I walked a half marathon and it helped me build stronger legs and improved my resilience

A woman in shorts and hiking boots walks along a rural path. She is facing away from the camera, wearing a backpack, and on either side of the path she walks on are lots of leafy bushes and plants.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

I know running is a great form of aerobic exercise with lots of health benefits but I’ve always struggled to enjoy it.

Walking, on the other hand, is something that's a big part of my daily routine. I’ve been walking 10,000 steps every day for the past year and it’s had a positive impact on both my physical and mental health.

Running a marathon or a half marathon has never appealed, but I do like the idea of setting myself a challenge so I decided to walk a half marathon instead. I strapped on my favorite walking shoes (my trusty Columbia Facet 75s) and set aside the best part of a day to walk along a coastal path in the south of England, finding a route that was about 13.8 miles, so slightly longer than a half marathon.

Here's how I got on, along with all the reasons why I would recommend it to anyone looking for a new way to exercise.

1. It’s a form of cardio I actually enjoy

I do strength workouts a few times a week, but I often skip intense cardio workouts like HIIT and running, simply because I don’t like them. But I enjoyed the long walk and it elevated my heart rate, so I got a sweat on without feeling uncomfortable.

It's also a form of exercise requiring very little equipment, but I recommend getting a good pair of walking shoes and some comfortable apparel. Here's what I wore on the walk.

Columbia women's facet 75 mid outdry hiking shoe:

Columbia women's facet 75 mid outdry hiking shoe: was $140, now $83.81 on Amazon

I chose these sturdy, comfortable shoes for my walk, which have the perfect balance of support and bounce. They're usually priced at $140, but Amazon has reduced their price by nearly $60. The discount is only available on certain colors and sizes. If you can't find your size, try looking on Columbia's website instead.

Lululemon swiftly relaxed long-sleeve shirt:

Lululemon swiftly relaxed long-sleeve shirt: $78 at Lululemon

Unlike running or HIIT sessions, I don't get particularly hot and sweaty while walking, so it's good to have a breathable layer to keep me warm. I chose this one because it's nice and loose, so doesn't cling to the body.

2. It worked my leg muscles hard

Much of the walk was uphill, which meant all the muscles in my legs were engaged, including my hamstrings and calves. Incline walking is a great way to build strength in your legs and doing so for a long distance was a great challenge.

3. It helped me relieve stress

Although walking a half marathon was challenging at times, the overall experience was very therapeutic. I had time out in fresh air and away from screens, which helped me switch off and reset.

I also felt the endorphins, the 'happy' hormones the body produces in response to exercise, during and after the walk, which lifted my spirits.

4. It was a mental challenge

Runners often talk about how proud they feel when they complete a challenging race or achieve a personal best. I felt the same sense of pride and achievement taking on a long-distance walk. It felt satisfying to have completed the 13.8 miles in 5.5 hours and I’m looking forward to doing it again.

Alice Porter
Freelancer Writer

Alice Porter is a freelance journalist covering lifestyle topics including health, fitness and wellness. She is particularly interested in women's health, strength training and fitness trends and writes for publications including Stylist Magazine, Refinery29, The Independent and Glamour Magazine. Like many other people, Alice's personal interest in combining HIIT training with strength work quickly turned into a CrossFit obsession and she trains at a box in south London. When she's not throwing weights around or attempting handstand push-ups, you can probably find her on long walks in nature, buried in a book or hopping on a flight to just about anywhere it will take her.