Is it Possible to Walk A Half Marathon? Training Plan for Walkers

Looking to complete a race but not interested or ready to run the entire thing? Consider walking to the finish line instead. While running may be the more popular choice, walking a half marathon is an impressive athletic accomplishment on its own. It’s a great way to get a taste of competition, test your willingness to stick to the rigors of a training schedule, while still enjoying the sights, sounds, and experience of participating in a half marathon.

Related: The Best Half Marathons You Can Walk

Walkers are welcome on many half marathon courses with time limits over 6 hours (13:45 per mile), and you’ll get to partake in the thrill of race day while conquering an athletic achievement on your own terms. Here’s a primer for preparing to walk a half marathon to help you get to the finish line feeling strong.

Training on trails provides a softer surface for impact when walking a half marathon.
Photo by Kitera Dent on Unsplash

Should You Walk a Half Marathon?

No matter your fitness level, walking a half marathon can be rewarding. It’s a way to ease into an exercise routine and test your ability to commit to a training plan.

Related: The Best Free Half Marathon Training Plans for Beginners

No matter your motivation, the weeks of training and the race itself will provide ample physical and mental health benefits. You might find the training process has many positive side effects, including a better mood, higher energy levels, and even weight loss.

Pay attention to the following indications on whether you should train to walk a half marathon:

  • If you can currently walk for 30 minutes without stopping.
  • If you can walk up to four miles per day (continuously, or broken into segments).
  • If you can commit to either of those walking benchmarks and repeat daily without pain.

Most half marathon training plans span between 8-weeks of training to up to 20-weeks. If you are able to hit these physical benchmarks, you’d be considered in able condition to begin a training protocol.

If you try to walk these distances and find it too difficult, the half marathon walk may be too ambitious.

An alternative option would be to consider consider training for a shorter distance like a 5K or 10K in order to build confidence in your mental and physical capacity before moving to a half or full marathon distance.

If looking for a training app to support you on your walking journey, use code HALFMARATHON for a 2-week free trial with Runna.

Looking for more age-specific guidance? Check out our guide on how to start running as an older athlete.

How Long Does It Take to Walk a Half Marathon?

Your half marathon time will depend on pacing.

The average time to walk a marathon is 6 to 9 hours.

Most people can walk a mile in between 15 minutes (4 miles/hour) to 20 minutes (3 miles/hour) which would yield a half marathon time of four hours. The specific terrain and elevation profile of the course will affect this time.

If you’re aiming to have a finish time under three hours, you’ll need to move at a faster pace than you could do untrained. Achieving this speed takes training and weeks of work to build up your endurance.

Many races have timelines that incorporate those waking a half marathon.
Photo by Carlos Magno on Unsplash

How to Find a Walking-Friendly Half Marathon

While almost all half marathons are walkable (if you can walk quickly enough), some are better suited for it than others.

The first consideration is the cutoff time. Some races have organizers stop blocking roads or scoring finishers after a pre-determined time, often four hours from the starting gun (a pace of 18:18 minutes per mile).

If, through your training sessions, you can predict your race pace, it’s possible to determine how close your finish time would be to the cutoff time limit. If your predicted finish time is too close to the time limit, you may want to consider another half marathon option.  

Access to hydration and aid stations is another factor. Walker-friendly courses will have plenty available throughout the four hours of race participation, while courses tailored more toward runners might shut them down early.

Here’s the good news—we’ve done the research for you. Our guide to the best walker-friendly half marathons shares races nationwide with four-hour course limits.

How To Train To Walk a Half Marathon

It’s a mistake to show up at the half marathon starting line without prior preparation. While walking is lower impact than running, it still requires a trained cardiovascular system and requires endurance training.

One of the best ways to prepare for race day is with a long-distance training plan. Most training plans are designed to build over 8 to 20 weeks and require training between three to five days a week.  

Training plans will vary. Most will include a variety of workout types, including: training walks, cross-training, rest days, long walks.

Training Walks

Training walks are designed to build speed and endurance and should be conducted at a pace between 10% and 20% greater than your goal pace.

If you expect to finish walking the half marathon in 13:45 per mile, aim for a pace between 15 and 16 minutes per mile. Even at this pace, you’d still consider it a brisk walk.

Cross Training

Cross-training is designed to build muscular and cardiovascular endurance without subjecting the body to the repetition and impact of walking. Good cross training exercises for walking include biking or cycling, rowing, and weight lifting.

Cross-training can either supplement your cardiovascular training with plyometric exercises and strength training for runners or should be designed to strengthen the muscles with long distance walking – like the glutes, hamstrings, and core.

Long Walks

Long walks are designed to simulate the physical and emotional demands of the half marathon. The long run is arguably one of the most important parts of the marathon training plan. Slow, long walks act like strength training that helps tendons, joints, ligaments and bones adapt easier to the impact and stress of running.

You may have heard the difference between fast-twitch and slow-twitch muscles before. When walking at an easier effort, you’re activating mostly the slow-twitch muscles. The slow-twitch muscles actually have a higher density of mitochondria and capillary density.

Why does that matter for walking a half marathon?

According to a study in the American Journal of Physiology, the more mitochondria you have, the more energy your body can produce. The more slow training is endured, the more your capillary density will increase – meaning, better blood flow to the muscles to use oxygen more efficiently.

This means more stamina and faster at all speeds.

Rest Days

Rest days speak for themselves – it’s a day off. Your muscles actually grow during the repair days, not the training days. Training days break down and stress the muscle fibers, rest days repair the muscle stronger.

Technical terrain may support muscle development and endurance for walking a half marathon.
Photo by David Marcu on Unsplash

Walking A Half Marathon 16-Week Training Plan

Below is a 16 week training plan for walking a half marathon. The plan is designed with four days of walking per week and the long walk day is designated as Saturday with an active recovery walking day on Sunday.

