Training to walk 26.2 miles requires a substantial commitment of time and energy, but the rewards are a new found fitness level and self satisfaction. If you are not already walking at least 4 miles three to five days a week, and able to walk six to eight miles at a stretch, then this schedule may be too stressful. Consider training for a half- marathon first. Or if you’re just a beginner, try a 5K.
Use these training and race prep tips to help you reach the finish line.
- Choose a marathon that’s five to six months in the future, and be sure your marathon is walker friendly.
- Consider the season and timing of your marathon. If the marathon is in June, will you be training in snow and ice? If it’s in September, will you be frying on your longer training walks?
- Find a training buddy or join a supportive training group. Even if you don’t walk together during the week, you can meet on the weekend for your 8 to 22 mile jaunts.
- Check with your doctor if you have any health concerns that might come into play during this type of endurance training.
- Problems with posture or gait will be exacerbated by this much training, so you’ll want to focus on good form, have well-cushioned athletic shoes, and strengthen your legs through resistance training, in addition to your walks.
- Pay attention to how your body feels and adapt the schedule to your needs. Age, fitness level, weight and specific health conditions all impact your ability to build up to the 26.2-mile goal.
- Interval training will help you increase speed and add variety to your routine.
- Cross training, like weight training, biking or swimming, can be done on one or two “off” days or on an easy walking day. Again, trust your body. If you’re feeling too tired or grumpy, cut back.
- Get two pairs of shoes and alternate them throughout your training.
- Use petroleum jelly on your inner thighs and/or armpits if you feel chafing, especially during longer walks.
- Watch for hot spots on your feet and apply blister prevention immediately. (Carry specialized blister band aids made by Spenco, Scholl’s or Band-Aid and wear socks that wick away sweat.)
- On longer walks experiment with snacks and hydration so you’ll know what you need to stay energized during the race. Hydration systems like Camelpaks may be helpful during training.
- Develop a stretching routine to do after every walk. At minimum, stretch your calves, hamstrings and quadriceps. Calf stretching is especially important to avoid painful and debilitating plantar fasciitis (inflammation of tissue causing heel pain.) If you feel you need to stretch before walking, always warm up by walking about 10 minutes first.