Walker Friendly Half Marathons becoming the Norm
In 2015, Halfmarathonsearch.com Half Marathon Calendar USA created a minimum standard of 4 hour course time limit, for a half marathon to be designated walker friendly. Many half marathons were calling their event walker friendly, or stated they allowed walkers, with unrealistic times suitable to affiliate with the word walker. There is even an event in the United States that has "Walking Classic" in their half marathon name, and ironically is far from walker friendly. While there are definitely some individuals out there with the ability to walk a half marathon faster than some can run, this standard was created to benefit the more average true walker.
Over the last several years, the half marathon industry has evolved into a more walker friendly industry, allowing a minimum of 4 hours or longer for a participant to finish a half marathon course. Half marathon events not jumping onboard are becoming a vision of the past, and are gradually becoming a disappointment to the true meaning of half marathon community. The walking community, and the enormous population of age 50+ individuals participating in half marathons is growing. Much of this growth is the result of more half marathons offering a lot more finish time leeway, giving the confidence for walkers or slower participants to join in. The half marathon events that have jumped on board, adhering to the walker friendly minimum course time limit of 4 hours or longer, are inspirational and contribute to the amazing increasingly growing presence of individuals, with less athletic abilities, showing up for the challenge to live a healthy active life. Similar to how the marathon industry took awhile to accept women into events, the trend is now allowing walkers, which sometimes takes the inflexible race organizers, in denial, some time to face reality of the changing world. If a road closure can allow for 16 minutes per mile, it certainly can allow 19 minutes. If the ignorant explanation is that "it's supposed to be a race", then why not cut it down to 2 hour time limit, since certainly no one finishing over 2 hours is planning for a win.
As a half marathon community leader, I highly encourage half marathon organizers to jump on the bandwagon. Show all half marathon participants some dignity by allowing all abilities to participate. Show your last finishers the service and respect you give your fast finishers. Stretch your extremely unrealistic 3 hour time limits to 4 hours, or your still not quite onboard 3.5 hours to 4 hour minimum course time limit. If not, there are many half marathon events to choose from for all you walkers out there, and the number will continue to grow. Currently, to show support for walkers, Halfmarathonsearch.com Half Marathon Calendar USA adds a (W) to designate "official walker friendly" next to any race found to allow 4 hours or longer at a 18:20 / mile pace, and a (NWF) "not walker friendly" next to any half marathon event that does not allow a 4 hour minimum course time limit (18:20 pace / mile).
Walk on! Happy Walking all of you half marathon walkers!