How to Train to Walk a Half Marathon: Tips and Training Plans

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In May, Al Roker walked the Brooklyn Half Marathon. A few weeks before the race, he connected with running coach Hiruni Wijayaratne for support and guidance through an app-based program called runcoach. “I was randomly assigned to him, but I didn’t know he was of Quite a bit of time, Al Roker,” said Wijayaratne. “He’s down to earth. You’ll never know he’s a TV personality.”

Roker has completed marathons in the past, but this was his first long-distance race in a long time. And with two knee replacements and his one hip replacement, he needs to ease his joints.

“Al has been committed to this health goal, so he’s got a really good foundation under him. It’s something most people need to reach before,” said Wijayaratne. “He didn’t have to start from scratch, so it was easy to help him pave the way forward.”

Wijayaratne created a personalized training plan for Roker, but she said walking a half marathon is an achievable goal for most people. Here are her recommendations.

follow a training plan

Most people can walk a half marathon in 12-16 weeks. A sedentary person or someone starting from scratch might need more time, but a regular walker could probably get him there in 12 weeks or a little less.

Whether you work with a coach or come up with your own routine, you should mix effort and pace and include uphill and downhill stretches. “I want to get used to what I will encounter on race day,” said Wijayaratne.

First, get into the habit of walking. “For the first month, I don’t care how fast you walk. I want you to walk at least four days a week,” said Wijayaratne. I like to give people things that are very achievable, such as , and move on from there.”

Everyone’s goals are different, but running a half marathon in four hours is realistic for most people. Wijayaratne recommends that he progress his quarter towards that goal every month. Here’s how it works.

  • 4 weeks later: Able to walk for an hour or more once a week.
  • After 8 weeks: Able to walk for 2 hours at least once a week.
  • After 12 weeks: Able to walk for 3 hours at least once a week.
  • Week 16 (Race Day): be able to walk for 4 hours.

To help you reach your monthly goal, your weekly workouts will look like this:

  • A ‘window shopping’ walk to catch your breath, enjoy the scenery and just move.
  • A moderate walk, as if you were rushing to the airport gate to catch your flight.
  • As you work, take one brisk walk while holding your breath and moving your arms.
  • Take one long walk toward your goal distance for the month.

“Then you can vary your effort, change your breathing pattern, and enjoy each day,” she said. “By race day, I have all the really good times to walk under you.”

Invest in good walking shoes

“I think all good running shoes are good walking shoes,” says Wijayaratne. She suggests going to her local running shop. It analyzes your gait and recommends some suitable shoes. With good shoes, you can probably walk 500-600 miles. “If you’re a walker, a pair of shoes will last you a year,” she said.

Good walking shoes are more expensive than the casual shoes you wear when shopping or taking a walk, but Wijayaratne thinks it’s worth it because it helps prevent pain. “If you have this goal, invest in yourself and take care of yourself,” she said.

Carry water and fuel for long walks

Bring water in a handheld bottle or waist strap if you walk for more than an hour. Try to drink 3-4 big sips every 20 minutes. “That way you don’t get dehydrated, but you give your body rehydration intervals so you can keep exercising,” he says.

On long walks, you can also bring energy gels to fuel your body when your blood sugar drops—Wijayaratne recommends one every 45 minutes.

Walk on softer ground if possible

Wijayaratne considers soft, crushed gravel to be the ideal walking surface, but it’s not a viable option for most people. So, she suggests walking wherever you feel comfortable and safe. Walking on a treadmill is also a good option.

Click here for notes on race day

You’ve been preparing for months, and the big day is here.

  • Bring about 4 gels for fuel. About one every 45 minutes. Do not try new gels in your race goodies bag. “You never know how different things interact with the stomach,” Wijayaratne said.
  • No need to bring water. Most races build water stops along the route.
  • Please arrive 1 hour before the start time. That way, you’ll have to go to the bathroom, stretch a bit, get your heart rate down, and then work hard for a few hours.
  • Don’t try new things on race day. Not a day to buy new shoes, clothes, or fuel. “Blisters and chafing from wearing unfamiliar clothes are the last thing you want,” says Wijayaratne.
  • For big races, position yourself in the middle or back of the group. Let the fastest runner take the lead.
  • Must be able to complete the course within the course time. At most half marathons, the course is closed to vehicle traffic for his four to five hours.

Do not be afraid

“When you start doing something like this as a walker, it can seem intimidating. I hope you don’t give up, there are a lot of people who walk half marathons and they get the same medal whether they run or walk,” Wijayaratne said. “You are on your own journey towards your goal. The pace is irrelevant. You are successful and a winner.”


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