Race Walkers: How to Find Walker-Friendly Races

I have several friends who are race walkers, and they regularly participate in races from 5Ks to ultra marathons.  Some are unable to walk due to prior injuries. Some prefer walking over running.  Some are competitive race walkers that regularly win race walking events, and pass runners on the course.

I fully welcome, encourage and support those who walk in road races and endurance events.  My attitude has always been than whether it’s a 15 minute mile or a five minute mile, it’s still a mile.  We are all road race finishers regardless of speed, and we all train for our respective sports, whether we run or walk.  We all get the same shirt, share the same course, and get the same medal.   

I also put a specific chapter for race walkers and slower runners in my book to provide tips and suggestions for finding supportive races.  

I've found there are three types of races when it comes to race walkers: walker friendly, walker tolerant, and not walker friendly.

Walker friendly races actively welcome and encourage walkers on their website and registration info, and have time limits that allow walkers to finish with course support.  Their materials don't just refer to runners- they refer to runners and walkers, or used a mixed term like "athletes" or "participants."  

Some of these races offer early starts for walkers if they can so walkers can come in with most of the runners, and therefore not miss out on the food.  If they can't do an early start, some of these races set up their post-race food for fresh food to arrive when the walkers are due on, so all the food doesn't get taken away before they finish. 

On occasion, some races offer awards for walkers with a separate category.  Walker awards in races that have both runners and walkers are greatly diminishing in number, as it has become harder and more expensive for races to monitor people for cheating (and sadly, yes, people cheat to win an award). 

Walker tolerant races are races that have a time limit where walkers can make the finish, such as having a setup where the full marathon shares the half marathon finish line, so walkers can do the half since the finish will be open for the full marathoners.  The race may start to break their set up down before the last finishers come in, and the post-race food may either be gone or given away before everyone finishes.  Aide stations may be closed or unmanned when walkers get to them.  

Not walker friendly races will state “no walkers” in their race description; will have time limits that cannot accommodate walkers that are at a 15 minute per mile pace or greater; or will not honor advertise time limits or commitments, trying to sweep people early or close up shop on them.  Athletes who still finish within an advertised finish time may find themselves self-timing or contacting a timing company after the race to get their results added.

In response to a need to help race walkers and slower runners find half marathons that will welcome them, we developed a list of races that truly welcome these athletes.   You’ll find our half marathon guide to walker,slow runner and back of the pack athletes here.   All races listed on this website are because an athlete who completed the race reported it, or because a race director specifically reached out and asked to be on the list. 

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