Charity Walker's Survival Kit

How to Make it Through a Charity Walk

Breast Cancer Charity Walkers
Breast Cancer Charity Walkers. Steve Debenport/E+/Getty Images

You were just recruited to walk in a charity walking event - the Race for the Cure, the March for Babies, the MS Walk, etc. But you're not a walker! Now what will you do? How are you going to make it through those miles?

First - take a deep breath. Your feet were made for walking. Let's take it one step at a time.

Start Walking

It's best if you have several weeks before the event to get in some training.

Start now and plan to walk at least 15 minutes every day, gradually increasing your time and distance. My Absolute Beginner's Walking Tutorial is perfect if you have a month or more before the walking event to prepare. Follow the schedule shown and most people will be able to complete distances up to 5 miles.

But It's This Weekend!

I give you a hand for your support of the charity, but you had better get walking TODAY. Depending on your normal activity level, walk for 15 minutes to a half hour each day before the event.

How Far is That? How Long Will it Take?

Uh oh, you don't even know what 5K translates to for miles or how long it will take you to walk it? I have a cheat sheet for you:

What Shoes to Wear for a Charity Walk

Your walking comfort starts at the bottom - your shoes and socks.

Buying Shoes a Month Before Your Charity Walk

You have enough time to get fit for a pair of walking shoes. The trick is to go to the store in your area that caters to serious runners and has a sales staff interested in getting you into a well-fit pair of shoes. Then you must walk in them through the month, every day, to know that they work well.

See my Walking Shoe Guide for full information on what to look for in walking shoes.

Two Weeks or Less Before the Walk

You don't have time to find and break in a new pair of shoes - your best bet is to use your favorite sneakers. Where you can make a difference is with your socks. Forget about cotton socks, get to an athletic store and buy a pair of CoolMax socks or blister-resistant socks. These wick away the sweat to keep your feet dry and less prone to blistering.

Blister Busters

A big problem for those going on a long walk for which they haven't adequately trained is blisters. Fight these the easy way - coat your feet with petroleum jelly before you put on your socks. If you have been practicing and get blisters in an area despite petroleum jelly, then cover those areas with moleskin or a bandage before you walk.

Shin Splints

Are your shins hurting when you walk?

This is typical for people who are new to walking. Shins only get exercised by walking, and when you change your walking speed, distance, or shoes you will hear about it from your shins. Stop and rest a bit. Then slow down and take smaller steps.

What to Wear for a Charity Walk

What should you wear for walking a charity walk? The answer is layers, layers, layers.


Know your event - at some of them folks dress up in zany costumes. If you do that, keep it simple enough to walk in and have fun.

Shirt for a Charity Walk - Inner Layer

The shirt next to your skin is the inner layer. It should be of a wicking fabric such as polypropylene or Coolmax.

But you will probably want to wear the free t-shirt (usually cotton) they give you for registering for the walk, or one you have from last year. That's fine, although cotton shirts will retain sweat and moisture during the event and you will end up feeling damp and clammy.

Undies for a Charity Walk

Underneath it all, women should wear a sports bra. Both men and women may experience painful chafing - apply petroleum jelly if you do not wear a bra. Spandex running shorts are a great idea for both sexes to prevent chafing in the upper thigh area.

Outer Layer

In most climates you will want a windproof, water resistant outer layer - a jacket or windbreaker. One with a rain hood is an excellent idea - umbrellas end up poking other walkers or being a chore to carry.


In cold climates, you should wear an insulating layer between your t-shirt and your jacket.

Microfleece is an excellent choice. A wool shirt is OK. Sweatshirts end up being - sweaty. You will usually get pretty warm after the first few minutes walking and so will be shedding layers.

Bottoms - Shorts or Pants

If it isn't good weather for shorts, then select comfortable pants that move easily with you.

Many folks will wear jeans, but they are a poor choice -made of heavy, water absorbent fabric. But if your jeans are simply your most comfortable pants, then go for it.


In any weather, a hat to keep your head warm or the sun off your scalp is a requirement.


Most charity events are short enough that you won't need to carry much. Ditch the purse and dig out a waistpack in which to carry your keys, identification, and other essentials.
More: 5 Clever Ways to Carry Your Walking Essentials

Gear for the Weather

What to Eat and Drink for a Charity Walk

Charity walks generally have plenty of snacks and drinks along the walk and at the start/finish.

Water Before, During, After Your Walk

Drink a large glass of water 2 hours before the walk, then nothing until you get started. This gives you body enough water and you enough time to use the bathroom before you start, then not be running to the first porta-john on the route.

Along the walk, drink water at each water stop. On warm days, carry your own water in your waistpack so you can drink a cup of water every 20 minutes if there isn't enough on the course.

At the end of the walk, drink a large glass of water.

Sports Drinks

Sports drinks often are offered. You will generally not need a sports drink if you are walking for an hour or less. For longer walks, enjoy some sports drink after the first half hour. This replaces the salt you are sweating away.


Bananas are the perfect walking snack - they replace potassium and have sugar and starch. Go ahead and grab the free sports bars they offer - eat them if you are hungry, but better yet save them for later. On longer walk, salty pretzels can help you replace salt lost in sweating.

Don't Over-reward Yourself

Walking burns approximately 100 calories per mile for a 150-pound person. Don't eat too much in celebrating!

Before the Walk Checklist

  • Start/finish location
  • Registration/packet pick-up time and start time
  • Where to park or get bus/train
  • Race number if you got it beforehand
  • Extra safety pins for race number
  • Sunscreen applied
  • Give yourself time to get into the porta-john line before the start.
  • If you wish to walk with your pet or a baby stroller, check with the event officials to see if it is allowed.
  • If you collected pledges, thank your donors.

    More: Race Day Guide to the Starting Line: What to expect at the starting line for a big walk/run event.

    During the Walk

    • Start at a slow and comfortable pace for the first 5-10 minutes. This is easy to do at large events as everyone is moving slow.
    • Speed up to your natural pace but remember this is not a race, be gracious to those you pass.
    • Pass on the left unless you are facing traffic on an open road - in that case you pass on the traffic side.
    • If walking with friends, be aware of those who wish to pass you and don't block the route while walking abreast.
    • Be respectful of property - stay on the path, do not trample on people's lawns and gardens, only use porta-johns and not the bushes.
    • Don't litter - deposit cups, wrappers, etc. only in waste receptacles or carry them with you till you find one.
    • Do not smoke while walking.
    • If you feel a blister coming on, stop and apply a bandage immediately before it grows.
    • Obey event volunteers and treat them kindly.
    • At the finish, take only an appropriate share of the goodies.

    You've done it! You made it through a challenging walk, hopefully none worse for the wear. Enjoy your reward - the t-shirt, medal, pin or other item you received. Wear it with pride to work the next day.

    More: Race Day Guide to the Finish Line

    After the Walk: Your Next Goal

    • Now you know you can walk a distance. Time to plan the next charity walking event you will tackle.
    • Perhaps a bigger challenge would help you get fit and healthy through the training. You can train to walk a marathon for charity - many such programs even pay for your transportation and registration to a great walking marathon in a wonderful locale.
    • Look for walking clubs and groups in your area to join with for their walks.