Question of the Week: How much Walking during an Ultra Running Race?

Coach Brad;
Quick question… How much walking do most folks end up doing in an ultra? Do you go in with a set plan on run / walk or decide on the fly for each one? Is there a strategy for running and walking so that you complete the race?

From SGPT Coach Jeff Grant
It depends on the terrain. For mountainous ultras, there’s A LOT of walking. Some mountain passes take 1-3 hours to climb and it’s more efficient to walk it than run it.

Your goal as an ultrarunner is to cover a long course as efficiently as possible. Oftentimes that involves walking or speed-hiking.

It may bruise your ego to do so, but efficiency is the name of the game. In steep terrain or miserable weather conditions, walking is typically faster than running and at less energy expense and impact to the body.

For most amateur ultrarunners, their ultrarunning pace isn’t much slower than their normal 1-hour running pace. Mixing in walking is what makes an overall ultramarathon pace appear to be slower than regular running. Terrain has a major influence on pace. Mountainous, hilly trail ultramarathons will require a lot more time in general than flat road ultras.

A smart training strategy is to master the art of walking quickly and efficiently. That coupled with a consistent running pace will get you around a course in front of the time limits that many racecourses have.

And by the way, unless you’re chasing the podium, there’s nothing wrong with going slow enough on the trails to actually enjoy where you are and what you’re doing in the moment!


Walking during high stress moments in a race will lower your rate and allow you to conserve energy. You do not want to be in an anaerobic heart rate for the whole race.

Resting at key intervals is another way to lower your heart rate and conserve energy. You may not want to rest for long as often it is hard to get back up and going. But you can stand up and drink water and consume clean nutrition and then get back on the trail.

If you wear a heart rate monitor you can look at the reading and also slow your self down. You dont want to get your heart rate too high too often in a long endurance race. You risk overwhelming your body with stress. Taking a quick break to rehydrate and lowering your heat rate is a great option.


If you walked the hills earlier you can make up time by running downhill sections. It is important to train with downhill intervals for hilly terrain races. e.g. Many ultra runners improve their overall efficiency by walking the steep uphill sections and running a quick pace on the downhill sections. BOTH require proper training though, as fast uphill hiking and light, agile downhill running are the target — neither of which happens without conditioning.


Take a look at your data after a race. You will be able to see the moments where your heart rate dropped from anaerobic to aerobic and how you saved energy.

I personally use a WHOOP strap to monitor my heart rate on all activities.

Are you interested in training for an endurance event like SEALFIT 20X, GORUCK or a Spartan Race? Do you want to increase your human potential so that you can move faster to your goals?

Do you have a big event on the horizon and you want to finish the drill?

Looking to get out of a rut and push forward to beat yesterday now?

Get individual coaching from SGPT Coach Brad McLeod. Check out coaching here:

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