Walker Friendly Races

In general, 5ks tend to be pretty walker-friendly.  Organizers expect (and usually encourage) walkers to participate.  But as the race distances increase, fewer and fewer races are as open to walkers.  If you’ve been thinking about tackling a longer distance—like your first 10k, half marathon, or even a full marathon!—it’s important to do a little bit of research first.  Not all of these races are walker-friendly, and you may find yourself shuffled off the course and left with a frustrating DNF.

So if you’re looking for a race that’s fully accepting of walking participants, here are some suggestions to get you started—or to add to your race wish list. 

New Albany Walking Classic

Location: New Albany, Ohio
Month: September
Distance: 5k, 10k

I’m starting the list off with the Walking Classic because it’s the country’s largest walking-only event—and it’s such a fun event for walkers.  Though the event no longer includes a half marathon option, the 5k and 10k options make it doable for walkers of all abilities.  And if you feel like stepping it up, there’s also a competitor division.

The event sets out from New Albany’s quaint downtown area and explores the town’s stately neighborhoods before ending in a big party filled with treats and freebies.  I’ve had friends who made this their first race, and they commented that it made them feel celebrated as a walker—instead of just feeling like a non-runner.  So if you’re hesitant to join a race because you’re a walker, check this one out—because you’re more than welcome here.

Nationwide Children’s Hospital Columbus Marathon

Location: Columbus, Ohio
Month: October
Distance: kids run, 1 mile, 5k, half, full
Course Limits: 4:00 (18:20 pace) for the half, 6:30 (14:53 pace) for the full

The Columbus Half was my very first half, and I later realized how lucky I was.  This is an incredibly walker-friendly race, and I met a whole lot of walkers along the way.  The course limit of 4:00 is totally doable, and they have pacers up to 3:30. 

The race is well-attended by both racers and spectators.  The starting corrals are a kind of crowded that I’ve never seen before, but everything is surprisingly well organized.  There’s also a ton of crowd support.  There’s rarely a dull moment here, thanks to spectators, volunteers, and music along the course.  Hydration stations and porta-potties are plentiful.  And each mile is represented by a past or current patient from Nationwide Children’s Hospital, who are there for high-fives along the way.  Racers are encouraged to sign up as a Children’s Champions fundraiser (and both the perks and the warm-fuzzy feeling you get from helping out make it well worth it).

runDisney Races

Location: Orlando, Florida, or Anaheim, California
Month: Throughout the year
Distance, 5k, 10k, half, full, and more
Course Limits: 16:00 pace

Even before I did my first race, Disney’s races were on my bucket list (and I’ve always called the 16-minute mile “Disney pace”).  They’re fun, character-filled events, making their way through Disney’s theme parks.  Of course, these races are costly, they sell out almost immediately, and they pretty much take place in the middle of the night.  But there’s just something about being able to race through the parks, snap selfies along the way, and earn that Disney medal in the end that makes it just so very magical.

Pittsburgh Marathon

Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Month: May
Distance: 5k, half, full, relay, and more
Course Limits: 20:00 for the half, 16:00 for the full

The Pittsburgh Marathon allows racers plenty of time to complete their course—especially the half, thanks to the special non-competitive Walking Division option.  The maximum pace of 20 minutes per mile means that walkers can take more than 4 hours and 20 minutes to complete the course.  So if you’re looking for a first-time half and are worried about keeping up a brisk pace for the whole 13.1 miles, this is a great option.

Des Moines Women’s Half Marathon

Location: Des Moines, Iowa
Month: May
Distance: 5k, 10k, half, relay
Course Limits: 4:30 (about a 20:00 pace) for the half

While men are welcome to participate, this weekend is geared toward women.  I’m a bit of a swag snob, and this one immediately caught my attention because of its cool swag.  Not only that, but with a course limit of four and a half hours for the half, this race just feels so totally inclusive—like one that would just be a whole lot of fun to join in. 

This race is also a full weekend event—at a winery—so you can try out yoga and spin classes before participating in the 5k on Saturday, and then you can get up for the 10k, half, or relay on Sunday.

Honolulu Marathon

Location: Honolulu, Hawaii
Month: December
Distance: 1 mile, 10k, marathon
Course Limits: none

A marathon along the beaches of Honolulu…while your friends dig themselves out of the snow in December…and you can take as much time as you want.  Sounds like a dream race to me!  The Honolulu Marathon is one of the most inclusive races you’ll find.  And did I mention that it’s in Hawaii?  Admittedly, reviews say that the race is a little disorganized and touristy—but that seems like a small price to pay.  If you’re not up for tackling the marathon (even with the lack of course limits), you can always register for the no-limits half, which takes place in April. 

