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Can You Walk a Marathon?

Amanda Wendorff

As a beginning runner, it will likely take you some time to build your endurance to the point where you can continuously run 42 kilometers or 26.2 miles. In the meantime, you may wonder, "Can you walk during a marathon?" The answer is an unequivocal yes!

Walking during a marathon, or even walking the entire marathon, is not only allowed but also common.

In this article, we'll answer some questions about walking in a marathon, including:

  • Can you walk a marathon running race?
  • What's the cutoff time for a marathon race?
  • What's an average walking pace?
  • How fast do you need to go in a marathon walk to complete the race within the official time?
  • What are some tips for training to walk a marathon?
MOTTIV app user Beth Warren competes in a local race.

Walking During A Marathon Running Race

It is absolutely permissible to walk during a full marathon race. Whether you include walking breaks between jogging intervals or decide to walk the entire race, you are still welcome in any marathon event.

You'll definitely have company if you include walking in your marathon. You will find athletes in all sorts of situations who choose to walk during a marathon, including:

  • Newer runners who are still building up their running mileage: Most training plans built for beginner runners will start with a run-walk program that, on most training days, alternates walking and running intervals. This strategy works very well for new runners and may last many months or even years. You don't need to wait to enter a marathon until you can run the entire distance non-stop; run-walk intervals work in races, too!
  • Experienced runners whose bodies do better with walk breaks: Many experienced runners find that including short walk breaks during their races allows them to finish the race faster, feel better, and reduce the risk of injury. Many running coaches suggest walking through the aid stations in any distance race, as the short break is good to bring the heart rate down a bit, allows for a mental reset, and generally helps runners maintain good form for longer.
  • Runners who need to walk a bit during the marathon in order to cool off, catch their breath, or take a mental break.
  • Devoted walkers (beginners and experienced racers alike) who enter the race with the plan to do more walking than running: Many marathon races have participants who choose to walk the entire race or a large portion of it. Some of these walkers are new athletes, but many are experienced racers who simply prefer walking. Some athletes have very fast power walking paces and often walk faster than a lot of runners!

Walking the Entire Marathon

If you're planning to walk the entire 26.2 miles of a marathon, or a large proportion of it, the biggest concern is ensuring your walking pace is fast enough to complete the race within the stated time cutoff, if there is one.

At most races, finishing after the cutoff does not necessarily mean you cannot finish the race or will be pulled from the course. It simply means the official race is over, so you may not get an official time or a finisher medal.

However, some race directors may ask you to stop the race if you fall behind the pace to finish in time. If you're going to walk most of the marathon, it is always worth researching to determine the cutoff time and how it is enforced.

What is the Cutoff Time for a Marathon Race?

While there is no standard cutoff time for marathon races, the majority will have a cutoff of around 6 to 6.5 hours. Some races have an even more generous cutoff. The Honolulu Marathon, for example, prides itself as the only world-class marathon that does not enforce a cutoff time.

Here are the average paces you will need to hold to finish the race before a few example cutoff times:

  • 6 hours: You will need to have an average pace of 13 minutes, 44 seconds per mile, or 8 minutes, 32 seconds per kilometer.
  • 6.5 hours: You will need to hold an average pace of 14 minutes, 53 seconds per mile, or 9 minutes, 14 seconds per kilometer
  • 7 hours: You will need to hold an average pace of 16 minutes, 2 seconds per mile, or 9 minutes, 58 seconds per kilometer

What are Some Walker-Friendly Marathons?

Some marathon races are particularly walker-friendly, which usually means that their cutoff times are more forgiving or the proportion of walkers compared to runners is higher than in other races. Some even allow walkers to start the race 45 minutes to an hour early.

Some of the marathons known to be most welcoming to those planning to walk a full marathon include:

  • Honolulu Marathon
  • New York City Marathon
  • Los Angeles Marathon
  • Marine Corps Marathon

How Long Does It Take To Walk a Marathon?

Brisk walking paces generally range between 13 minutes and 17 minutes. If you maintain a 13-minute-per-mile pace (or 8 minutes and 4 seconds per kilometer) for a marathon, your finish time will be 5 hours and 40 minutes. If you hold 17 minutes per mile, you can expect to cross the finish line in 7 hours and 25 minutes.

As you can see, it is possible to walk 26.2 miles and finish within the race cutoff time. However, this requires a  brisk walking pace, or what some may call "power walking." Brisk walking increases your heart rate, is a full-body workout, and can cause some muscular fatigue.

If you're walking slower or at a more relaxed, typical walking pace, your speed will likely be closer to 3 miles per hour or 20 minutes per mile. Covering the marathon distance at this speed will take around 8 hours and 44 minutes, which is not within most cutoffs.

If you're planning to walk most of the marathon, pay attention to your paces. You may need to mix in some jogging or faster walking to finish before the race cutoff.

How To Train To Walk a Marathon

Although most of us incorporate plenty of walking into our daily lives, that does not mean that walking a marathon is easy or something that can be done without training. If you want to walk a marathon, you should expect to be on your feet for a very long time. To avoid injury and make sure that you can finish the marathon feeling good, you should spend several months building up your mileage. Here are some basic training tips for walking a marathon.

