Walking

Tips and Training for Long Distance Walking

Long-Distance Walking

Do you ever have the urge just to take off walking—and never stop? Taking long, long walks is part of our human makeup. People migrated from place to place on foot throughout history. Today you can quench that wanderlust in many different ways.

You can walk for a day, weeks, or months. You can walk solo, with a group, or as part of a team. You can blaze your own trail, follow a 1000-year old traditional path, or tag along with 40,000 others on a designated route.

It's not the destination; it's the journey.

Walking Marathons & Half Marathons

Many of us have the 13.1-mile half marathon and 26.2-mile marathon on our bucket lists. Your first step is to find a walker-friendly race. Look for races that have a generous finish time cutoff and have other walkers and run-walkers participating.

Now you can begin to train to walk the marathon or half. You should start your training five to six months in advance of the race.

If you aren't already walking for two hours or more at a time, you will need to first build your base mileage. Plan for seven to eight weeks of steadily building your mileage and endurance, walking three miles, three days per week, and one longer mileage-building day once per week.

Once you have progressed, you are ready for serious marathon or half marathon training schedules:

    Always train with the food, gear, and shoes you will be using for the race, so you know what works best for you. Avoid trying anything new on race day.

    Relays

    Don't want to go it alone? Form a team for togetherness. Relay walks usually involve each person walking one or more legs of shorter distance, such as three to six miles, and handing off the next steps to the next team member. The relay is all about cheering on and supporting each other. Many marathons and half marathons offer relays for teams of two or more. Others involve a team of eight to 12 walking a long distance, such as the Portland to Coast Relay of 128 miles.

    Ultramarathons and Centurion Walks

    Ultramarathon runs and walks are growing in popularity.

    An ultramarathon is an event longer than a 42 kilometer (26 miles) marathon, and many are far longer, such as the 100-kilometer Dodentocht of Bornem, Belgium (Dodentocht translates as Death March). People regularly vie to get the title of Centurion, which you earn by walking or running 100 miles in 24 hours.

    Multi-Day Walking Events

    Walking a long distance each day for two or more days is a grueling endurance test. IML Walking Association events involve walking 20K to 50K for at least two days. The Nijmegen Vierdaagse Four-Days Marches is one of its premier events and has been held for more than 100 years (with a pause for World War II). The Komen 3-Day Walks are 20 miles a day for three days. These and others are hugely popular around the world.

    Pilgrim Walks

    These walks are routes followed by the faithful to a destination of spiritual significance. One such walk is the Camino de Santiago, which pilgrims have walked for the past thousand years to venerate the tomb of Saint James in Santiago de Compostela in Spain.

    The 800-kilometer/500-mile Camino Frances route from France is very popular today for walkers looking for a challenge as well as those with spiritual motivations. Other Camino routes radiate throughout Europe. The movie ​"The Way" has made this walk even more popular in recent years.

    You can find information on how to walk the Camino de Santiago from experienced peregrinos (pilgrims). But you need to be serious with a training plan for the Camino, as the route is very hilly and most pilgrims walk 12 to 20 miles per day. If you start out as a tenderfoot, you may soon find yourself injured and unable to complete your quest.

    Walking Across a Continent

    People take on amazing quests to walk across a continent or around the world. Thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail or going wild on the Pacific Crest Trail have new popularity due to recent books and movies. People have circled the world, and one did it carrying a 10-foot cross. Ole Oleson and wife Helene walked from the Arctic Ocean to the Pacific in western Canada, and then across Canada to the Atlantic Ocean.

    They made as much as 40 kilometers (25 miles) a day. That's a marathon each day. Not bad for a recent retiree. One of the best ways to research how to do such a walk is to read books written by those who did them.

    Training, Planning and Surviving Long-Distance Walks

    As Lao Tzu said over 2,500 years ago, "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." Your long-distance walking journey starts with training and planning many months in advance.

    Let's Take the First Step

    Walking a long-distance walk is a dream goal for many of us. You were built for walking. If you take your time to steadily increase your walking distance, you will be able to achieve your dream. There will be stumbling blocks along the way. You'll probably get blisters. You'll have to deal with nature in the form of insects, heat, cold, rain, and hills. Just keep your end goal in mind.

    It's the journey, not the destination. Throughout your training, as well as on your walk, you'll discover things about yourself. You'll see the world, and yourself, in a new way. Savor the path you take ​from the first step forward.

    Source:

    Hoffman MD. Etiological foundation for practical strategies to prevent exercise-related foot blisters. Current Sports Medicine Reports. 2016;15(5):330–335. doi:10.1249/jsr.0000000000000297.

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