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Is It Possible to Finish a Full Marathon with 100% Walking? I Did it in 5:17:53!



I have always LOVED walking and noticed the benefits of fast walking right away when I started running ultras. While other people were running, I found that I was just walking fast next to them. This year, I wanted to put my walking abilities to the ultimate test by seeing how fast I could walk a full marathon!


I raced Day 2 of the Mainly Marathon Prairie series. When deciding on a race, I wanted something super low key and this race was PERFECT! As much as I love trails and bigger marathons like Grandma’s and TC marathon, doing small loop, out-and-back, low key races are hands down my favorite races to participate in. I love being around serial marathoners, cheering on other runners throughout the whole race, and getting to know most of the runners by name by the end. There is truly no race environment like it.


Some of the inspiring racers I saw were a runner finishing his 100th Mainly Marathon and he has over 600 total marathons. Another racer I met has done all continents 4 times and has over 500 marathons. WI runner, Henry, was there and he was finishing marathon #1,959. And then Billy “The 100-mile Slayer” was there. He finished 35 100-mile races in 2019! Not only were they amazing to see, but all the racers were such a joy to be around. Everyone was so positive and encouraging which made for such a fun day!


Going into the race, I was a bit nervous because I thought the other runners might think I am super weird for walking fast throughout a whole marathon. Runners don’t exactly think highly of walking. It is not uncommon for me to hear runners say that “walking doesn’t count” or they aren’t “real runners” or “real marathoners” because they walk during their races.


What I quickly learned during the race is that not only did the other racers not think negatively of my fast walking, but they were impressed by it! Throughout the whole race, they said positive things like, “It takes a lot of practice to walk like that!”, “You are a smooth walker!”, “You have great walking posture!”, and “Wow, you are a fast walker!” Their encouragement helped me push harder and really test my walking limits.


Right from the start, I never looked at my pace or total time, so I had no idea how fast I was going. This is a pretty standard race strategy for me because I don’t find it helpful to look at my watch. I know it is better to be tuned into my body and listen to it rather than rely on a watch to do that for me. I also feel like I miss out on the race if I am staring at and stressing out about data on a watch rather than enjoying everything that is going on around me. I go into every race telling myself, “This could be your last race,” not because I want to be doom and gloom but rather because it helps me focus on enjoying every moment of the race. We truly don’t know when our last race will be, and I don’t want to spend mine looking at my watch. I finally looked at my total distance at mile 17.5 because I wanted to make sure my miles were aligned with what the race course said, and I wanted to know when I would hit mile 20 where I planned to take in one more caffeinated gel.


Timing my fueling at this race was really easy since the loops were just over 2 miles. I knew I needed to take in at least 1 gel every loop, so that worked out great! I ended up taking in 1,400 calories in gels and liquid calories. At no point did I feel like I had low energy or like I was bonking. Fueling well helped me push to the very end where the second half of the race was only 1 minute slower than the first half!


My arms really really moving at the end!

At the finish, a racer asked me, “Did you walk the whole race?” When I said I did, the race director who was doing the race timing looked up at me and said “WHAT? REALLY?!” His face was utter disbelieve. I quite honestly don’t think I have ever received so many positive comments during a race before, which goes to show that people are impressed by running AND fast walking.


For my training, I focused a lot of time and miles on walking rather than running. Repetition and total time walking is so important to improve walking economy, form, speed, and endurance, just like with running! Out of curiosity, I looked up race walking form to see how the truly speedy walkers get it done. What I quickly realized is that race walking is not the same thing as normal walking. The biomechanics are really complex, and I had no interest in completely changing how I walk. So, I just practiced what I was used to doing!


Cruising to the finish!

Part of the reason I wanted to do this walking challenge is because I have spent the last couple of years preaching the message that a lot of people could finish their races faster if they took walking fast more seriously. Many ultra-runners don’t do any walking training even though a huge chunk of their race is likely going to be walking. Road runners who do run/walk intervals often focus a lot of time and attention on their running pace even though they would finish races even faster if they improved their walking pace. I have even heard people avoid signing up for certain road and trail races because they felt the cutoff times were too aggressive and only “good runners” can finish in those times. What I wanted to prove during my walking marathon is that it is possible to walk fast, that people can finish under the cutoffs purely by walking fast, and that you don’t have to study and master race-walking form to get it done. During the race, multiple ½ marathon walkers said to me, “I want to walk like you when I grow up”, and “One day, I will walk like you.” Running fast isn’t relatable and it doesn’t feel achievable for many people. But, walking fast does. Their comments meant a lot to me because I think SEEING someone walk fast makes the goal feel more attainable.

I was stoked that my unofficial finish pace was sub 12

When I crossed the finish line, I hit 5:17:53 with an average pace of 12:07 and my fastest mile was 11:16! Although I walked 100% of this race, I still placed 2nd of the females.


I didn’t do anything special during my training other than walk more! I didn’t study how to walk faster or watch videos on walking biomechanics. I simply spent a lot of time walking with intention. Repetition and total time walking is so important to improve walking economy, form, speed, and endurance, just like with running! Out of curiosity, I looked up race walking form to see how professional walkers get it done. What I quickly realized is that race walking is not the same thing as normal walking. The biomechanics are really complex, and I had no interest in completely changing how I walk. So, I just practiced what I was used to doing and it paid off! I had so much fun during this marathon and I can't wait to see what I can do next time!

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