A half marathon walk. It doesn’t sound like much, does it? After all, it is only half the distance of a “real“ marathon, and a walk has to be easier than a run, right? Right, unless you are not used to doing this much exercise regularly. And even if you do, it’s a good idea to keep the following in mind:
Distance walking is serious exercise. It will be helpful to read up on the subject by checking out a “walking for exercise” book from the library. There are several excellent books and magazines on the market. In particular I recommend an article from the April 2006 issue of Prevention magazine, which even details how to train for a half marathon walk!
Start walking. This sounds a bit too simple, but you won’t know how far a 21 kilometer walk is unless you try it, and the September 19 will be too late to start! So start walking now. Begin slowly with a comfortable distance, picking up speed and distance gradually. Note different variables, such as the weather, your clothes and your shoes and socks. If you are out of shape and have not been exercising, please make sure to check with your family doctor before starting a new exercise program.
Shoes and socks. It may well be possible to walk a half marathon wearing almost any kind of athletic shoes, but if you plan to do distance walking as exercise, invest in special walking shoes. Make sure they fit comfortably, have arch and heel support, and that the uppers are made from a “breathing“ material, such as nylon mesh. They should be slightly rounded at the heels, to make it possible to land on the heel of your foot. Skip the internet and purchase them in a store where you can actually try them on with a sales person who specializes in walking and running gear. Special walking socks are recommended. The best have no seams, but if your socks do have seams, wear them inside out, so the seams are on the outside. All this helps prevent blisters.
Clothing. Be sure your clothes are loose fitting and in layers, in case the weather changes. Be prepared for cool weather in the morning, and for hot sun later in the day. Pants with lots of pockets make it unnecessary to carry a backpack. Wear sunglasses and a hat to avoid sunburn. If the weather forecast calls for rain, carry a light-weight rain jacket, and maybe a pair of spare socks. Don’t bring an umbrella since the path isn’t all that wide, and you don’t want to hurt the other walkers.
Food and Drink. Be sure to drink water before and after your walk. There will be water available on the trail, but it is a good idea to carry your own small, refillable, bottle, especially on a warm day. Take sips along the way; don’t drink the whole bottle at once. On hot days about a quart of water per hour is recommended, and you’ll be walking for about four hours! (And, yes, there will be Port-a-Potties). Eat a healthy breakfast before you start. Snacks will be available at the halfway point, and carrying a few protein bars and maybe some bananas for on the road will help keep your energy level up.
The walk. Warming up before and stretching after is highly recommended. Walk straight up, look ahead, not at the ground, and maintain a comfortable pace. If you are too breathless to carry on a conversation, you are going too fast.
First Aid. If you do the recommended training, you will know which parts of your body are sensitive to chafing. Taping these areas is a good way to avoid discomfort and blisters. This is necessary in order not to change the way you walk, because that in turn may lead to cramps and muscle aches. Any kind of pain should be addressed right away, preferably during the walk. Help will be available on the trail. The above mentioned April 2006 issue of Prevention Magazine also carries an excellent article by Martica Heaner, called “pain-proof your walk”, which suggests solutions to the ten most common walking injuries, rare as we hope they may be.
Middle of the Road. I guess this is a good time to point out that most roads, including the Pumpkinvine Trail, are built somewhat rounded so that rainwater can run off to the sides. To keep body stress balanced, walk in the middle of the road, and if that is not possible, change from the right side to the left side of the path from time to time.
Get Going. If you still agree with me that walking is an easy, fun and effective way to get physical exercise, please register soon and start training. We look forward to sharing the walk with you.
Gerrit Huig, Maple City Walk Committee