This is a blog post by Michele Stanten of My Walking Coach, a lead organization for April’s monthly theme. Michele is an ACE-certified fitness instructor, walking coach, and author of Walk Your Way to Better Health. A member of the Every Body Walk Collaborative since its inception, Michele has also presented walking workouts at the National Walking Summit and ACSM Health & Fitness Summits.

Most people don’t even realize that you can walk some half marathons. Or, they think that there’s no way they could do 13.1 miles. Well, it is possible! You can do it! And you should do it because…

  • You’ll be motivated to walk regularly!
  • You’ll discover how amazing your body is!
  • You’ll meet interesting people along the way!
  • You’ll get healthier!
  • You’ll hear people cheering for you!
  • You’ll boost your self-confidence!
  • You’ll experience the thrill of crossing the finish line!
  • You’ll get a cool medal!

Back in 2005 as the fitness director at Prevention magazine, I challenged our readers (many of them avid walkers) to walk a full or half marathon, and I was blown away by the response! Thousands took the challenge and succeeded! Some of them were couch potatoes who found inspiration to start moving. Many of them were on-again, off-again walkers who finally made exercise a habit. Others were avid walkers whose passion for walking was amplified when they discovered what they were capable of doing. And some were former runners who were once again excited to be training for an event.

Walking a half marathon is doable for anyone who is willing to put the time in to train. (There are even events with wheelchair or handcycle divisions.) I’ve had the pleasure of cheering on walkers from their teens to their 80s, from slim to obese, from fast (less than a 12-minute-per-mile pace) to slow (more than a 20-minute-per-mile pace), from healthy to those with chronic diseases as they crossed the finish line.

One year, the challenge inspired 17 family members, from age 17 to 64, to take charge of their health after losing two family members in their 40s and 50s to heart disease. Together, they trained, reduced their risk factors for heart disease, and walked the Des Moines half marathon.

For others, family and friends thought that they were crazy taking on such a challenge. That was until they saw the effects of the training—more energy; greater confidence; a happier disposition; a slimmer, fitter physique. “Once we got home from the marathon, my friend and I were approached by four different women, asking us to let them know when training starts again,” one walker wrote. Each year, walkers would return because they loved the experience—and many wanted to beat their previous time—but this time, they weren’t alone. They brought family or friends who were inspired by them (how cool is that to be someone else’s inspiration!) and wanted to be a part of the fun, too.

In the beginning, 13.1 miles seemed intimidating to most. Some struggled to complete a mile or two. Others found it difficult to find time for their training. But as they kept putting one foot in front of the other, day after day, they gained momentum. “As my mileage increased so did my belief in myself,” said another walker. They found it easier to get up earlier in the morning to walk or hit the pavement after a tough day. And suddenly five- and six-mile walks weren’t such a big deal. And when they crossed the finish line, all the hard work paid off! The sense of accomplishment and pride was overwhelming and suddenly nothing seemed impossible! Here are just some of the sentiments I’ve heard from finishers:

  • “Definitely one of the highlights of my life.”
  • “Life changing experience.”
  • “I am not sure that I have ever felt this strong in my life.”
  • “I think I’d like to try skydiving next.”

Training for a half marathon is a journey that will forever change you as one participant shared:

“I am a different person today than I was six months ago when I began training.  Physically, I am much more toned and energetic.  Mentally, I am much more alert and feel as if I could practically tackle anything.  Psychologically and emotionally, being a part of this experience definitely carried me from a place of difficulty and sadness to a place of hope and victory!”

If you’re interested in experiencing the thrill of walking a half marathon, I’d like to invite you to join me at the Delaware & Lehigh Heritage Half Marathon on November 4, 2018, in eastern Pennsylvania, about two hours from New York City and one and a half hours from Philadelphia. It’s what I consider a five-star walker-friendly event because walkers are treated just like runners. (Full disclosure: I may be a little biased since I work with the event to make it walker-friendly. But I’ve researched other events and haven’t found one that offers all that we do.)

  • Free training plans for all levels of walkers.
  • Pace groups to help walkers achieve their desired finish time.
  • Estimated 200+ walkers this year, so you’ll have lots of company.
  • Age group awards for the speediest walkers.
  • Water stops open until the last walker passes.
  • Food at the finish for everyone.
  • 4 1/2 hours to complete the course—that’s about a 21-minute-per-mile pace—making it doable for most.
  • All proceeds go to support the Delaware and Lehigh National Heritage Corridor, which includes the 165-mile D&L Trail, the site of the half marathon.

For more information, go to http://race.delawareandlehigh.org/ or contact me at [email protected].

If you can’t make the D&L Half, here are other walker-friendly half marathons:

I hope that you’ll grab a friend and join the fun! You can find more training advice at mywalkingcoach.com. And share your experience and ask questions on my Facebook page. Happy Walking!