Queen Bee Half Marathon

Location: Cincinnati, Ohio
Month: October
Distance: 4 mile, half
Course Limits: 18:00 pace

The Queen Bee Half Marathon is geared toward women, but all are invited: women, men, runners, walkers, and everything in between!  Though I’ve never done the race in person, I’ve done the virtual 4-miler—and when I saw images of the expo, the after party, and the extra half-marathon swag, I definitely wished I’d given the in-person half a try.

Anchorage Mayor’s Marathon

Location: Anchorage, Alaska
Month: June
Distance: kids mile, 8k, half, full, relays
Course Limits: 6.5 hours for the half, 7.5 hours for the full

The Anchorage Marathon takes place right around the Summer Solstice each year, when there are 19 hours of daylight in Anchorage—so you won’t have to worry about making your way to the starting gate in the dark!  If you’ve been thinking about taking a trip to Alaska, it seems worth planning your trip around this race, which offers some incredibly reasonable course limits. 

Portland Marathon

Location: Portland, Oregon
Month: October
Distance: half, full
Course Limits: 6.5 hours for the half, 15:00 pace for the full

The Portland Marathon offers a scenic course through the city—but, admittedly, one look at the race’s elevation chart might have you thinking twice.  Fortunately, the half marathon has a very forgiving course limit of six and a half hours.  But unless you’ve been tackling a whole lot of hill training, you might need it.

Cellcom Green Bay Marathon

Location: Green Bay, Wisconsin
Month: May
Distance: 5k, half, full, relays
Course Limits: 4 hours for the half, 7 hours for the full

Not only does this walker-friendly race boast a flat course, but racers also get to tour through the city’s neighborhoods before taking a lap around Lambeau Field before ending with a tailgate themed after party.  I’ll admit that they had me at pulled pork and beer.

Avenue of the Giants Marathon

Location: Eureka, California
Month: May
Distance: 10k, half, full
Course Limits: 3 hours for the 10k, 5 hours for the half, 6 hours for the full

Known as one of the most beautiful races in the country, this unique race takes racers on a paved out-and-back course through the area’s famed giant Redwoods.  It’s sure to be an unforgettable—and remarkably peaceful—race, and the five-hour limit for the half makes it one worth walking.

New York City Marathon

Location: New York, New York
Month: November
Distance: 5k, full
Course Limits: 8.5 hours for the full

The New York City Marathon is one of those bucket-list races for a lot of runners. It’s so popular, in fact, that there’s a lottery system just to be allowed to register. If you want to join in this one, you’ll have to plan ahead—because the lottery process begins in February.  But the course limit of 8.5 hours makes it one that even walkers can join. 

Philadelphia Marathon

Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Month: November
Distance: 8k, half, full
Course Limits: 4 hours for the half, 16:00 pace for the full

The Philadelphia Marathon allows racers to explore the streets that Washington, Franklin, and Rocky Balboa once wandered.  The four-hour limit for the half is doable for most trained walkers—and even the 16:00 pace for the full is reasonable, compared to some other races.

Detroit Free Press Marathon

Location: Detroit, Michigan
Month: October
Distance: 5k, half, full, relay
Course Limits: 4 hours for the International Half, 3.5 hours for the US-Only Half, 6.5 hours for the full/relay

The International Half is another one of my bucket list races—mostly because I love the fact that it travels through countries.  Of course, the fact that it crosses borders means that it comes with its own complications (I’ve heard stories about racers taping their passports to their shirts), but it sure sounds worth it to me.  And the four-hour limit makes it totally accessible for walkers.

Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathons


The Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon series offers a number of race-parties in a variety of locations—from Las Vegas to Madrid.  These races are the kind that participants plan vacations around because they include some wild parties before and/or after the race.  Course limits vary, though half marathons tend to have a four-hour limit, while full marathons range from six to seven hours.

Have you tackled a 10k, a half, a full, or another longer race as a walker?  Do you have a favorite walking-friendly race?  Tell us about it!


Kristin has been hitting the trail (or the treadmill) for a walk almost every day for the past several years, and she recently completed her first half marathon. She loves sunny fall days, cushy walking shoes, and coconut caramel iced coffee from Dunkin.

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