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What are Half Marathon Walkers Thinking? We Asked.

In 2019, Half Marathon Calendar USA set out to hear what Half Marathon Walkers were thinking. We asked:

"Half Marathon Walkers Only: How do you feel the Half Marathon industry has adjusted to the ever growing half marathon 'walkers' population, and what is your average time you have been able to complete a half marathon, walking? Do you feel the half marathons that only allow 3 or 3.5 hours to finish are out of touch with the changing market? Do you pay the same registration fee as others, but feel less supported? What would you like to see change or improve?"

Here are some responses Half Marathon Calendar USA received from walkers:

Sharron Shannon Ayers "Always have enough food (and beer) for the walkers that finish after 4hours. I’m 73, if I couldn’t walk I would not be in the race and organizers would not get my registration fee."

Dawn Hollinger "At least 3.5 hours is needed to walk a half marathon, but 4 should be the time. I have walked and ran half marathons and in the few I have walked I have found minimal to no support for back of the pack finishers. All entrants pay the same amount, and deserve the same treatment. It is hard to encourage friends to start walking or running when the slower finishers don't feel welcomed at an event."

Michelle Migneault Cox "I feel like this at many halfs finishing close to 3 hrs and I run/walk if I walked it would be 3.5-4 for sure and I feel all the good stuff would be gone! And when races offer stuff like GU many times it’s completely gone by the time I get there 😕 so they need to buy more or not let people take more than one."

Dawn Hollinger "I really feel more people would participate in these events if they felt their experience at the event mattered as much as their registration fee. I have several friends who gave up half marathons because the race support was cleared before they finished even though they finished within the time limit."

Bryan Maxwell "Arrange so no one leaves til last person finishes..."

Bryan Maxwell "idea number 2) find a way to grade a race by something other than speed"

Becca Monken "I agree 4 hours would be better and not to start tearing down until last person crosses. It is no sadder than to finish with no finish line or after race festival. I pay the same fee as everyone else, I should get the same benefits."

Sue McIntyre "I walk 2-3 half marathons every year and typically average 3.5 hours (from just under 3 hours, to as long as 3:40). On many occasions I have finished races that promised food, beer, and/or wine that have run out of food, stopped serving beer, and/or packed up everything to leave. (Twice with Pink Buffalo Racing, which makes me less eager to do their races.). In the Healdsburg Wine Half Marathon in October, the last rest station had packed up their water before we reached them and stopped traffic control on previously closed roads (and there were 2 dozen people behind us)—and we finished 40 minutes before the end time. If a race has a time limit, they should serve all their participants equally. I won’t enter a race if I’m worried I can’t finish it in time, and I would appreciate it if race organizers would honor the participants equally, as we pay the same amount as runners. I’m okay with awards being given out early, as I understand that’s for the competitive runners, but other race features—including team costume competitions—should be available to all equally. If they don’t want walkers to participate, they should set limits at 3 hours. Claiming to welcome walkers but treating them as second rate sends a clear message that we are not valued like runners."

Sydney Sorkin "I agree with what others are saying on the 4. In addition, my thought is, if a race says it's walker friendly, if it says that amenities are available like finish line festival with vendors, etc, then the RD should ensure that all entrants get to have those same benefits. They should try to 1) arrange with vendors that they stay for the allotted time for the back of packers, 2) have good volunteer coordination so that water stations aren't taken down prematurely for whatever reason 3) have a good vibe where all race workers and volunteers are positive and encouraging to all racers regardless of pace. Those things make all the difference between a positive and negative experience for walkers in halfs."

Melissa Strauss Schaeffer "I’m not a walker (I run) but I have friends & family who do walk and I agree, there should always be the same foods/beverages available to those who take longer. I feel they paid the same money & deserve the same recognition & perks. Kudos to them for their efforts!"

Michelle Migneault Cox "I feel if a race says it has a 4 hr time limit then it should still have people and food left for someone who finishes at 4hrs!!"

Fay Merritt Westenhofer My best time ever for a half was 3:07 and depending on the course I'm in the 3:30 to 4:00 group now. It's very discouraging to not receive the support that I paid for with my registration fee. When I look at a race, I look for the announced cut off times, but also check the times of the finishers in prior years.

Don Lahti "It’s bad enough the running community gripes about “walkers” demeaning their race experience, but as walkers, no matter the pace, we should be supportive of each other. Personally, I’m happy to see anybody out there trying."

Don Lahti "We’re fortunate in San Antonio, Tx. We have lots of half marathons that are walker friendly. The races put on by Purpose Race Events, Inspired Race Event, & Scallywampus all have 4 hr time limits, full course support till the last person goes by, & the later offers walking awards."

