New Zealand Centurions
Possibly the most important part of an endurance walker's physical training is the
long walk. This walk is intended to develop the walker's ability to stay on his or her
feet for hours on end. Just how long the walk is will depend on the current ability
of the walker and the event they are training for. For a novice who has just started
preparing for a half-marathon, ten kilometres might be a long walk; for an elite
walker preparing for a 100 mile event, a long walk might be 70 kilometres.
It is important a walker do the long walks in the right way. If not, the walker
may be wasting much leisure time or, worse still, they may kill off their desire
to do future long walks.
The four most important pieces of advice for a long walk are
- Be well rested for the walk
- Start the walk at a slow pace
- Do not attempt a walk that is a lot longer than your previous longest.
- Except possibly when you are in the final preparation for an event, do not continue
walking long after you have started slowing down or have lost
Making the long walk interesting
It is important you find long walks interesting. Otherwise you may not complete
them and you may not even attempt the next one in your training schedule. There
are a number of ways a long walk can be made interesting.
Do the walk with other people
There are several possibilities here:
- Do the entire walk with someone of similar ability to you.
- Do part of the walk with someone who can walk that part at your speed. For example,
you may be doing a twenty kilometre walk and you have a friend who plans to do a
ten kilometre walk at your speed. If you friend plans to start her walk at
9:00am, you could start your walk at say 7:30am and aim to meet your friend at 9:00am
at the start of her walk.
- If a friend plans to run several laps around a looped course, you could do your long
walk on the course at the same time. You will not be together much of the time, but the
presence of your friend, especially when he or she passes you, will make the long walk more
The route you use for your long walk can greatly influence how much you enjoy the walk.
If you find it boring going laps around a looped course, you could try a route that is
one big loop or is a single out-and-back or someone could drop you off and you have to
walk home. These alternatives may mean you are walking on slightly
more difficult terrain, for example the loop course may be a flat one and the out-and-back
route may have a few hills, but this disadvantage may be more than offset by the increase
in your enthusiasm for the walk.
Another way to maintain interest is to try a different route for each long walk. This
is especially effective if you have never been over the route before because there will
be an element of exploration in your walk.
Reducing the number of long walks
Some people do not have the time or inclination to do lots of long walks in preparation
for an event. There are several ways to reduce the number of long walks, although it
is important to realise you may be less fit on race day.
One way is to replace the walk with shorter walks on two or even
three consecutive days. For example, if your long walk is fifty kilometres, you
could do a thirty kilometre walk on two consecutive days. These two walks will probably
not prepare you as well as the fifty kilometre walk would have, but you will gain a lot
more than if you skipped the fifty kilometre walk or did just one thirty kilometre walk.
If you try to do a long walk every week or almost every week you may be over training
and would probably benefit from doing a long walk every two weeks or even every three
Races can sometimes be used as a long walk. For example, suppose you are preparing for
a fifty mile walk in early September. You could compete in a fifty kilometre race in
June and use this as a long walk in your build up to the fifty mile walk.
For events up to eighty kilometres or fifty miles, some coaches recommend you walk
the distance or close to it at least once in training. Other coaches recommend you
not walk so far and leave it for race day. This latter approach probably has more
support among ultrawalkers than does the former approach.
Other sports or recreations
Participating in other sports or recreations can be an effective way to get
you long walk in. These sports or recreations include
- Rogaining - a form of orienteering over 6, 12 or 24 hours. Many of the
competitors in these events walk rather than run.
- Brisk hiking - go on a brisk hike of 6 to 12 hours.
[NZ Centurion homepage]
Last modified: October 28, 2007.