There’s nothing shameful about walking

person walking triathlon run leg

I’ve been urged to run when walking many times from triathlons to Parkrun. I call it walk shaming – and I really don’t like it.

It’s 2022 for goodness sake. We want to encourage people to get active any way they can.

It’s not positive encouragement

I’ve seen and experienced walk shaming from event marshalls (including at Parkrun), fellow participants and even coaches.

Imagine it’s your first Parkrun. You’ve been working through couch to 5k but haven’t quite managed to run the full 5km yet. You go along to Parkrun, do your best but need to walk from time to time. Then someone says, “come on, don’t stop running now”. Does it make you feel good about yourself? No.

How many people have given up because they don’t think they’re good enough?

Thankfully, things are improving. I was really pleased to see this tweet from Parkrun:

tweet from parkrun - start with walking

There are all kinds of reasons people walk during a “run”

They may have just started out on their fitness journey.

They may be coming back from or managing an injury

They may be faster using a walk/run strategy

They may be using run/walk as a training strategy to build endurance at low intensity.

Shaming people into running is counter productive

There are times at Parkrun I’ve seen people really struggling to run while their companions urge them not to give up and walk. Red faced, gasping for breath and in agony. They are clearly hating every minute. Chances are next Saturday they’ll stay in bed.

Disgracefully, I’ve seen this more than once from parents. Bullying their crying kids and forcing them to keep running.

Don’t Walk Shame yourself

Probably the most disheartening is people walk shaming themselves.

It makes my heart sink when I hear people say they are determined not to walk despite their dodgy knees, recent recovery from illness, lack of fitness. Then see them close to collapse at the end of their parkrun (it’s a run, not a race folks). They’ll probably be fit for nothing for the rest of the day, but hey, they didn’t walk!

Once I embraced walk/run for my weekly 5km jaunt round the park, I found my times were just as good AND I recovered much better. And by using walk intervals from the start of a triathlon run leg, I’m able to maintain a better pace overall.

What I'd like....

  • all events brief their marshalls to ensure they don’t implicitly criticise people for walking (even if it is meant as encouragement)
  • triathlon coaches who understand run/walk
  • never to hear “I managed not to walk” again


I’m writing this while recovering from a broken ankle. I can walk 1km very slowly with a walking stick. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to run again.

I can’t wait to get back to doing Parkrun and triathlon events – but I definitely don’t want to feel I can’t because I’m walking.

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