Walking a half-marathon is a great goal, and it’s not as hard as it may sound! It’s becoming more and more common to walk races instead of running them, which is excellent for those who still need to build up their fitness levels.
Whether you’re already a power walker or considering getting into walking to improve your general fitness, walking a half-marathon is a good goal.
Here’s all you need to know about the race distance and our top training tips for walking a half-marathon. Good luck and have fun!
Can You Walk a Half Marathon?
Yes! Walking a half-marathon is perfectly okay if you don’t feel up to running one yet. However, you will need to be mindful of the cut-off times if you want to officially finish the race.
If you don’t feel that you can run a half-marathon yet, but you want to move up from 5k and 10k races, walking a half-marathon is a great idea. It will help to boost your fitness and get you closer and closer to running.
Who Can Walk a Half Marathon?
Anybody can walk a half-marathon if they choose to. However, some people may be more suited to it than others.
If you can already comfortably walk a 10k—6.2-mile—race, then a half-marathon is the next step up. If you haven’t yet walked a 5k—3.1-mile race, then we advise starting there and working your way up to a 10k and then to a half-marathon.
You should be comfortable walking long distances before you attempt to walk a half-marathon. Those with pre-existing health conditions should consult their doctor before walking a half-marathon to ensure their body is up for the challenge!
There are many other reasons to walk a half-marathon as well. If you have weak knees or ankles and the high impact of running hurts them, walking a half-marathon may be the better choice.
Walking could also be the right choice for people with lung or breathing problems or mobility struggles.
How Long Does It Take To Walk a Half Marathon?
Most people walk a mile in 15 to 20 minutes. A marathon is 13.1 miles, which equals between 3 and 4 hours to walk a half-marathon.
This depends on your pace throughout the half-marathon. If you walk at a moderate pace—around 18 minutes to the mile—throughout the race, you can expect to finish in around 4 hours.
To finish in 3 hours, you would need to walk at a pace of just under 14 minutes per mile.
It will take a little longer to finish if there are hills and tricky terrain.
How Long Does It Take to Train?
Although we walk every day, you still need to put in the time and effort to train for a half-marathon. Your body will need to be in optimal condition to walk continuously for 3 to 4 hours.
If you’re a beginner or have a low fitness level, you should dedicate 3 to 4 months of training before your race.
If your fitness level is already good and you can already manage regular medium to long-distance walks—6 miles or more—then you should train for 2 to 3 months before your race.
You will need to be able to train for between 3 and 5 days per week. If you can only train for 3 days every week, you may need to extend your training by another month to ensure you’re ready.
To make the most of your training, we recommend putting together a training program for 2 to 4 months based on these tips. You can adjust your training as you go, but having a solid training program to begin will make things easier.
Shorter and Longer Walks
You should be doing 2 to 3 shorter walks during the week and one long walk on the weekend—at a minimum. If you want to do more, you can, but be sure not to overtrain.
For your short walks, you should start with 20 minutes. Walk at a pace that you’re comfortable with—remember, you will need to calculate 10 minutes walk and then 10 minutes back to your starting point.
Every week, increase by 5 minutes until you can comfortably walk for 60 minutes during the week for each short run.
For your long walk, you should focus on distance rather than time. Begin with 3.5 miles. Every week, add on 0.5 miles until you can comfortably walk 10 miles.
Long walks are also the perfect time to experiment with hydration and nutrition strategies for your race.
Although it may be tempting to increase your time or mileage quickly, it can lead to overtraining, which will set you back and could cause injury.
You should add 10 percent of your mileage or time to your total every week. You can add less—5 percent—but you shouldn’t add more.
Have a Deload Week
Every fourth week should be a “rest” week. You shouldn’t rest entirely but rather cut back your mileage and time to 60 percent of what it was the week before.
Consider the Terrain
If you can, research the terrain of your race ahead of time. If you can find out information on the terrain, training on the same terrain helps prepare your legs for the race.
If possible, you should aim to do your long runs on the same kind of terrain as the race. However, mixing up your terrain during training can help build endurance and relieve boredom.
Consider Your Nutrition and Hydration
You should be paying attention to what you eat during your training. Poor nutrition can ruin your progress and make walking a marathon much harder.
You want to eat healthy, clean foods while training. These include lean proteins—chicken, fish, eggs—vegetables, fruits, and whole-grain carbohydrates.
You should also be drinking enough water, not only when you run but during the rest of the day as well. Keep a water bottle nearby and sip on it throughout the day to avoid getting to the point where you feel thirsty.
You may also want to consider your race nutrition. You can carry an energy bar, chews, or energy gels with you on the day to give you a quick carbohydrate boost when you feel your energy wane.
You can wear running shoes to walk a half-marathon or walking shoes. The key is to decide how much cushioning you need and to wear a pair of shoes that’s right for your gait. In general, running shoes are fine for walking and feature more cushioning and support.
If you overpronate, you will need a stability shoe, regardless of whether you’re using a walking or running shoe. Make sure they fit you comfortably, and your feet don’t hurt after walking for hours in them.
On the days between your training walks, you can take a day off, do a short, easy walk, or do a cross-training activity—active recovery. Make sure you take at least one full day off every week to allow your body time to recover properly.
You can also incorporate stretching, yoga, foam rolling, compression gear, or other recovery methods.
Cross-training is a great way to build your strength and fitness on your off days. You can do any kind of cross-training you like.
Some good choices include swimming, cycling, rowing, jumping rope, and aqua jogging. These will build your leg muscles, so you have more power during your walk.
If you’re walking a half-marathon instead of running because of sore joints, then make sure to choose a low-impact form of cross-training.
Aside from cardio-based cross-training, we recommend incorporating strength training into your routine. This could be weight training, using resistance bands, TRX training, or even bodyweight exercises, depending on your preference.
You should focus on the leg and core muscles. Building these muscles will give you more power and endurance when you walk long distances.
One or two sessions of 30 to 45 minutes per week should be enough. Make sure that your form is correct to avoid accidentally injuring yourself.
Even though you’re walking a half-marathon instead of running and your training is less intense, you should taper in order to be in the best condition on race day.
Your longest training walk should be two weeks before your final event. From there, you will reduce the pace, the time, and the distance of your walks until race day.
This allows your body enough time to fully recover from your months of training, rest sufficiently before the race, and build up your energy stores.
You should focus on maximizing recovery, eating clean, and getting enough sleep during the two weeks leading up to the race.