorie burn, you will want to add a couple of rest days into your week. After all, you don’t want the marathon training to take over your life entirely, and you don’t want to over exhaust yourself. 

You need time for your body to grow and repair. Likewise, you’ll probably find your best walks are after a rest day.

Nearer to The Event, Ease Off

We recommend to include in your training plan at least one walk of 26.2 miles so mentally, you know you’re capable of accomplishing this distance. 

However, the closer to the marathon’s day, we suggest easing off on your walking. What we mean by this is to do fewer walks and cover a small distance. You’ll want to spend the week relaxing and consuming high energy food.

Add in Checkboxes

The key to walking a marathon is to be consistent in your training and thinking. We suggest adding in checkboxes after each training day. 

Once you’ve finished a training session, you can tick it off, providing you with an incentive to jump onto the next one. Similarly, it serves as a good count down until the day of the marathon.

Include Meal Plans

You’re going to be exercising more in preparation for your marathon. Therefore, you will want to add specific meal plans to help provide you with energy to walk and days where you can relax and eat whatever you want.

4. Research

Alongside this post, we suggest carrying out additional research related to your marathon. Just like you, there will be many people walking an upcoming marathon or have walked a marathon. We recommend to carry out that extra bit of research as you may find:

Facebook Groups or Events

There are many forums out there with walkers on whose posts could encourage you to be consistent in your training. Similarly, if you search for your marathon, you may find fellow walkers across the group or the marathon event page.

 This could serve as an excellent medium to meet other people, gain advice from others, and maybe make new friends who are walking the marathon.

Youtube Videos

You’re not the first person to walk a marathon, there have been many who have taken part in this experience and have channels on youtube, sharing it with you. 

In the time building up to your marathon, you may want to view vlogs on youtube of people providing a personal experience of them walking a marathon.

If you see actual footage of someone else walking a marathon, it may provide you with an attitude “If they can do it, so can i” allowing a sense of faith and will power to be restored in yourself.

Quora or Yahoo

If you’re the reading type, then forums such as Quora or Yahoo may be an excellent place for you to gain some wisdom about walking a marathon. Similarly, if you have any queries about your experience, you can also submit your questions and have many people from across the world respond to your answers.

Podcasts

There are many podcasts out there for free, where you can listen to advice and tips on walking or marathons. Check out The Walking Podcast, Marathon Training Podcast, Ten Junk Miles, and many more. Similarly, they can also serve as a great way to keep you motivated by listening while you’re walking. 

5. Start Training

Now you have your marathon selected, walking gear sorted, and your training plan built, the only other option left is to start training for your marathon. Do remember, when preparing, it may at first be initially exciting to begin following your walking schedule. 

However, to do this over time requires a lot of discipline and consistency. You may experience events or requests in your personal life, which could cause you to miss a training day. Don’t worry, that’s life, and we suggest to pick up where you left off.

Similarly, if you’re finding it hard to go outside and walk, you can always implement your training plan within your home or at work. We recommend getting a smartwatch such as a Fitbit or a Garmin and tracking your steps. 

There are apps for your smartphone that can record your daily mileage and encourage you to keep going. Remember when you’re training to ease yourself into walking. 

Therefore, you want to start at a slower pace with smaller distances and gradually build up over time. Otherwise, if you do the opposite, you could be putting yourself at risk of gaining a severe injury. 

Hydration

Moreover, when you’re walking, look after yourself. Make sure you keep hydrated at all times, this means carrying and drinking water. You may want to bring a backpack as described above refueling, a water belt, or have a handheld bottle.

Snacks

In addition to this, you’ll also want to find a way to gain more energy. One way of doing this is by consuming high in calorie foods such as energy gels or protein bars, as they serve as a quick way for glucose to get back into your body and refuel. 

Similarly, the day before your marathon, you’ll want to spend the day/evening carbohydrates. Many runners call this carb loading, where people eat a lot of slow releasing energy food such as pasta. As a result, by the time the marathon day arrives, you’ll have lots of extra energy reserves. 

6. Enjoy The Marathon Day

Today’s the day, the event you’ve been training for, for 6 months has finally arrived! Remember, to succeed at today’s event; you’ll still need to prepare in the morning and follow these suggestions for the event to go smoothly. They are:

Have a Good Breakfast

Just like any form of exercise; you don’t want to be walking on an empty stomach. A good breakfast sets you up for the day and big event ahead. 

Try to avoid any oily foods, and have instead energy releasing food such as oats, toast, bananas, and yogurt. Similarly, if you’re a coffee drinker, you may want to monitor your caffeine intake as it may send you to the bathroom more.

Keep Hydrated

The moment you wake up, you’ll want to drink water and throughout the day itself. On the day you don’t know what the weather is going to be like or how your body will hold up. We recommend to carry some water on you and utilize the free water handed out by volunteers.

Bring Snacks

Most of the time at marathon events, there are plenty of volunteers handing out fruits, candies, and flapjacks to keep energy levels going.  However, we recommend implementing what you did in training. Try and bring some snacks or energy gels to keep you going on the day if energy levels fall.

Wear a money belt or backpack

If the marathon starts in one place and finishes in another location, you may want to carry something on you. A money belt or a bag serves as an excellent way to store snacks, your mobile, or money during the event.

Smile

Today is an event you’ve been working hard for, setting time aside, walking for an extended period of time for the past 6 months. Therefore, take every moment to smile, enjoy it, and be proud of yourself for all that hard work, commitment, and dedication you’ve put in.

Walking a marathon can seem a bit daunting; however, if you follow these steps, we can assure you it will help you succeed. It may not help everyone, as everyone’s experience and abilities are subjective. 

However, for sure, when you complete a marathon, whether you walk it or run it, there’s nothing like that sense of accomplishment.

Visualize you crossing that finish line. We urge you to select your marathon today, and follow these steps to successfully walk it!

You can do this.

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