Follow A Marathon Training Plan to Build Your Mileage

Just like if you were preparing to run a marathon, if your goal is to walk a marathon, you should follow a well-structured marathon training plan designed to get you to the finish line. A good plan will help you to gradually increase your mileage and allow your body to adapt without risking injury.

Here are a few features of a good marathon walking program:

1. Ramp up slowly.

For any walking or running program, it's important to increase your training load gradually. Rather than simply jumping into walking for hours, start where you are comfortable. If your typical routine is to walk for 30 minutes every other day, use that as your starting point, and then build bit by bit. Next week, try walking for 40 minutes, take a longer walking route, or add an additional day of walking.

One good rule of thumb for any long-distance training program is to increase your distance by no more than 10% each week. This gradual progression is crucial for building endurance safely. Remember, consistency is key.

2. Aim for frequency over being a weekend warrior.

For many athletes with busy lives, the tendency is to skip exercise during the week and then train for many hours at a time during the weekend.

This approach carries a high risk of injury and is not the best way to prepare to walk a half marathon. Instead of long, hero sessions, aim for frequency and consistency. Shoot for three to four days of walking per week, with one long walk that progressively increases in distance.

3. Give yourself enough time to build endurance.

Many athletes with a marathon goal in mind want to know how long it will take to be ready for a race. Unfortunately, there's no simple answer to this. The time it will take to train for walking a marathon depends on several factors, including your starting fitness and athletic background. Generally, however, so long as you can walk at least 45 minutes to start, a 24-week training plan should give you plenty of time to prepare for the marathon, whether you are running or walking it.

To prevent injury and ensure that you are really ready to cover the marathon distance, take more time than you might think you need to prepare.

4. Incorporate rest and cross-training days.

A good marathon training schedule will incorporate rest days into the plan. These are just as important as your walking days, as they allow your muscles to recover and grow stronger. Listen to your body—if you feel overly tired or experience any pain, give yourself extra rest.

If you have the time, incorporating cross-training, like cycling and strength training, can improve your general health and fitness while also helping to ensure that you avoid injury.

Vary Your Pace In Training

As we showed above, it is possible to walk a marathon within the cutoff time, but it will require a pretty brisk pace. Be sure to practice this by incorporating intervals of brisk walking or speed walking into your regular training walk. For example, try walking at a moderate pace for five minutes, then increase your speed for two minutes, and repeat. These variations in intensity can make your training sessions more engaging and less monotonous while preparing you to finish a marathon.

As you progress through your training program, challenge yourself to include more extended periods of faster walking or introduce hill walking to your routine as a form of strength training.

Make Sure You Have Good Walking Shoes

Proper footwear is very important when training for a marathon, whether running or walking. Like running shoes, good walking shoes provide the necessary support, cushioning, and flexibility to protect your feet and joints from the repetitive impact of walking long distances. You'll be spending a lot of time on your feet, so make sure they are comfortable!

While there are shoes designed specifically for walking, it is also fine to complete a half marathon in running shoes. If you're planning to mix running and walking on race day or in your training (for example, using a running-to-walking ratio of 1:1 or mixing in two minutes of walking for every two minutes of running), it's best to use shoes designed for running.

When choosing running or walking shoes, consider your foot arch type and any specific needs you might have, such as wide feet or the need for additional arch support. A visit to a specialty shoe store where you can get a professional fitting and advice is a worthwhile investment.

Also, be sure that you follow the golden rule: nothing new on race day! If you need new shoes before the marathon, make sure you purchase them at least a couple of weeks in advance and get in several hours of solid walking time before using them in a race.


Marathon races are fun, inclusive events open to runners and walkers of all abilities. Whether you are still building your running endurance and including walk intervals, are a seasoned athlete but prefer to use a run-walk technique, or simply wish to walk a marathon without jogging, there's no reason to delay entering a race.

In this article, we've touched upon:

  • The rules about when you are allowed to walk in a marathon (there are none!)
  • Some reasons athletes may choose to walk during a marathon
  • Typical cutoff times for marathon races
  • Average brisk walking paces
  • Why it's not smart to try to walk a marathon without training
  • Some important tips you need to know about training for long-distance walking

Using a run-walk pattern in a marathon is often a smart approach for a beginner runner. So, even if you're still building up your running endurance, don't hesitate to enter your first marathon. You can walk as little or as much of the race as you want and still have plenty to celebrate at the finish line. If you want a free, personalized training plan to help you get to the finish line, check out our app!

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Amanda Wendorff

| Author

Amanda Wendorff is a professional triathlete, focusing on the 70.3 and 140.6 Ironman distances. In the last several years she’s competed in multiple gravel bike races. Top Achievements: Top 3 Ironman Ireland and Ironman 70.3 Coquimbo, Multiple time top-5 finisher, 3rd Overall at Moran 166 Gravel Race in Michigan, Age group podium at Gravel Worlds, Big Sugar, and Ned Gravel in first year of gravel racing.

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