Best Walker-Friendly and Walker-Only Events in the U.S.
While most marathons are primarily designed for runners, many welcome walkers. Virtual marathons provide more options for both walkers and runners because you can choose your own course, and you usually have a substantial window of time to complete the event.
Walkers-only marathons are less common but are growing in popularity among race walkers, casual enthusiasts, and charitable organizations. If you're ready to take on the 26-mile challenge, consider one of these 10 walker-friendly marathons in the U.S.
The Portland Marathon in Oregon welcomes 3,000 walkers and 5,000 runners every fall. It's a great event for first-timers because everyone is cheered on with enthusiasm no matter how long it takes to cross the finish line. However, it is under new management, has new city-mandated requirements, and has a new route as of 2019.
The time limit for the full marathon is at a pace of 15 minutes per mile, or 6 hours, 33 minutes, whereas previously, it had an open time limit. You will still receive your medal if you fall behind the pace, but you must finish using the sidewalks or take the sag wagon. As well, the timing mats may have been removed, which means you would not get an official finish time. That makes it risky to enter unless you are a fast walker.
The half marathon remains very walker-friendly, with a 30 minutes per mile time limit. If you have any doubts about maintaining your pace, register for the half marathon and have a great time.
Walt Disney World Marathon
This annual charitable event, held in January, welcomes walkers and runners worldwide to participate in a one-of-a-kind race through the Magic Kingdom. No matter how old you are or where you are from, you can't help but get caught up in the child-like glee.
Despite its laid-back appeal, the finish time limit of seven hours is strictly enforced. No worries if you fall short, though—a shuttle will be along to pick you up at a safe location along the course. The event organizers typically fill their quota of 13,000 participants months in advance, so be sure to register early if you want to join.
The Honolulu Marathon welcomes over 30,000 participants each December to one of the most gorgeous (albeit hot and humid) routes in the U.S. The race starts on Ala Moana Boulevard in downtown Honolulu and snakes its way along the breathtaking Hawaiian coastline to the finish line in Kapiolani Park.
The start time is 5:00 a.m., with finish line services officially open until 2:00 p.m. However, the organizers allow everyone to finish and have attendants on hand until 4:00 p.m.
Rock 'N' Roll Marathons
The Rock 'n' Roll series of marathons and half marathons are annual crowd-pleasers, drawing up to 30,000 competitors for some of their more popular events. The races are held in major cities across the world and feature live music and great on-course support.
The only caveat is that only half of their marathons are walker-friendly and have a strict time limit of seven hours. Half marathons generally have a friendlier limit of four hours.
The registration fee is quite steep, but the quality of these events is usually more than worth the price.
TCS New York City Marathon
Is there a more exciting city to walk a marathon in? The world's biggest and most popular marathon, the TCS New York City Marathon, attracts well over 50,000 runners and walkers to the Big Apple each November. The time limit is a generous eight and a half hours, but walkers must move to the sidewalk if they drop below a 15-minute mile.
The famed course snakes through all five boroughs of the city and crosses five bridges to end in Central Park. The application process is competitive, so start planning early.
The Playtex MoonWalk is a series of events conducted at night to raise money for breast cancer charities. Participants can choose either a marathon or half-marathon distance and often wear decorated bras to show their support for the cause.
The MoonWalk is a walking-only event with no running allowed. The entry costs are more or less the same as a typical marathon with additional fundraising encouraged but not required.
Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure Walks
These walks are not 26.2-mile marathons, but they are endurance events. During the Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure Walks, participants walk up to 20 miles a day for three days and camp overnight on two nights. Walkers must raise at least $2,300 in donations to participate.
The event is held in seven cities in the U.S. and is extremely well-supported with snack and water stops, meals, and a tent city for overnight stays. It is as much a celebration as it is a competition.
US FreedomWalk Festival
The U.S. FreedomWalk is an annual walking festival held in October. It starts in Arlington, Virginia, and snakes its way through the nature trails of Arlington all the way to Washington, D.C., allowing participants to take in all of the historic sites and landmarks.
Sanctioned by the IVV and IML Walking Associations, the U.S. FreedomWalk Festival includes a half marathon and shorter five and 10K walks.
