Getting in gear to walk a marathon

If there’s one thing I learned pretty quickly as I started to ramp up on training for the marathon, it’s that I had nothing in the way of proper gear. The Marathon Walking site (and pretty much everywhere else I looked) said that you want to be wearing only wicking materials, and socks are a key part of that equation. Unfortunately, with the exception of a few ill-fitting items, everything I had was cotton. Not wicking. Anti-wicking, as a matter of fact.

I knew that socks were the first and most important part of the equation, so I picked up some (supposedly) wicking socks at Kohl’s. They were a cotton blend that was supposed to wick, and they seemed comfy enough for the training walks I would take late in the day at the office fitness center. Still, once I took them out on to the open road, so to speak, they failed me miserably. I wore them with a new pair of shoes (exactly the same size, style, etc. as a pair I had been wearing for ages) and did a relatively short training walk – around 6mi. When I got home, I felt okay, although I remember having felt some sharp pain in my toes pretty early on. As I took off my right shoe, DH turned to me and asked me if I realized my foot was bleeding. Really?

Turns out, I’d punctured the side of one toe with the toenail of the adjacent toe. (Sigh.) Furthermore, I had built up a small blister on the bottom of my right foot, atop the balls of the foot, and that blister would grow from the size of half a dime to about the size of two half-dollars. NOT FUN. I realized that the problem was two-fold: 1) The socks were giving insufficient cushioning on the bottom of my foot, and 2) the new pair wasn’t accommodating the width of my (admittedly wide) foot. So, new socks AND new shoes were in order. Grand. And I still needed wicking CLOTHING, too!

I tried looking at Kohl’s for workout gear, but everything I found somehow didn’t work right or just turned me off completely. I decided to head to the local outlet mall instead, armed with coupons and my AAA discount. Turns out the Reebok store was having a big ole sale, and I had a coupon for 30% off regular priced-items. I grabbed a few armfuls of clothes, found several items that worked well (mostly sale or clearance) and used the coupon on two pair of regular-priced capris. My new workout outfit would be some combination of jog bra, tank-top and capris – all in wicking materials that would help me cope with all the sweating I was about to do.

The socks and shoes were still an open issue, and nothing at the Reebok store looked any different from what I already had. So, when I went to Eastern Mountain Sports to get a Camelbak backpack to tote water and stuff around in on walk-day, I got some wicking socks there. These were miles better than the others I’d bought, although they were still coming up to just about the ankle and not really going much beyond the top of the back of the sneakers. The ultimate solution came from some ankle-high wicking socks found at REI when DH went there to get some for himself two weeks before the walk. These went up by at least another inch over the other socks, providing an added amount of protection.

Shoes are a tougher problem for me, seeing as how I have a wide foot. I tried going to a local running store near my office, but they didn’t have anything that fit me just right, and they never called to tell me when/if the other wides they were ordering for me to try on came in. Le sigh. By that time, I had made plans to be up in Cambridge for dinner and a movie, and I ventured over to Marathon Sports – a local chain of running stores for people who are serious about getting the right footwear. The nice gent who helped me observed my gait, noted the width of my foot, and came back with two boxes. The first box contained the pair I would walk out wearing: Brooks Addiction. He brought me mens shoes, which was a brilliant stroke on his part. The extra width from the mens shoe was fantastic, and they were a size up from my regular size, to accommodate the swelling that naturally accompanies strenuous events like marathons.

I tried to train as often as I could, but walking on the weekends was really tough. During the week, we upended our schedule, flip-flopping who does the daycare drop-off and pickup so that I could do training walks in the afternoons most days. I only ever got two training walks in on the weekend; it was just too hard to make it happen. Typically, I would walk about 3.5-4mi a day at the fitness center, on the days when I could go, and the two weekend walks I did were in the 4.5-6.5mi range. Both the Jimmy Fund Walk web site and the Marathon Walking site had training schedules; I just couldn’t follow them to the letter because my schedule wouldn’t always permit it.

Still, I was hoping that my prep would pay off: I would be able to go the full 26.2 because I was determined to do so. The gear puzzle was solved. I was trying to train as much as I felt I could. Now, it was just a matter of whether or not I could do it. Mind you, I’m not built like the average marathoner; I’m far more golden retriever than greyhound, and athletics have never been my strong suit. In some ways, this was a completely crazy thing to do, but decked out in my wicking garb and having put in training walks several times a week, I simply had to cross my fingers and hope for the best.

Next up: walking the walk.

5 thoughts on “Getting in gear to walk a marathon

  1. Awesome, that was a very nice post. Even so I am experiencing problems with your main Rss feed. I don’t recognize the reason why yet I am unable to sign up for it. Possibly there is anyone having equivalent issues? Anyone who understands please answer. Thank you. Freddie.

  2. Great post, thanks for sharing. One thing to keep in mind when working out, hiking, or just working outside is to stay hydrated. A good water bottle is the best way keep a nice cold drink near by.

    • Absolutely. I had a large water bottle with me on my training walks, and towards the end, I started to use my Camelbak (backpack with a bladder for carrying water, for the unfamiliar). It was a brilliant way to carry a larger volume of water without having to have a bottle in my hands. Staying hydrated on a long walk like this, whether with water or Gatorade (both of which I drank heavily), is absolutely vital.

  3. Pingback: Walking in a Winter Wonderland: How to gear up for cold weather walking (pt. 1) | CrunchyMetroMom

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