Training for a Walking Marathon

Q: I’ve just signed up to walk for a marathon – 26.2 miles. Though I’ve been on a good cardio program, how do I develop a training program for this big event? I’m excited but nervous at the same time – I never thought I would do something like this in my life! Help!

A: So you wanna walk 26.2 miles, eh? It’s a big challenge but a fun one if you prepare yourself. You’ll have to train all your walking muscles and gain the endurance you’ll need to walk that distance and still feel decent. Lots of people could walk 26.2 miles if they had too, regardless of training, but they might feel awful the next day. If you prepare you can feel good and you can improve your time, if that interests you.

To start, you’ll need to have a training plan. I recommend a three-month plan, assuming that at the starting point you’re walking regularly and can walk at least a half-hour, nonstop, at a comfortably brisk pace. Your first week’s plan might look like this:

  • Monday: Walk one hour.
  • Tuesday: Rest.
  • Wednesday: Walk one hour.
  • Thursday: Rest.
  • Friday: Walk one hour.
  • Saturday: Rest.
  • Sunday: Walk two hours.

Gradually increase your walking time or mileage, especially on your long mileage day (in this case, Sunday). So the next Sunday walk 10 miles or 2 1/2 hours (assuming a 15-minute mile). Rest on Monday and make your training days Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. Continue on this schedule until you are doing about 20 miles on your Sunday walk.

Remember, this is a guideline. Use common sense if you miss a day or your schedule demands that you walk two days in a row, etc. Walkers aren’t at the same risk of injury as runners, so you’ll have more leeway.

The week before the marathon, cut back by walking just an hour a day and perhaps two hours on your long day. You don’t have to do a whole marathon before your event. You should have the endurance to complete it along with the excitement of feeling like you’re breaking your own record by doing the 26.2 miles for the first time. During the race, be sure to eat well and drink plenty of fluids. While training, take along snacks and water to keep your energy up. And after the race, recuperation is important; your body needs to rest and rejuvenate.

Training for a marathon alone may be difficult for some people, so you may want to look for people in your area to buddy up with. 

Good luck!

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