Walking a Marathon: The Essential Guide (+ Training Plan)

If you’re considering walking a marathon, here are some of the most important things you need to know about training and preparation before you tackle those 26.2 miles!

In recent years the number of marathon walkers has grown, and race organizers have made arrangements to make their races walking-friendly.

But walking 26.2 miles is a long way – it’s important to ensure you’re ready.

In this post, we share training tips and a training schedule to get you ready to nail your walking marathon!

Ready?

Let’s jump in!

walking a marathon

Is it OK to walk a marathon?

It’s completely OK to walk a marathon!

Nowadays, it’s becoming more common for walkers to complete marathons.

Many marathons allow for generous cut-off times and ensure support is provided for those marathoners who choose to walk the 26.2 miles.

But before you sign up for the marathon, check with the organizers that they make allowances for those of us who are going around a little slower.

Check on the cut-off times, and if there is a sweeper (someone – or a vehicle – who goes round the course behind all the runners; if you fall behind the sweeper, your race is over).

Also, confirm with the organizers that facilities such as aid stations – especially those towards the end of the course – are going to be manned after a few hours.

Some race events take place on public roads which the organisers have special permission to close – but only for a few hours. This can prevent race organizers from allowing walkers on their marathon,

In short, check the race organizer’s website for information on walking and cut-off times. If in doubt, drop them a note.

How Long Does It Take To Walk a Marathon?

Walking a marathon will take you anything between 6 and 9 hours, depending on your pace.

Brisk walkers who march the course can expect to finish in 6-7 hours.

Walking at a regular pace will take around 8 hours.

Note: an average walking pace is 3.1 miles per hour – this would give a finishing time of around 8 hours and 23 minutes for walking a marathon at an average speed.

And slow walkers – or those who take regular breaks – can take over 8 hours to complete the 26.2 miles.

Is Walking a Marathon Harder Than Running One?

Yes, and no.

It’s easier thanks to the reduced intensity – runners will be pushing at a higher level of exertion for their 26.2 miles, while walkers will be moving with lower effort.

It’s harder due to the longer duration – while runners can finish their marathon in 3-5 hours, walkers are usually out there for between 6 and 9 hours.

This means that walkers are in the furnace for longer.

They feel the discomfort for longer.

Any aches, pain, or chafes are going to sit with them for longer.

One benefit of running a marathon is that you get it over and done with. Walkers have a longer, tougher day much of the time!

walking a marathon shoes

Can You Walk a Marathon Without Training?

The truth is that it depends on what your fitness level is.

Many people who lead active lives – or who have jobs that keep them on their feet for hours on end – have a great head-start and may be able to walk a marathon without specific training.

If you haven’t been very active recently, I recommend following our marathon walkers training plan below!

Even if you feel you’re in good shape, it’s good practice to tune up with a couple of long hikes in the weeks leading up to your marathon!

Tips For Walking a Marathon

  • Ensure you’ve checked that the organizers are accomodating towards marathon walkers before committing to your race of choice.
  • The best shoes for walking a marathon are often running shoes. Just make sure you try them out on long walks before your marathon to ensure no chafing and minimal discomfort!
  • Train with several longs walks and hikes in the 2-3 months leading up to your marathon.
  • Try to train in the same gear and conditions that you’ll have on race day.
  • Research what is provided – water stops, aid station snacks, and the location of toilets on the route!
  • Bring a small backpack to carry your essentials – phone, keys, and extra clothes, snacks, and water.
  • Do it with a friend or a group – walking for hours on end is better in company!
  • Take some emergency snacks in your backpack even if you don’t intend to eat them.
  • Stay hydrated – although you’re not running, you still have to maintain good fluid levels.

Walking a Marathon Training Plan

If you are starting from scratch, then 4-5 months before your marathon you should do walk training 3 times per week:

  • Two walks of 45-60 minutes through the week
  • At the weekend, go for a longer walk. Start with an hour, and add 15-20 minutes each week.
  • It’s fine to miss occasional weeks, but try to follow the training plan as closely as possible.
  • Your longest long walk should be around 20 – 22 miles in length, and should take place 3 weeks before your marathon.
  • After your longest long walk, reduce your miles by about 25% each week. This is called ‘the taper’ and allows you to let you body recover from the stresses of training before the big day!

If you’re considering training to run a marathon, check out our library of marathon training plans!

Any questions about how to walk a marathon?

Let us know below!

Thomas Watson

Thomas Watson

Thomas Watson is an ultra-runner, UESCA-certified running coach, and the founder of MarathonHandbook.com. His work has been featured in Runner's World, Livestrong.com, MapMyRun, and many other running publications. He likes running interesting races and good beer. More at his bio.

1 thought on “Walking a Marathon: The Essential Guide (+ Training Plan)”

  1. I never considered walking an entire marathon. I’ve walked parts of a marathon but only because I had to.
    The only problem that I have with walkers is that many still line up with the 6 minute pace runners. Not sure what they are thinking when they do that!

    Reply

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