Walking a Half Marathon

How to Train to Walk 13.1 Miles

Half Marathon Walkers
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Distance walking has myriad benefits, from better mental health to improvement in markers for cardiovascular health. Walking a half marathon can be an excellent goal for experienced walkers who want to increase mileage to a specific goal. Walkers are welcomed at most half-marathon races, which makes it a good distance to strive for.

A half marathon is 13.1 miles or 21 kilometers long. It will take 3 to 4 hours to complete at a continuous, brisk walking pace. You will need to train by building up your walking distance over the course of a couple of months to cross the finish line feeling great.

Build a Mileage Base Before Training

First, you need to build up your walking endurance to establish a good mileage base of walking comfortably for 3 miles at a time. That's the minimum needed before starting longer distance training for a half marathon or marathon.

If you are starting from a higher base (you are comfortable walking 5 to 7 miles at a time), you could likely make it through a 13.1 mile half marathon without training. But it's probably going to hurt.

You won't want to make that mistake twice. If you want to feel great at the finish, rather than hobbling in with blisters, aches, and pains, you should train at higher mileage once a week. Find out how long the half marathon should take you based on your average pace using a calculator.

Training to Walk a Half Marathon

Once you have a good base established, do a long walk once a week, gradually increasing your mileage. Walkers do well by increasing their long day by 2 miles every 2 weeks. Follow the half-marathon training schedule if you have 16 weeks to train before your event.

By increasing your long walk distance gradually, you give your body time to build endurance and become accustomed to the longer mileage. This will help toughen your feet and help with endurance during the half-marathon.

For an abbreviated schedule, if you are already able to walk 7 miles now, you should do a long day of 9 miles in your first week of training. Drop back to 7 miles for the longest day the next week. Add more mileage to your long walk for the next few weeks, and concentrate on pacing.

Then allow for 1 to 2 weeks of lower mileage before your half-marathon event. You should also keep up with training on other days of the week; this chart focuses on your weekly long-distance day only.

  Longest Training Walk
Week 1 9 miles
Week 2 7 miles
Week 3 11 miles
Week 4 12 to 13 miles
Week 5 7 miles
Week 6 6 miles

Do I Need Different Walking Shoes?

You may be a person who never gets blisters when you walk your usual distance. But once you increase your distance in training for a half marathon, you may begin to have this problem. This is because the more times your foot strikes, the greater the chances that friction from ill-fitting shoes can cause blisters.

You might also find that shoes with more cushioning will result in less foot and leg fatigue when you are walking higher mileage. Visit a specialty running shoe store to be fitted for walking shoes that will work for you.

Hydration and Snacks at Longer Miles

When walking a half marathon, you will be out on the route for 3 to 4 hours. Getting the proper amount of liquids and snacks becomes much more important. You will need some carbs to fuel your body over that time period. Your long walks are the time to experiment with this and get it right.

If your half marathon provides on-course sports drink and snacks, it is best to use those same products on your long training walks to see if you tolerate them well.

How to Find a Walker-Friendly Half-Marathon

Finding a great half-marathon course often means looking for running races that you can walk instead. You need to know what your finish time is likely to be so you are sure you are entering a half marathon you'll be able to finish before the cutoff time. Also, find out how long support stations like hydration, snacks, and medical support will be available.

Even if you find a half-marathon race that welcomes walkers, you may discover that things are different at the tail end of a race. It's wise to carry your own water and snacks, for example, as they may have run out or folded up the support stops by the time you reach them.

A Word From Verywell

Training for and completing a half marathon walk is very rewarding. And you can do it in just a few months, especially if you are already accustomed to walking regularly.

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Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Wendy Bumgardner
Wendy Bumgardner is a freelance writer covering walking and other health and fitness topics and has competed in more than 1,000 walking events.