Lots of preparation and thought goes into running a half marathon, but how about if you wanted to walk one? There are more and more people that sign up to walk half marathons, so much so that some race directors are making their races more accepting of people who want to walk the entire route. So how long does it take to walk a half marathon? The average walking time is 3-4 hours, but many different factors can affect that time. Let’s take a look at the reason you may want to walk instead of run, paces and cutoff times, and some frequently asked questions regarding walking 21.1km.
It wasn’t too long ago that most race directors discouraged people from signing up for a race and then walking the entire course. Cutoff times were short, and sweepers that caught up to the back of the pack would take people off the course if they weren’t maintaining a certain pace.
As more and more people have taken on the challenge of walking a 21.1 km though, race directors have responded. Many have extended cutoff times to make it possible to walk an entire half marathon, without missing the cutoffs and being taken off the course by the sweeper. Aid stations that used to be unmanned after the main pack went through are now kept open much longer, allowing the walkers at the back of the pack to get water and food on their way through the aid stations too.
So why would you want to walk a half marathon instead of running one? There are many reasons, including injury, or just starting out as an athlete. Often people who walk half marathons are people who are interested in athletic endeavors but don’t necessarily have the training and athletic ability to take on the challenge of running a race that long. Others could be runners who were training to run a race, but due to an injury in training, they have to reevaluate their goals. Some will skip the race and get back to 100%. Other runners still want to experience the race day vibes, so they show up and walk the course.
What is a good half marathon time for a walker?
This is going to be pretty dependent on your health and athletic ability, so let’s break it down into a few different categories to make it a bit easier. This should give you a rough idea of a time to aim for figuring out how long it will take you to walk a half marathon.
Above Average Health and Fitness -
This is someone who is already a runner or does other physical activities regularly. Someone in this category who decides to walk a half marathon should be able to finish 21.1km in roughly 3 hours. Because of their aerobic fitness base, they shouldn’t have much of an issue achieving this time without pushing themselves too hard. Injuries shouldn’t really be too much of a concern (if they started the day healthy) because they won’t be exerting themselves nearly as much as they would when running.
A Person with Average Health and Fitness -
Someone who is not a runner but is healthy with a decent level of fitness should be on the upper edge of the average, somewhere right around the 4-hour mark. This will obviously vary depending upon their actual level of fitness, but it is a good goal time to aim for if you consider yourself to be in average or slightly better shape. Doing some long training walks leading up to the event will help make race day easier, as you’ll likely feel more confident about spending that much time on your feet at once. The risk of injury would be mostly dependent on how much training had been done. As long as some training was done, the risk of injury shouldn’t be too high.
A Person with Below Average Health and Fitness -
Someone with below-average health and a low level of fitness is probably looking at 5 hours or more to finish. This would generally be a person who has done very little or no training (if they did, they would possibly be bumped up into the “average” category). With little or no training, the risk of injury is fairly high. Spending that much time on your feet with no training can be quite a shock to your body, especially if it is the first time you’ve ever attempted something like walking 21.1km.
If you want to compare that to average half marathon running times, you can read about those here.
What Does That Mean for Cutoff Times?
Cutoff times vary from race to race. The average cutoff time for a half marathon is around 4 hours, but this is dependent upon many different factors. Many races involve having roads closed down, so they can only keep the course open for a certain length of time. Generally, half marathon times are more lenient than marathon times as they will have the course closed for longer to allow the full marathon runners to finish. These are the best races to walk as they give you the most time.
Some races have very short cutoff times, as they are specifically geared towards the faster runners. Checking the cutoff time on their website will give you an idea if you’d have time to finish walking the full event before it ended. Choosing a race with an appropriate cutoff time is essential to having a successful race day.
If you have no idea how long of a cutoff time you’d need to have to finish, go for a walk that is at least a couple of kilometers. Time it, and then figure out your average pace. Using that number, you can use a running pace calculator and roughly figure out how long it will take.You can then use that information to find a race with a long enough cutoff time for you to be able to finish the whole event.
One thing to keep in mind during races when you know you’re going to be at the back of the pack; Some races only keep their aid stations open and crewed for so long, and then things won’t get replenished. If you are planning on being close to the cutoff times, it is best to plan ahead for the aid stations to be out of some items, or closed entirely. When in doubt, it is best to carry extra gels and water with you, if at all possible. There is nothing worse than mentally preparing yourself to get fresh water and a snack during a race, only to find the aid station closed.
Frequently Asked Questions
While there are more and more races out there that are walker-friendly, not all of them are. Some may state in their rules that walking the entire course is discouraged, and others may just have cutoff times that a walker couldn’t possibly hope to achieve. When in doubt, check the race website and if you are still unsure, email the race director.
The short answer is yes. However, depending on your level of fitness, you could be setting yourself up for a lot of suffering, and possibly injuries too. It is best to try to get at least a few training walks in before tackling 21.1km all at once, and then base your decision on how you feel after those. Just remember, sometimes even professional athletes have to admit that the aren’t properly trained for an event and skip it to avoid getting injured.
The average walking pace for an adult is roughly 5 kilometers per hour. Not everyone walks at the exact same speed, but the average person should be able to walk at roughly a 12-minute/ kilometer pace.Terrain will affect this, so keep that in mind if your course isn’t relatively flat.
There are many other things to consider when choosing a half marathon to walk. Things like elevation, weather at the race location and the surface the course is made up of can all greatly affect your time. It is best to do as much research as possible when looking for a race so that you are prepared for as many of the different variables on race day.
Walking a half marathon, no matter your health and fitness level is an endeavor that shouldn’t be underestimated. 21.1km is a long way to walk. Having said that, walking a half marathon, no matter how fast or slow, is a feat that anyone should be proud of. So no matter how long it takes to walk your half marathon, you can be proud of accomplishing something that not many people will ever achieve. That is worth the sweat, hard work, and blisters every time.