Walk or run the Ironman Marathon

Will you walk or run the Ironman Marathon?

I had someone email me the other day and ask if it was okay to walk or run the Ironman marathon. Actually, they wanted to know if walking was even allowed.

They were on holidays and happened to end up at an Ironman venue and watched the end of the race near the finish line.

That day both the husband and wife sort of caught the Ironman bug as many people do who are inspired by watching all those awesome people accomplish something so amazing.

It seems the Ironman was completely new to them and because almost everyone they saw was running in the last few hundred meters to the finish line they wondered if walking was allowed.

Little did they know that most of the finishers walked some or most of the marathon, but when the finish line is in sight there always seems to be enough energy to charge those last few hundred meters toward the finish line.

It happens to age-group triathletes and it happens to the pros. If you over-extend yourself, chances are it will catch up to you somewhere on the marathon course and you will end up walking.

The reason people have the energy to run at the end of the Ironman Marathon is mostly psychological.

After all, there are so many people cheering you on as the finish line gets closer. In your mind you realize that the end of the suffering is near and it gives you a huge boost.

Besides, when you did walk earlier in the marathon it sort of rejuvenated your body and it began to recover enough that you could run a again.

Anyway, most people prefer to have the spectators and their family and friends see them run across the line.


The issue isn’t whether you walk or run the Ironman marathon. It’s all about getting to the finish line any way you can.

No matter how many marathons you’ve run before you tackle your first Ironman Triathlon, prepare to be humbled….and your personal best marathon? You can pretty much throw that out the window once you answer the staring gun on Ironman race morning.

As a matter of fact it’s probably safe to say that about 98% of novice Ironman triathletes will be unable to run the Ironman marathon from start to finish.

It’s not impossible, but for most people it takes a few attempts at the Ironman before they figure out the key elements to master in order to run 42k non-stop after swimming almost 4k and biking 180k.

Some people will never accomplish the non-stop run and there’s nothing wrong with that. Whether you are walking or running it’s still very challenging to keep your body moving forward.

Seeings how you are most likely going to be walking a good part of the Ironman marathon anyway it’s a good idea to figure out a good walk/run strategy.

When it comes to the Ironman the more you can prepare yourself mentally about what might happen on race day, the better off you will be. If you have considered every possible outcome you will be prepared for whatever transpires.

For instance if you have went into the race thinking you will run the entire marathon from start to finish and you end up running out of gas and walking, chances are you will be very disappointed.

However if you have considered it might happen and are prepared to make the most of it if it does you will be in a far better state of mind.

So how do you prepare yourself for the marathon?

Sure, you can take 6 hours to do the marathon if you want, but always keep in mind that there is a 17 hour cut-off that you have to beat in order to be an official Ironman.

One really good walk/run strategy is to run the best you can in between the aid stations and walk through the stations while you take on food or water. For some people their run might be more of a shuffle, but the whole idea is to keep moving ever onward any way you can.

It’s to your advantage to spend as little time as possible out on the marathon highway.

In most cases you will be running in the hottest part of the day and the sooner you get to the finish line, the better.

Whether you walk or run it’s still going to hurt anyway and either way you’ll feel like stopping and laying down on the side of the road so you might as well run as much as you can and get it over with quicker.


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About Ray

Ray hasn’t stopped since his first Ironman in Kona, 1984. He has since run 14 more Ironman races, authored 5 Triathlon books, and is now bringing together a passionate community of triathletes. Contact Ray at ray@ironstruck.com

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