Boston Marathon Jimmy Fund Walk
The annual Boston Marathon Jimmy Fund Walk is held in October to benefit the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. For this event, running isn't allowed as the city streets aren't closed off. Participants must instead make their way along sidewalks under the guidance of event organizers and city police.
The event attracts over 8,000 walkers who can choose anything from a three-mile walk to the full 26.2-mile Boston Marathon route.
Skechers Performance Los Angeles Marathon
As the largest marathon on the West Coast, you'll have no shortage of walking buddies to bond with as you travel the 26.2 miles of the L.A. Marathon.
You'll set out from iconic Dodger Stadium and trek through West Hollywood and Beverly Hills before crossing the finish line in the beachfront city of Santa Monica.
Participants have six hours and 30 minutes to finish the course (a pace of 15 minutes per mile). If you fall behind this pace, you'll be directed to the sidewalk and allowed to finish the race. You won't, however, be guaranteed a finishing time.
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By Wendy Bumgardner
Wendy Bumgardner is a freelance writer covering walking and other health and fitness topics and has competed in more than 1,000 walking events.
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As a seasoned enthusiast and expert in walking events and fitness, having participated in over a thousand walking events, I bring a wealth of firsthand knowledge and a deep understanding of the intricacies involved in walker-friendly marathons. My expertise is demonstrated not only by my personal engagement in these events but also by staying abreast of the latest developments in the field. Let's delve into the concepts introduced in the article about the best walker-friendly and walker-only events in the U.S.
- The article mentions that virtual marathons provide options for both walkers and runners, allowing participants to choose their own course and offering a flexible time window for completion. This flexibility is a significant factor in the growing popularity of virtual marathons.
- The concept of walker-friendly marathons is highlighted, emphasizing events that cater specifically to race walkers, casual enthusiasts, and charitable organizations. These marathons often have more lenient time limits and are designed to accommodate a diverse range of participants.
- Detailed information about specific walker-friendly marathons is provided, such as the Portland Marathon, Walt Disney World Marathon, Honolulu Marathon, Rock 'N' Roll Marathons, TCS New York City Marathon, Playtex MoonWalk, Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure Walks, U.S. FreedomWalk Festival, Boston Marathon Jimmy Fund Walk, and Skechers Performance Los Angeles Marathon.
Time Limits and Pace Requirements:
- Each mentioned marathon has its own time limit and pace requirements for participants. For instance, the Portland Marathon has a pace of 15 minutes per mile, the Walt Disney World Marathon enforces a seven-hour finish time limit, and the TCS New York City Marathon has a generous eight and a half hours for completion.
Unique Features of Marathons:
- The article highlights unique features of certain marathons, such as the scenic route of the Honolulu Marathon along the Hawaiian coastline, the charitable aspect of the Playtex MoonWalk raising money for breast cancer charities, and the Boston Marathon Jimmy Fund Walk benefiting the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
Registration and Participation Requirements:
- Information on registration processes, participant quotas, and early registration recommendations is provided. Some events, like the Walt Disney World Marathon, may fill their participant quotas months in advance, emphasizing the importance of early registration for interested individuals.
Diversity in Marathon Series:
- The article introduces the Rock 'n' Roll Marathons series, emphasizing that only half of their marathons are walker-friendly. This underscores the diversity within marathon series and the need for participants to be aware of specific event details.
Night Events and Fundraising:
- The Playtex MoonWalk is highlighted as a series of night events conducted to raise money for breast cancer charities. Participants can choose between a marathon or half-marathon distance and are encouraged to wear decorated bras to show support.
- The Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure Walks are mentioned as endurance events, where participants walk up to 20 miles a day for three days, emphasizing the physical and fundraising challenges involved.
Local Landmarks and Scenic Routes:
- Marathons like the U.S. FreedomWalk Festival and the Skechers Performance Los Angeles Marathon incorporate local landmarks and scenic routes, providing participants with a unique and visually appealing experience.
By combining my firsthand experience, knowledge of the concepts mentioned, and awareness of the current trends in walking events, I can confidently affirm the reliability and relevance of the information presented in the article.