Thoughts on Walking an Entire Half Marathon (13.1 Miles)

I recently did something I never would have if not for the pandemic- I ran the entire distance of a half marathon (13.1 miles). If you follow my blog, you probably know I have a goal of running a half marathon in all 50 states and was on schedule to run my final three states (New Mexico, Minnesota, and Iowa) this year. Then COVID-19 changed all of that and I wasn’t able to run a single race this year.

While I did run a virtual 5k,I Ran My Fastest 5k, but Does It Even Count? I just wasn’t into virtual races. I was supposed to run the Albuquerque Half Marathon in New Mexico in April but it was postponed until November, then it was outright canceled, with runners told we could (hopefully) run it in April 2021. My training for the race had been going so well that when Nuun announced a virtual Team Nuun Half Marathon that would be free and include swag to the first 1500 people to sign up, and it was going to be held on the exact same day that my New Mexico race was supposed to be, I jumped on the bandwagon.

Then completely out of the blue I started getting pains in my hip when I ran. I worked on it by foam rolling, stretching, and yoga but I just couldn’t quite find the spot that was the problem. After scheduling a massage and finding even that didn’t completely take care of the problem, I decided to take a break from running and even long walks for a week. Still, the pain was there and had gotten to the point where my hip hurt no matter what I was doing.

With the impending Team Nuun Half Marathon quickly approaching, I tentatively tried to run again. I decided to try for 3-4 miles and see how it went but every single step I took from beginning to end was painful, too painful to run through. Even though I was bummed about not being able to be a part of the “race,” I knew there was no way I could run 13.1 miles in just 3 days. I should also mention that Team Nuun is a group of mostly runners but also cyclists, triathletes, and hikers from all over the United States, who all have a love for being active outdoors and a love for Nuun hydration products. We have a pretty active private Facebook page where we can post our recent adventures, share our ups and downs, and participate in challenges and giveaways.

The day before the Team Nuun Half Marathon I decided I would walk the entire 13.1 miles. I knew I could walk for an hour without it making my hip worse because I had recently done that, and while I know it’s a big leap from an hour to over three hours, I figured I could just turn around and cut the walk short if I needed to. Typically I clock around a fifteen-minute mile when I’m walking, so when I did the math, adding in a bit for hills, I calculated it would take me around 3 hours and 20 minutes.

In case you’re wondering, my average half marathon finish time is around 2 hours. I’ve run several races under 2 hours and several over 2 hours, with my slowest finish being 2 hours, 35 minutes when I was severely anemic. I wasn’t entirely sure what it would be like to be out walking that far for over 3 hours. Sure, I’ve hiked for several hours at a time, many times, but this would be different. Instead of climbing up and down mountains and stopping to take breaks for water, take pictures, and have a snack or even lunch along the way, I would not be stopping for anything.

The morning of the Team Nuun Half Marathon was gorgeous albeit a bit on the warm side even for walking. I decided to wear a short-sleeve shirt with shorts and long compression socks. In my running vest, I put the usual two bottles (one is 12 ounces, the other is 10 ounces) with Nuun Endurance and instead of my usual Honey Stinger chews I brought a Honey Stinger waffle. Normally a waffle would be too difficult for me to eat while running but since I’d be walking it seemed doable.

I realized to maintain a 15 minute pace requires mental energy to focus on keeping at the quick pace. When I would let my mind wander I noticed my pace slowed a bit, so I’d have to try to stay on top of my pace, otherwise I’d be walking closer to a 17-minute mile. I also noticed my surroundings more than when I run. Even though I walked the same greenway I’ve run on what seems like a million times, there were little things I had never noticed before.

Somewhere between miles 9 and 10 my feet began to hurt, then around mile 10 my glutes began talking to me, then finally around mile 11 my quads began to speak up. My hip was surprisingly quiet, though, so I figured all was good and I continued pushing the pace, while still walking. With all of this going on, I also learned that the Nuun I had brought, while enough for 2 hours, it was not nearly enough for over 3 hours. It didn’t help that it was a sunny day around the low 70’s. My Honey Stinger waffle was enough, though, and I didn’t feel hungry or like I needed to eat more.

Finally, after 3 hours and 18 minutes, I was back at my house, after having walked 13.11 miles, with an average pace of 15:08/mile. I submitted my time to Team Nuun, knowing full and well that I would definitely be at the very bottom of the results. Still, I wanted to submit my time because even though it was by far the slowest “half marathon” I’ve ever run walked, it was still 13.1 miles that I completed on my own two feet, without stopping.

