How to Train to Walk a Marathon From Start to Finish

Training for and Walking a Marathon

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Walking a marathon is the goal of many walkers. You don't have to be a runner to be a marathoner as an increasing number of marathons are walker-friendly with expanded time limits. While many people use a run/walk alternating method, others purely walk the marathon.

Is there are marathon finish line in your future? There are many reasons to walk a marathon and most healthy people can do it if they dedicate themselves to a training schedule and give themselves at least nine months of lead time to prepare.

First, the marathon is a seriously tough distance. At 26.2 miles it is going to take you six to eight hours or even longer at a walking pace. You must train for the marathon methodically. You need to be ready for your marathon day with preparation and strategy. If you're ready to make a commitment, you might start with finding a walker-friendly marathon to make your goal.​​

Marathon Walk Training

When you have set the date and registered for your marathon, now you can begin training.

  • Shoes for the Marathon: Your footwear is an essential part of making it through training and to the finish line. You may need more cushioning to lessen fatigue and the impact of long distance training and you need to ensure you have the right kind of shoes. Your first stop should be to a serious running shoe store to be fitted for shoes to use in training and on race day.
  • Base Mileage: Are you walking enough to begin serious training? First, build up your base mileage. You should be able to walk for an hour at a brisk pace comfortably before you start training for a marathon. From that point, you then build your mileage at 10 percent per week and do a brisk walking workout at least four days per week. You'll have one longer walk each week until you are able to walk comfortably for 8 miles.
  • Marathon Mileage-Building Schedule: Once you are walking regularly, you can use this 19-week schedule to increase your long distance mileage and build your speed and aerobic capacity.
  • The Month Before Your Marathon: The final month includes your longest walk, final shakedown of your clothing, hydration, and energy snacking, and then the taper. Here is where you will make any adjustments in what you'll be wearing and you'll be sure you know how to eat and drink throughout a long walk. You'll know what works best for you to prevent blisters.
  • Tapering Before Your Marathon: After your longest training walk, you need to cut back for two weeks before the marathon. This will give your body time to restore itself after your longest training day and be at its peak on race day.
  • The Week Before Your Marathon: It's almost go-time. The week before, you may be traveling to a marathon in a different city. You'll need to eat right, stay hydrated, and ensure you have all of your gear ready for the day of the race. Here's how to be prepared.

Strategy for Walking a Marathon

Beyond just putting in the miles, you will have to consider taking care of your body during long training walks and during the marathon itself.

  • Nutrition and Hydration for Marathon Training: When you are walking for hours at a time, you need to use energy snacks, water, and electrolyte-replacement drinks to keep going. Learn what to eat to fuel your marathon training and how to hydrate on your long walks.
  • Should You Carboload Before Your Marathon? You probably have heard that you should load up on carbohydrates immediately before the marathon. The newest thinking is that you shouldn't overdo it. You don't want to eat anything new or different right before the race.
  • Clothing for the Marathon: What are you going to wear to go the distance? This is a critical decision for being able to move comfortably throughout the long hours.
  • Blisters and Chafing: These are the biggest bane of long distance walkers. There are different strategies, but basically you want to keep your feet dry and lubricated. You will also need lubricant to prevent painful chafing at your armpits, crotch, and chest.
  • Should You Take a Pain Reliever Before the Marathon? Learn about whether it's advisable.

Planning For Race Day Weather

Your marathon training will extend through at least two seasons. You are likely to be walking in cold weather and in hot weather and be ready for those during the race. But be prepared for these:

  • Tips for Rainy Marathons: You might have avoided rain on your long training walks, but you aren't going have a choice on race day. Learn what to do when race day is going to be wet. You need tactics to keep comfortable for the hours on the course.
  • Tips for Night Marathons: It can be fun to race at night, but you'll need to think about visibility and being able to see road hazards, plus the changing temperature.

Marathon Race Day

The race is going to be different from a training walk. Here are the essentials for strategy and recovery.

After the Marathon

You've got your medal. Now what? First, be sure to celebrate. Wear your medal and race shirt with pride. You have joined the community of marathoners. Runners will give you proper respect as few of them have ever gone the distance.

You are going to be exhausted and are likely to feel emotional for several days. You may also experience the post-race blues. After finally achieving the goal you've focused on for months, this is common. Once the blisters heal and the black toenails fall off, you may start thinking of training for your next marathon.

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