What it’s like to walk vs race a marathon

I’ve run (or I should say raced) many marathons. At least 10 I think. People have asked me later about some fact or other about the course or the scenery, and I’ve had absolutely no idea. When I’m racing, I’m extremely internally and process focused, and only register the outside world in fleeting glimmers. In Philadelphia I think we ran through a zoo, but I don’t recall one specific detail of that. In Chicago all I remember is seeing Paula Radcliffe at the start; I couldn’t tell you one thing about the course. In Sacramento I remember my friend cheering me on halfway through – that’s it. It almost seems pointless for me to go somewhere beautiful to race a marathon because that is not what I will take in.

But this year I decided to walk a marathon. The Catalina Marathon to be exact, which is on Catalina Island: 22 miles off the coast of Los Angeles. It is beautiful and scenic and contains over 4000 feet of total elevation. My husband was racing and it was point to point, and logistics proved that the best way to meet him at the finish was to walk there. Plus I would be accompanied by a very fun crew of people also walking it. What a different experience! Here are the pros of walking a marathon:

1.You don’t have to stress about getting enough rest and good nutrition in the days before. This worked out well for me with all the travel it took to get there. Also, once on the island I enjoyed a beautiful run, not worrying about time or pace, and finished with whatever I wanted to eat, including a beer.

2. You don’t have to wake up super early in order to eat and digest breakfast before the race. In fact, you can take your last bite of food and sip of coffee while walking!

3. You also don’t have to worry about warming up. You just start walking.

4. You can eat whatever you want at all of the aid stations because you can walk and digest at the same time (so wonderful)

My diet throughout the Catalina Marathon

5. You can even drink a beer at the beer station!

I’m sure it was after noon somewhere …

6. You can stop to pee whenever you need to (which, it turns out is much more often than when racing – especially if you’ve had a beer)

7. You can take in the beautiful scenery in every spectacular detail. You can even stop to take pictures!

I definitely paused to take it all in.

8. You can have great conversations with the people you’re walking with. You can ask insightful questions and respond with well thought out sentences instead of communicating in gutteral grunts.

Some of the amazing people I was lucky to share this experience with.

9. When you finish, you feel quite good vs. like a truck has just run you over.

10. You actually look forward to going for a run the next day.

I sure took a lot of footsteps – but they didn’t leave me feeling wrecked.

So would I walk a marathon again? Sure! But I’d have very different criteria from marathons I race. To walk a marathon it should have: nice scenery, good food on course (beer a plus), enjoyable warm-ish walking temperatures, changes and undulations in the course are appreciated, and I’d have to do it with good company.

To race a marathon I would like: lots of port-a-potties at the start, cool temperatures for racing, water/sports drink every 5km, scenery not a requisite but would like a flat, fast course, and any human bodies will do to run with as long as they’re running my pace.

That’s not all too much to ask, is it?