What to say to walkers during a run....

This week, in Ipswich UK we have the amazing Twilight road races. Arranged by a local running club JAFFA, it sees elite athletes run a VERY fast 5k and a wonderful mass participation 10k afterwards. The streets of Ipswich are alive with music and support from all. It’s truly a wonderful event (glow in the dark medal don’t you know?!) I’m not running it this year but I am going to be in FULL supporting mode and expect to have no voice by the time we see the last runner through on Friday night. 

It’s made me reflect on what people have said to me when I have been walking during a running event….I’ve had a couple of occasions where people have thought ‘tough love’ was the way to go and I thought I’d write this post for anyone who may be watching or marshalling on friday……


“WHY are you WALKING?” ……. Tsk! *eye roll* 

I *think* these were words of motivation given to me by a female supporter about 8k into the fantastic Great Winter Run 10K - a wonderful (cold, drizzly, January) circuit around the landmarks of London (great medal by the way - and you get a hug from a polar bear when you finish too). I was walking because I am a jeffer and walk as per the Jeff Galloway technique (Google him). So nothing major as walking is all part of my plan. I was pretty taken aback though if I’m honest, she seemed friendly enough - but why would she say that?!


“IT’S PARKRUN NOT PARKWALK” shouted a marshall as he loomed up beside me on a very steep hill with a few metres to go on a very hot morning a few summers ago.

Again, on reflection - I’m sure this was thought to be an encouraging thing to do. The fact it was my first ever parkrun, it had taken months and months to pluck up the courage to go because I had thought I wasn’t ready and now felt that I was the only person to EVER walk during a parkrun left me feeling hurt, upset, paranoid and - like I wasn’t ready for parkrun.


Both these examples are people who probably thought that the methods they used were spurring me on -  helping me dig deep and find that extra bit of determination. 

They didn’t. 

Sadly, I don’t have a competitive bone in my body and am a little sensitive when it comes to negative remarks about me and physical abilities. I’m not competing with anyone, just my own head.

Now, this is absolutely NOT a spectator-beating post ….no way. Please don’t think that! Supporters and marshals are a very special breed of awesome-ness and we wouldn’t be half of what we are without them and you are CRUCIAL to the wonderful atmospheres we experience during these large events.

So, first of all a MASSIVE THANK YOU for turning up and being there for us. It’s truly amazing. We love it and we love you for being there. I just want to help you be EVEN more awesome…

So here’s some ideas as to why people might be walking during a run…

  • Some walk because they’ve hit a wall. They need to take stock,  believe in themselves and dig deep. 
  • Some walk because they feel sick or like they need the toilet. Either way, they’re having a challenging time.
  • Some walk because it’s part of their race plan. Not because they are weak or are beginners, just because it works for them.
  • Some walk because they are beginners - they may not have been running for long and they’re giving it their best shot - whether they have planned their walk breaks or have ran until they can’t anymore, they’re doing the best they can.
  • Some walk because they’re running an epic amount of miles - ultra runners for example
  • They’re knackered, they woke up early with race nerves/excitement. Or, their toddler woke them up in the middle of the night.
  • Some walk because they need to - injury, mental battles, illness, whatever. It doesn’t matter. They need that break and they’re OK.

Two things however are constant: firstly you, as the spectator or marshal, have no idea why they are walking and secondly, they would ALL love to hear your words of encouragement. You know we do!


Here are some suggestions that are suitable for runners, walkers and crawlers…


“You’re looking strong”

“Finish lines not finish times”

“You’re doing great”

“Your race, your pace”

“Loving your work”

“Look how awesome you are”

“There’s wine/beer/cake/kittens/insert reward here at the finish!”

“We’re so proud of you”

“Stay focussed”

“Well done”

“Keep smiling”

“You’ve got this”

To name just a few….


So, next time you’re clapping along some very brave people who have entered a race and you see someone walking - don’t assume they’ve given up and try and give them some ‘Tough Love’.

Just bear one thing in mind - sometimes that person has already climbed a mountain before they even turned up.


emma talbot3 Comments