Week

Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun

1

off 3 miles off 3 miles off 3 miles 2 miles

2

off 3 miles off 3 miles off 4 miles 2 miles

3

off 4 miles off 4 miles off 6 miles 2 miles

4

off 4 miles off 4 miles off 6 miles 3 miles

5

off 5 miles off 5 miles off 7 miles 3 miles

6

off 5 miles off 5 miles off 7 miles 3 miles

7

off 6 miles off 4 miles off 8 miles 2 miles

8

off 6 miles off 4 miles off 8 miles 3 miles

9

off 5-6 miles off 4-5 miles off 9 miles 3 miles

10

off 5-6 miles off 4-5 miles off 9 miles 2 miles

11

off 6 miles off 5 miles off 10 miles 2 miles

12

off 6 miles off 5 miles off 10 miles 3 miles

13

off 5-6 miles off 4-5 miles off 11 miles 2 miles

14

off 5-6 miles off 4-5 miles off 12 miles 3 miles

15

off 5-6 miles off 4-5 miles off 6 miles 3 miles

16

off 4-5 miles off 4-5 miles off 13.1 miles! off

A little more about this 16-week half marathon training plan

  • After week 3, you will have established a base. Your longest weekly walk will increase until it reaches 12 miles. You don’t need to walk 13.1 miles during your training plan.
  • 16 weeks is a safe amount of time to gradually increase weekly mileage to give your body time to build endurance.
  • Just as with running, you can expect the adrenaline of the course to help you go further on race day than your longest training walk.
  • Your walking routine needs to be consistent. Skip too many workouts, and you’ll compromise your overall fitness.

Most of your weekly walks should be at a comfortable, conversational pace.

You can push the speed a few times weekly to improve your fitness, but going hard for every walk is counterproductive.

As with running, it’s recommended to cross-train at least one day a week.

The key to a walking program is the longer walks. These happen once weekly, typically over the weekend (though you can adjust the timing to fit your schedule!). This is when you push your endurance and build confidence to handle the total 13.1 miles.

Most training plans will have a taper as you approach race day. You’ll decrease your mileage to remove the lactic acid from your legs. Avoid cross-training over the final week.

If you need personalized guidance, consider working with a running coach, walking coach, or a highly customizable training app like Runna. Runna was rated the Best Training App of 2023 by Tom’s Guide. Using code HALFMARATHON, you’ll receive 2-weeks free on any premium training plan.

Footwear and Fuel for Walking a Half Marathon

The right walking shoes will impact your training experience.

If you’re unsure what to buy, aim for extra cushioning to reduce foot fatigue. Working with a sales associate at a specialty running store is your best bet for finding a pair that fits your natural gait.

Related: The Best Shoes for Half Marathons

Choose your walking route carefully. Dirt roads and crushed gravel offer the softest surface compared to pavement. Try to incorporate parks and trails into your sidewalk routine. A treadmill also offers a joint-friendly walking option.

As with all exercise, success also depends on your diet. Make sure you fuel yourself with healthy foods before and after your walks, and consider carrying something small for race day and your long walks.

Carbohydrate-rich foods provide glucose for accessible.

Energy gels and chews designed for endurance sports are easy to tuck into a pocket before you head out the door.

Carry water on training walks. Try to take in water at the frequency that you’ll see on the half marathon course – which is traditionally every 1 to 1.5 miles.

Final Tips for Walking a Half Marathon

To ensure you have the best chance of finishing walking your half marathon, here are a few additional tips you should keep in mind for the first time on race day

  • Nothing new on race day. Avoid new energy gels or chews on race day. Your stomach acclimates to nutrition you train with.
  • Early is on time. Try to show up to the race an hour before starting time to ensure you have time to go to the bathroom, warm up, and find the starting line.
  • Pick the right shoes. Don’t wear a stiff, fresh pair on racing day. New shoes, when not broken in, tend to cause blisters to the athlete.
  • Find other walkers. Race walkers tend to accumulate at the back of the starting line so they don’t impede the runners.
  • Watch the weather. Coordinate your clothing to wear comfortable, chafing-free clothing regardless of the weather conditions. In the heat, opt for sweat-wicking fabrics. In the winter, opt for layers you can shed during the race.

Frequently Asked Questions about Walking A Half Marathon

Do people walk at all during half marathons?

Yes. It’s common to take run-walk breaks in the middle of running a half marathon and start the race with the intention of walking the whole time.

How do I train for a half marathon walking?

Follow a training plan and expect to walk at least 3-4 times a week, with progressively longer runs each week.

How many steps does it take to walk a half marathon?

The average walker will take just under 27,000 steps during a half marathon.

Can you do a half marathon with no training?

If you can walk at least ten miles, you can likely complete a half marathon without training. However, you lower your risk of injury by following a training program several weeks before race day.

How many hours does it take to walk a half marathon?

With training, many people can walk at a 15-minute mile pace, about 3 hours and 16 minutes.

What is the average person’s heart rate for walking a half marathon?

Maintaining a pace of 15 minutes per mile, your heart rate will likely fall between 110 and 140 beats per minute.

Is walking a half marathon good for the knees?

Walking is a low-impact activity that is easier on the knees than running. Studies have shown that walking and other impact activities, with the right form, actually decrease the risk for arthritis in the knees due to more fluid moving into the joint to support the movement. Proper running shoes, form, and strength training are recommended to see these benefits.

How long is a half marathon?

Half marathons are 13.1 miles or 21.08 kilometers.

What is the best way to train for a half marathon?

Training plans will vary based on your starting point and goals. Most will require between three and five walks per week, with one at a continually longer distance to boost your endurance.

You may want to consider out comprehensive guide on how to train for a half marathon.

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