Do Marathon Runners Run The Whole Time? (A Guide To Walk Breaks)


You signed up for a marathon for the first time and are unsure if you can run the whole thing. You plan on walking part of the marathon and you’re wondering if others do the same thing. Do marathon runners run the whole time? Is it even allowed?

Most marathon runners do not run the whole time during a marathon. Taking walk breaks is a strategy most marathon runners use to save energy and recover during a long-distance race. Most races allow walking just as long as you finish the race before the time limit. 

Ahead, we will discuss more about taking walk breaks during a marathon and what coaches say about it. I will also give you the run-walk ratio recommended by one of the best running coaches to finish a marathon. So stick around cause this article is packed with useful information.

Taking Walk Breaks During A Marathon

Walking a portion of the marathon is perfectly fine and is very common in all marathon races. Most beginner, intermediate, and even elite runners use this strategy to save energy and recover in the middle of the race. In fact, strategic walking breaks during a marathon race are even recommended by professional coaches.

Jeff Galloway, a US Olympian, and coach to more than 200,000 runners recommend taking walking breaks early and regularly during a marathon race. He argues that by doing so, beginner runners could improve 10 to 40 mins in their full marathon compared with running it continuously.

According to him, it works because:

  • You use your leg muscles in different ways, therefore, conserving resources in your legs and keeping its ‘bounce’
  • Reduce the risk of injury
  • Breaking the run into segments have mental benefits and can help you push through the marathon

But beginner and intermediate runners aren’t the only ones who benefited from walking breaks. Bill Rodgers, the great American marathoner, has said multiple times that he had to walk at water stations during his Boston and NYC marathon victories.

Fabian Roncero took several walk breaks during the ’98 Rotterdam Marathon and managed to finish the marathon in 2 hours, 7 mins, and 26 seconds.

So the next time you feel guilty about walking a part of the marathon, just remember, even the pros do it.

Is It Allowed To Walk In a Marathon?

All marathon races allow walking and you will not be disqualified from it. The only downside is that if you’re walking too often and running too slow, you may not finish the marathon within the time limit.

Most marathon races have a 6-hour cut-off time. If you do not cross the line before 6 hours, some marathon races will not give you credit for finishing the marathon.

Related post: Can You Stop And Rest During A Marathon?

Obviously, you can’t just walk a marathon without a plan. Doing so risks going too slow and not finishing a marathon. Or worst, running too fast in the hopes that the walk breaks will allow you to recover and end up too tired to continue.

The run-walk ratio depends largely on your marathon pace which largely depends on your current fitness level. In his book, Jeff Galloway published a table of his recommended run-walk ratio for a marathon.

PaceRunWalk
7 mins/mi1 mile30 seconds
8 min/mi4 min30 seconds
9 min/mi4 mins1 min
10 min/mi3 mins1 min
11 min/mi2 mins 30 seconds1 min
12 min/mi2 mins1 min
13 min/mi1 min1 min
14 min/mi30 seconds30 seconds
15 min/mi30 seconds45 seconds
Jeff Galloway’s recommended ratio for running: walking

He recommends that you follow this run-walk ratio until the 18th mile. After that point, you can reduce or eliminate the walk as desired.

The average marathon pace is around 10 mins/mi. Therefore, for most people, Jeff Galloway recommends that you run for 3 mins and walk for 1 min up to the 18th mile to be able to finish a marathon.

However, because you’re taking walking breaks, there is a possibility that you might be able to go a little faster and sustain that pace until the end of the race.

How Long Does It Take To Run A Marathon?

Your marathon time will largely depend on a lot of things including current fitness level, overall health, and weather conditions, however, we can make a prediction based on your age and gender.

Healthline published an article with a table that contains the data of the average times of 21,000 runners who competed in 2010.

AgeMaleFemale
0–154:53:536:04:11
16–194:16:194:50:23
20–244:01:554:28:59
25–294:06:434:27:14
30–344:07:354:28:07
35–394:10:394:33:47
40–444:09:364:34:13
45–494:11:324:39:02
50–544:19:494:55:37
55–594:31:105:00:52
60–644:53:265:12:26
65–995:06:595:20:57

This data is a curation of the average times of athletes on different fitness levels, therefore, it accurately represents the average times of marathon runners. It includes people who have used run-walk strategies to finish the marathon.

Based on this data, you can set a goal according to your age and gender.

Can You Walk A Marathon Without Training?

Any healthy individual could walk a marathon without training. However, it is highly discouraged for a number of reasons:

  • You may not finish the marathon within the time limit if you walk a marathon all the way
  • Running or walking a marathon without training increases the risk for overuse injury
  • There are health consequences associated with strenuous activities without proper training

In another article, I listed 6 consequences of running a marathon without training. Check it out.

Can You Finish A Marathon Without Walking?

Although taking walk breaks is an effective strategy for beginners and intermediate runners, most elite runners finish a marathon without ever walking. For most of them, not slowing down is the only way to win a marathon event.

Even some intermediate runners can run the whole marathon without walking. However, in most cases, that is not an effective strategy if you haven’t trained for it.

Final Thoughts

Many people associate walking during a marathon with weakness, however, taking walking breaks is a highly effective strategy for beginner and intermediate runners to finish a marathon.

According to a professional coach, taking early and regular walking breaks can even result in a 10-40 mins time improvement compared to running the entire race.

That said, there’s nothing ashamed about if you walk part of the marathon. Not only that, walking during a marathon is a very common sight in most major races.

Nicho Mauricio

Running wasn't always my favorite sport. I was a CrossFit athlete and I loved every bit of it. But since the pandemic began, I was forced to stay away from the gym and train at home instead. Things got boring. That's when I decided to trail run with my friends. I instantly got hooked. So I started training and researching all things running. As a beginner, I want to buy only the best running gear and do only the best practices. This blog is where I share what I've learned in my journey and my experiences as a runner.

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