Completing a marathon is an achievable goal for any distance walker. Marathons categorized as "walker-friendly" are races with an attainable time limit, an early start, ample participant support, a clearly marked course and energizing race-day entertainment. Additionally, walker-friendly marathons treat distance walkers with the same respect as the elite runners, encouraging a pleasurable, high-standard experience for all race entrants. Walkers who follow a quality 18-to-24 week marathon training program can successfully prepare themselves to complete the full 26.2-mile distance (and even find it enjoyable).
Spring: Country Music Marathon (Nashville)
Each April, 35,000 runners and walkers flock to the Country Music Marathon in Nashville, Tennessee. While temperatures can be toasty and humidity high, the electric race-day energy is an experience not to be missed. With an official seven-hour course time limit, a 16-minute-mile goal pace is attainable by the majority of walker participants. The marathon course begins in Centennial Park and winds down Broadway and Fourth Avenue South, passing historic Music City landmarks along the way. Twenty-eight stages throughout the race feature an incredible variety of musical acts. Plentiful walkers, encouraging spectators and a lively atmosphere make this marathon one of the best walker-friendly marathons in America.
Summer: Rock' N Roll Marathon (San Diego)
Walkers looking to complete a fast marathon course that meanders through spectacular scenery should consider the legendary Rock 'N' Roll Marathon in San Diego. With race-day start temperatures in the low 60s, pleasant weather conditions can encourage any walker to finish the race under the seven-hour time limit. Live music (such as reggae and rock), chanting cheerleaders and themed water stations help rejuvenate participants as they walk through Balboa Park, Hillcrest and the edges of the San Diego Zoo. Added bonus? A high percentage of Rock 'N' Roll Marathon walkers help make the experience more enjoyable.
The Portland Marathon is frequently dubbed the "most walker-friendly marathon in the country." "Runner's World" magazine has hailed the race as "organized" and "family-oriented," contributing to its positive image. With one-fourth of all entrants distance walkers, it's easy to understand why participation is high. The Portland marathon has an extended time limit of eight hours, allowing walkers of varied ability to complete the race with an 18-minute-mile pace. Over 4,500 volunteers ensure the race goes off without a hitch, as the course offers spectacular views of Portland's historic neighborhoods, beautiful riverfront and dramatic skyline. With a low chance of rain, 55-degree temperatures, abundant course entertainment and fully stocked stations, the Portland Marathon should be the first on anyone's race list.
Despite being one of the largest marathons in the world, the Honolulu Marathon is legendary for its exciting, welcoming environment. Almost 40 percent of participants in the Honolulu Marathon are distance walkers, providing ample socialization, support and competition for entrants. Tons of race support--from almost 2 million beverage cups to 465 portable bathrooms to 30,000 apples--make this race an international favorite. The early start time of 5 a.m. allows walkers to complete more mileage before the heightened tropical afternoon temperatures. Added bonus? The race does not have a time limit, allowing for distance walkers of all abilities to complete their first (or 50th) marathon. Breathtaking scenery abounds along the moderately hilly marathon course, which passes Waikiki Beach, Honolulu Harbor, Iolani Palace and Kawaiahao Church.