Unless you are an elite ultra runner, you will find that you need to walk some sections of a race. That might be the hideously steep up hill stretches (pointless throwing energy at them – just get up), or when you simply need a change of pace to give your legs a rest.
Walking is a valid part of doing an ultra. In fact, some walkers can really move quickly and they will complete events not much slower than some mid pack runners. Fast walkers are relentless. They travel the same speed over all types of ground. I see them a bit like those guys who travel 50mph along the road, whether it is a 70mph motorway or a 20mph school zone. Not fast, just a little anti-social. They don’t talk much. Could you if you are walking 4 mph?
My wife had just started running. Her real love is walking. I asked her to join me on a LDWA event in Dover. The white cliffs challenge. It was 15 miles and fairly hilly. I had run the 30 mile version in 2013 with a friend Sarah, and between us had turned it into a 32 miler.
So we found ourselves at the event HQ. we paid for our entries. Got our clip card and numbers and after some last minute facing and a rallying speech from a local MP we were off. I remembered some of the course from the previous year and I had programmed into my GPS handheld the route anyway. We quickly moved close to the front of the pack and even closer once those doing the longer distance peeled off at Dover seafront. We found ourselves pretty close to the front. We had a little navigational mishap early on but it only cost us a few minutes.
We were really shifting. On a fairly open field I estimated that there were three people ahead of us. I knew that we were coming into an aid staton. Tactics came into play. I explained knowingly to my wife that discipline is really important. We would get our numbers marked and then grab food and eat it on the way out. We came up to the table. There were lots of goodies on offer. There was a couple of French who were running this aid station, and I’m rather embarrassed to say that we were in the mood only to grab and run. We had the most amazing tuna and cucumber sandwiches on delicious granary bread, some sausage rolls, a biscuit and a quick drink. As I guessed, the others were having a nice civilised chat. We said thanks everyone and off we went. I think everyone was a little surprised ago see us move off so quickly and I gave a glance over my shoulder and discovered that we were being keenly pursued by three people.
These events are not competitive. Being competitive is really frowned upon. But they are called challenge events and everyone is given a finishing time. So everyone was basically trying to be slightly subtlety non competitive but by ding so being all the more competitive. Eventually we were taken on the white cliffs of Dover only around 4 miles from the end. Once we made it back we found that we were the second walking couple to finish in 4 hours 27 minutes (just 7 minutes behind the first couple). We also found out later that the first runners in managed it in 3 hours 7 minutes. So that shows you. Fast walking is a useful tool to have up your sleeve. And it is not much slower than running. Unless you are consistently fast runner.