Walk for It

Marathon Weekend isn’t just for runners; 
Run Wild Missoula walking group gets the job more than done

Usually, it’s dark and cool, some years it’s very dark and very cool, temperatures even dipping into the 40s. The sun isn’t even fully awake, yet the music is blaring and people are prancing about in an effort to keep warm as they wait. The anticipation grows and then—quite suddenly—fireworks explode overhead, competing with the twinkling stars above. Shortly thereafter, a shot rings out and a herd of runners/walkers puts one foot in front of the other at the starts of the Missoula Marathon and Half Marathon.

You have probably heard of the nationally acclaimed three-day event, Missoula’s Marathon Weekend, scheduled for July 7-9, but did you know that many participants walk the 26.2- or 13.1-mile events? And that you can walk them, too!

For several years, I have participated in the “Missoula Marathon or Half Marathon Walking Training Class” through Run Wild Missoula. Walking, not running? Yes. Walking, it’s good for you. For better health, medical experts suggest walking briskly for 30-40 minutes three or four times a week. Walking hills is especially good, and heaven knows the many hills that surround the hub of five valleys.

LAST YEAR, AS OUR TRAINING GROUP FOR THE HALF MARATHON NEARED DOWNTOWN MISSOULA, THE SIGHTS KEPT US IN AWE AND ENCOURAGED: MACLAY BRIDGE, A WOMAN PLAYING BONGOS AND A MAN DRESSED IN A TUXEDO TICKLING THE IVORIES, THE SUN-KISSED PEAKS OF MOUNT SENTINEL, AID STATIONS. A MUCH-NEEDED ENERGY BOOST THAT WOULD SEE US THROUGH AWAITED US AT THE AID STATION AT CAFFÈ DOLCE ON BROOKS STREET, ALSO LETTING US KNOW THAT ABOUT THREE MILES SEPARATED US FROM RECEIVING A HEAVY METAL REWARD, THE PHYSICAL MEMENTO OF OUR HARD WORK AND DEDICATION. A SHORT WHILE LATER, AS THE MISSOULIAN BUILDING AT HIGGINS AND FOURTH ENTERS OUR SIGHTS, WE KNOW THAT THE FINISH LINE IS ONLY STEPS AWAY. WE IGNORE OUR TIRED MUSCLES AND THOSE THAT THREATEN TO CRAMP. WE KEEP GOING, ONE FOOT AND THEN THE NEXT.

Experienced walkers, aided by several assistants, ably coach the group. Speakers are invited and they talk on topics such as walking posture, foot care and massage, core strengthing, proper stretching to reduce muscle/joint stress and injury, and nutrition, among other topics. All these tips make the 13.1- or 26.2-mile adventure very doable. The group caters to walkers of all ages and abilities…even you.

A major advantage of walking, as exercise, is the fact that it doesn’t require much nor cost much in terms of gear. Better shoes, designed for exercise walking, will likely be your most expensive purchase. With, for example, standard exercise shorts, t-shirts, quality wool socks, a ball cap or head sweat band, and a belt pouch with water bottle, you’re ready to go. More techy stuff, if you’re interested, can be added later.

Time’s a wasting, time to get walking: tick-tock-tick-tock…. Go for that three-quarter-pound metal at the finish.