When I meet someone new, the conversation usually ends up coming around to the fact that I do half marathons. The reaction is usually one of impressed shock. “You run marathons?!” I then explain that no, I don’t run marathons, I walk half marathons. Then, the reaction is often, “Oh.” As in, well, that’s not nearly as impressive.
Why not? I’m out there for 13.1 miles just like the people at the front of the pack. In fact, I’m out there for a longer time than most of them. I think a lot of people have the impression that by “walking,” I mean “strolling like I’m window shopping at the mall.” I’m not. I’m pumping my arms and legs as fast as they will carry me. My heart and lungs are working very hard to keep me going. On the few occassions when I’ve worn a heart-rate monitor during a race, it recorded a total burn of 2000 calories or more. Try accomplishing that as you walk from Macy’s to the food court!
I’ve discussed here before that some runners take issues with walkers minimizing the accomplishment of completing a distance race. In the five years that I’ve been a half marathoner, I’ve (mostly) come to terms with this ridiculous superiority complex. What bothers me more are the non-athletes who say “oh” when I tell them I walk races. These people go from being mightily impressed that I can run a long distance to mildly unimpressed that I “just walk.” I hate even correcting their initial assumption, because of this reaction. But I also don’t want to lie.
I don’t have any great insights into how to deal better with this, other than to try not to concern myself with the reactions of others – especially those who have never attempted something like a distance event. I just have to queue up at the start line, walk as hard and fast as I can for three hours, and accept the medal at the finish line with pride.