Wendy Brown "Thank you for asking! So many races haven't adjusted to a limit of 4 hours or more, unless there is also a marathon, but not always then. I understand that sometimes there are permit issues, not enough volunteers, safety personnel, etc., but being walker friendly also encourages a whole group of people to get out there to exercise who may never attempt a half. My biggest issue as a back of the packer is the lack of support. Water or Gu runs low, few volunteer stations, and often the finish area is half (or more) packed up. Truly, races are set up to support the elite/average pacers, when BOTP need the support more. We pay the same, travel the same distance, earn the same medals (unless they run out....), but get the leftover post-race food, etc. I would love to see a 2-wave approach to volunteers, so that a fresh group takes over from the set-up groups.

I feel if a half run has a 4 hour limit I’m more apt to do that run if I’m walking-jogging. Usually there is absolutely no support or food or beers left for back of the packers....some races start packing it all away at the 3 hour mark. Maybe they’re should be some defined lines or quotes in their advertisement like this is a fast race or this is a race for Walker’s. I do enjoy races that have marathons and half’s because I know the limit is longer. Maybe have an incentive for volunteers to stay out there longer would get a bigger discount on the race the next year???"

Deborah Jane "If you live in Florida look for Florida Road Races. I came in dead last in their Shamrock Half last spring. They left everything in place for me, water stations and the finish line. They were there to cheer me on! Plenty if food and my medal were waiting for me."

Andrea Rivas Armstrong "4 hours is reasonable for a walker friendly half marathon. When searching for races I not only look at the time limit but at the course map and difficulty. If I feel that I cannot complete in 3 to 3.5 hours on a course with hills or higher elevation then I will not sign up. There needs to be more support for us ❤️."

Elizabeth Lam "I have done over 135 half marathons. I am always finishing around 3 hours 30 minutes. I have finished numerous races as they are tearing down the finish line. It makes it feel like my “finish” is not valid or recognized. I have done races in numerous states, and get the same treatment. I still keep doing half marathons, because this is where I meet the best people DOING THE RACE. But I don’t ever count on people to be present to provide water or snacks, that I paid the same price for as the first place finisher. Most of the time, the water stations are closed or they have run out of electrolytes and/or water."

Dan Roehler "As a recent newcomer to the Back of The Pack it is a VERY different experience- much harder. A few races have done a great job of accommodating all runners but most don’t adequately prepare for late finishers- food is gone, course support is limited fir those who need it most, having been out there close to or at 4 hours. When pushed to the side so traffic can open, conditions are not good - uneven sidewalks, narrow shared paths etc. An easy solution to the aid station problem is a mobile one, a golf cart with food, gu etc. tracking along with slower runners. All who pay to race should get similar value for their money, but BOTP runners often do not."

Sheila Bratton "I am a slow runner. I experienced course closure at Route 66 Race in Tulsa this year. It messes with mental game, discouraging and scary if you are not a resident of that state. Marathons should evolve with the runner/walker culture."

Feliciaj Watson "For walking only, my average time is 3:45 to 4 hours. I prefer to select races with 4 hour course limit. Then of course I expect the same support as runners for the 4 hours. However, there are some races that do not make sure that happens. When I select races with lower course limits, I make sure they allow you to complete the race on the sidewalk. In those case, I do not expect support beyond the course limit; just my medal. I am pursuing the goal of a Half Marathon in 50 States, so sometimes it's difficult to find races with 4 hours. Definitely wish that more races would consider walkers. You can't enjoy the race experience because you are worried about getting swept or finishing and there are no medals left or food. Also sometimes I simply want to attend certain races with my runner friends to share travel and lodging expenses but with less than 4 hour limit, it is difficult."

Lajuana Williams "I personally only want to support races that are walker friendly as I've always been squarely BOP, even when I was run/walking. Now that I am walking I'm at least looking for races that are 4 hrs plus and have a reputation for still having amenities at the end. I tend to go with more established races and for the most part and overall I have not been dissatisfied. I tend to thoroughly research before registering and read reviews, but there have a few surprises. There have been a few races who have advertised a 4hr limit and have not followed it (opening streets early, pulling volunteers, etc.) as well as some that have run out of food at the end, but it doesn't happen often thank goodness."

Stacie Helsing "For me it's hard to find the time limits on a lot of races!"

Half Marathon Calendar USA continues to promote a walker friendly half marathon industry. When we know a half marathon has at least a 4 hour course time limit, the (W) symbol appears next to race date on our half marathon calendar pages (which stands for walker friendly). If we know a race does not allow a minimum of 4 hours, a NWF will appear next to the race date (which stands for not walker friendly).

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