This post is both awesome & bizarre. It’s the colliding of worlds (my less than healthy college years & my new Mama-days). And, as a blogger who writes as if no one is reading, it still surprises me when people from my past pop up in comments/greet me on twitter.
Alison is a friend, an inspiring runner and, as of recently, a convert to the experience of WALKING marathons and half-marathons.
Do you think that because you’re a walker you can’t participate in longer distance races?
Think that only 5Ks are for you?
I am a former runner who has been mostly walking for the past year due to health issues.
I have discovered a whole new world, and it’s been incredibly enlightening.
I’ve learned a lot, and I want to share that wisdom with you.
First things first: training as a walker is NOT a lot different than training as a runner. I won’t cover basics (nutrition, hydration). Instead I’ll focus on the walker experience in racing and training.
I follow Hal Higdon’s training programs and Hal himself (Carla note: !!!) told me his trainings do not need to be adjusted for walkers.
Let’s move on to the stuff that IS different:
—Find walker-friendly races. Some races have time limits. I seek half marathons that have at least a 3hr 30 min time limit and marathons that have a 7 hr time limit; this gives me a 16 min/per mile pace to finish. YES, this is a fast walking pace.
—Find a race and the time limit does not allow for walkers? Contact the race director and ask to start early! Some races allow walkers to start early and report times (I have a Garmin watch). I haven’t always been successful but I have found understanding race directors. (Shout-out to the Little Rock Marathon that has a TWO HOUR early start for slower participants, thus giving them EIGHT hours to complete the marathon!).
—Find a race that is a timed event, such as a 12 hour race. Most of these timed events are loop races and you can run/walk as many loops as you want in the time limit. Don’t want to walk for 12 hours? Stop when you want. Most of these races will record all participants even if they stop “early.”
—Find a race with a marathon *and* half marathon where marathon is just double the half! You can walk the half and get ALL the time that the marathoners get! Or find an “ultra” race and do a shorter distance.
—Join a walking club! I’m a member of the Half Fanatics. You have to get crazy to join (such as completing 2 half marathons within 16 days or 3 within 90) but once you’re in, you’re in forever. This group is VERY active and you can always find other Fanatics who are walkers.
—You might need to dress warmer than a runner. Runners dress as though it’s 20 degrees warmer out. For walkers, you might want to dress 10 degrees warmer than it is. As a walker it’s great to have clothing that zips so you can adjust as needed. I love “pit zips” on jackets which provide a nice breeze when needed. Or a hat that has flaps over the ears that can be turned up and down as needed. Think MULTI-PURPOSE.
—Adjust your attitude. This took me a LONG time to do, especially as a former runner. You are NOT less than anyone else in a race JUST because your pace is slower. Hey, you’re out there my friend and there are a LOT of people who aren’t. You’re lapping all of those people who are at home on the couch!! And first or last, it’s the same finish line. Hold your head high that you are doing something good for yourself!
—Watch what you eat. No, I don’t mean the typical nutritional advice you see and hear everywhere. What I mean is that because you are walking longer distances you might think you can eat as much as you want. Perhaps this is true if all you are eating is vegetables–but walking a half marathon doesn’t mean you can eat thousands of calories for the next three days.
This is my biggest downfall.
I give myself WAY too much leeway with food after walking a race, which is probably why I continue to be overweight. I don’t just have a burger to celebrate, I have dessert, and appetizers, and drinks and…you know the drill!
—Think about form and pace. You can research “perfect walking form” but unless you want to be a race walker with 6 minute miles (WALKING, I kid you not!) it’s best just to find what feels comfortable. Do you like to bend your arms while you swing them, or keep them more straight? Do you like to take long strides or short strides? Do you like to take “running breaks” while walking and integrate a block or two of running into your walk? Experiment!
—Get “proper” walking shoes. I still buy running shoes because I do occasionally take “running breaks” and most running shoes are built for long distance. You might want to go into a local running store and let them pick out a shoe that is right for you.
I’ve learned a lot from walking, and one of the biggest things I’ve learned is that there is a lot of fun to be had in the “back of the pack.”
Yes, there are downfalls (sometimes there isn’t much—or any—food or drink left at the finish line, sometimes they run out of cups at the water stops, etc.).
I certainly communicate constructive feedback to race directors.
If I paid as much as the winner of the race, I should get the same amenities!
But mostly I’m just happy I can participate and I’m happy to be out there.
Do I hope to mostly run races again one day?
But mostly I’m content right where I am.