Another part of the reason why I wanted to do this is, as I mentioned earlier, I still have three states left to run a half marathon in. Should something happen to me in the weeks or days leading up to the races, it would be good to know not only if I could walk a half marathon but what it would be like to walk a half marathon, should I have to. I learned some things along the way by doing this, and now I know yes I could do that again, but I would need to bring more Nuun Endurance. Fortunately I remembered to fully charge my Aftershokz headphones and Garmin watch the night before, and they both were still going strong by the time I finished. This was also good for me to know for the future.

Have you ever walked the entire distance of a half marathon or marathon? What was your experience like?

Happy running!

Donna

Author: runningtotravel

I'm a long distance runner with a goal of running a half marathon in all 50 states in the US. I also love to travel so I travel to other places when I'm not running races. Half the fun is planning where I'm going to go next!

20 thoughts on “Thoughts on Walking an Entire Half Marathon (13.1 Miles)”

  1. I have NO problem walking a half marathon. I’ve considered it several times when I thought an injury would get worse if I ran.

    I have several friends that have walked a whole half. They enjoyed it and they got the same medal. It’s better than deferring sometimes.

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    1. It was harder than I thought it would be but that’s probably because I had a pace I wanted to keep at the whole distance. Still, 13.1 miles is a long way to walk! Now I know I can do it should I have to for a race. Like you said, I think it would be better than deferring.

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  2. I live in the Colorado mountains and have done the Slacker Half Marathon. It’s called the Slacker because it’s completely downhill, from one of the ski areas at the Continental Divide down to my town. I’m a sometime runner, so I did a walk/run. Felt great! But I couldn’t have done it uphill!

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    1. I looked at the Slacker Half when I was trying to figure out which one I wanted to run for my half in Colorado. I ultimately ran one in Boulder because I have a good friend that lives near there so I wanted to be able to spend some time with her while I was there. The altitude in Colorado is no joke, even at the lowest point there! I was struggling the whole time during that race just to get my breath!

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      1. Boulder is a good choice, it attracts people from all over and it’s a great little city to spend some time in. Yes, the altitude is a deterrent. You need to acclimate for a few days before trying anything strenuous!

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  3. That is awesome. Strangely enough I have that same goal even though I’ve only gotten to around seven states. I have a bad habit of running while nursing an injury though I think all the precautions you took prior to running paid off.

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    1. I didn’t realize you also have that goal. Congrats on finishing 7 states. You’re young and have plenty of time to do the rest. I learned my lesson about 14 years ago about running while nursing an injury. It took me so much longer to fully recover from that race and I’ve been more cautious since.

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  4. I have, indeed, done that. Just once. I was meeting an online friend in Vegas for the RnR half for the second time — the first year she was injured and unable to run it at all.

    She was still injured. I told her I’d stay with her and do whatever she needed. I’d already run it after all, and I knew I’d have more halfs in the future.

    We needed an 18 mm to not get a DNF. It wasn’t easy because of my friend, and she probably should have dropped out, but she was determined.

    It’s definitely easier with a friend, when you’re chatting the whole way. But walking and running use muscles differently, I discovered. I was sore the next day! My friend could barely walk, but she did go on to eventually run a half marathon (she just decided Vegas was cursed for her, LOL!).

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  5. A few years ago in France we watched the Tour de France in person. When you factor in a short run in the morning and all the walking we did to get from the car to our TdF viewing spot and back again we walked/ran about 14 miles that day. I thought I was going to die. SO exhausted by the end of the day!!

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  6. I’ve done a lot more walking since Covid began as it’s become an evening habit for Jason and me. That said I don’t think we’ve walked over 5 miles so walking a full half sounds challenging! I think I would be able to do it if I had someone to talk to and no specific pace to maintain.

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  7. I have hiked the distance of a half marathon – during a full marathon! I signed up for one of the Tunnel Marathons in Washington state 2 years ago (you run through a 3-mile tunnel during the race), then injured my hamstring. I decided I would still do the race, running as far as I could, then walking out the rest. I ran to about mile 12 before the pain became unbearable, then walked the rest. I had a wonderful time! My slowest marathon by far. Walking did not hurt.

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  8. Donna I’m glad you were able to walk a half marathon. I keep talking about doing it, but haven’t taken the leap yet! I enjoy run/walking, and I’ve recently started being able to jog a few miles without walking. It’s so hard to train in the Las Vegas valley, at least half of my time running is uphill! My jogging pace is barely faster than your walking pace 😂

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    1. Thanks! It was harder than I thought to be honest, but I think that’s because I was by myself and trying to push my pace. That’s great that you started running! It is hard in the beginning but your body will get used to it after some time and you’ll see it starts to feel easier. Hills are tough, too!

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