The Stigma of Walking

This is something that has bothered me for awhile now, and it’s reached the point where I feel like I have to say something about it. Society as a whole, and the fitness community in particular, views walkers and runners much differently, and I don’t understand why. Runners are put up on a pedestal, while run/walkers (or heaven forbid JUST walkers) are told they didn’t do anything special, ANYONE could do it.

Some examples from my own life, and why I see this to be such a problem.

1)I get this one a lot; “wow you ran a 1/2 marathon, how impressive!” Then somewhere in the conversation they learn I ran/walk each of them and without fail you see their face drop and an “ohhh.” Suddenly, completing a half marathon (or 3) isn’t a big deal.

2)Comments on my finish time and implications that I must have cut off the course, since I didn’t RUN the whole thing. This bothers me on so many levels, but honestly, why would I train for something just to “cheat.” I would only be cheating myself, as I’m clearly not going to win anything. Have I routinely beaten people that run the entire thing? Yes. Does this mean I somehow did less then they did? NO!

3)I hear a lot of people talking about their personal goals. They say something like well I HAVE to run the entire race, otherwise I didn’t really do it. Seriously? You are honestly telling me that 90 year woman or 400 pound man that just walked the entire 5k, didn’t actually do it? Yes, I know that is when you start making excuses and say well yeah but for me…No buts, are you saying you are somehow better than them? You may not realize it, but that is exactly what you are doing.

4)I hate to break it to all of you out there who think running MUST be faster, that is not necessarily the case. In my 2 half marathons without a problem with my knee, I did a consistent 7min run/1 min walk. In my training I found this to be the fastest possible combination. I’ve done numerous time tests over the years, and no matter what the distance (5k min), I am always faster doing a combination of running and walking. Now I fully understand this principle doesn’t apply to everyone. Obviously if you can average 7 min miles, then walking is going to be slower for you. I just think there is a HUGE percentage of the population that would benefit from a combined approach.

5)Do you want to hear another benefit of run/walking. Overall, I feel fresher longer. I’m able to push myself harder in my training, yet I feel rested and recovered in a shorter time frame. I’ve had way less injuries since starting this approach, which keeps me out there doing the things I want.

So why do I see this as such a problem? You are probably thinking, she is just taking things personally. You would be correct, but it is so much more than that. There are many examples I can give to explain why I think this is such a societal flaw, but here is just one. I have seen first hand the triumphs of a true walker finishing their first FULL marathon, right at the cutoff time. I argue that what they did was harder then anyone else out there on the course that day. Remember the saying it never gets easier, just faster? Well think about that, a runner takes say 4hrs of equal effort to finish what took this person 8hrs to do. So I’d challenge all the runners who think what they did was somehow “harder” to continue running (with someone breathing down your back, threatening to pull you from the course if you don’t keep up your pace) until the last walker crosses the finish line. Then maybe you can get a sense of accomplishment they feel when they make it to the finish line.

Regardless, though, why would we want to discourage anyone from doing something so beneficial to their health and our societies health. By telling someone walking is inferior to running, we are encouraging them to stay were they are. We are telling them, don’t bother. Many of these individuals are the same ones who previously were sitting on the couch for hours everyday doing very little, if any, physical activity. So I would argue walking vs sitting is a much bigger challenge then running over walking. Our society has a problem when it comes to being active and leading healthy lives, yet this sort of behavior just compounds the problem.

So overall, my purpose in writing this post is to accomplish a couple of things. First, I just wanted to get the dialogue started. I’ve been frustrated for some time, yet if no one is talking about it, we won’t see change. Please use the comments section, as I would like to see this as just the start of an open conversation, and I’d love to hear your thoughts.

And secondly, I challenge any of you that are middle of the pack or slower runners, especially if you have had trouble getting a PR or are prone to injuries to try a run/walk approach for your next race. Figure out in training what your ratio will be (10/1,6/30sec,5/2, etc), set your watch and go!

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About Crystal

I'm a professional archer who also enjoys participating in mountain biking, cyclocross, swimming and running races. I race more for the fun and excitement than for top places and awards (or at least I try!), and my true passion is coaching others. I have a weakness for ice cream and a good espresso. I love being outdoors, and my dream is to one day own 100 acres.

Posted on September 20, 2012, in Fitness, Running and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 14 Comments.

  1. I agree, I think this is a great approach for people. Walk/running was my race plan for my 70.3. I’m curious, do you get most of the negative reaction from runners or non-runners?

  2. I definitely think its mixed. For me personally the bulk has been from runners (say 60%), but I will say I have also experienced it from a number of non athletes as well (40%). I directed this more towards runners (and fitness community as a whole), since I think the non athletes are just trying to make themselves feel better for not doing anything when they make comments…not saying that is right either, though.

  3. Awesome post!!! You’re totally right! It’s not about speed, time, distance or whatever… It’s about heart! Keep doing and being you! Don’t worry about anything else!!! Spa love!

  4. Due to a hamstring injury, i will unfortunately not be able to do ANY running during my half marathon in a couple weeks and I think it will actually be harder for me to WALK the whole thing (which is my new plan) than to run it because I will have to be more patient (since it will take me 3.5-4hrs).

    Plus I plan on having some rest/stretch breaks since its more about the journey and finishing happy and not in pain than it is for me to finish under a certain period of time.

  5. Girl there is absolutely NOTHING wrong with walking…rather you run/walk or walk the entire race you are still accomplishing a half marathon or marathon!!! And I’ve had plenty of race walkers beat me!!! I think that is just as inspiring that they can walk that fast! Keep it up girl and don’t let anyone make you feel less about your accomplishments!

  6. You know what? This is something I have never thought about. And I’m really glad you posted on it. I’m someone who feels terrible if I don’t manage to run the entire time – and you’re absolutely right, there is quite a tactical element to walking/mixing.

  7. Thank you so much for posting this. I just finished the Tinkerbell Half Marathon last weekend and walked the entire thing (but sprinted to high-five Goofy at the finish line). When I tell people that I walked it instead of ran, I get the disappointed look as well, and start to feel deflated instead of proud. Thanks for making me feel better, and normal! 🙂

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