RICHMOND, Va. — It may not be part of everyone's bucket list, but have you ever wanted to finish a marathon?
Running 26 miles may seem like your personal version of climbing of Mount Everest, but what if you didn't have to run?
At 70 years old, Bill Draper has been running marathons for decades. For Draper, finishing is a victory in itself.
"I've had good years, bad years and as I get older, slower years," Draper said.
But Draper has never taken a marathon off.
Three years ago, an injury prevented him from running the marathon so he decided to walk it. Not like those who try to run the whole thing and have to walk part of it.
He walked all 26.2 miles.
"The exciting and cool thing was that I found a lot of other people walking the Richmond marathon. I really didn't know what to expect. When I got through, I actually felt pretty good. I've had years where I just hit the wall. I had three miles to go and it felt like 300," Draper said.
Draper's wife walked with him for support and discovered that, despite what you might think, walking isn't always easier than running.
"She said the walking was a different stride and gait than she normally runs. She found that in some respects was easier than walking," Draper said.
"The biomechanics are so different and it is a challenge to walk a 16-minute mile. I'm not going to say it's impossible because it's not," Carrie Parker with Richmond Sports Backers said.
For years, the Monument Avenue 10k training teams have included walkers. At a shorter distance, the 10k is more of an introductory event for those who have never attempted that kind of distance.
But this year, the marathon is including a walker training team as the number of those looking to try their first marathon at a slower pace increases.
"So many people have often looked at the marathon training team or any training team, that's going to a longer distance as run exclusive. We don't want to be that anymore. We want to be as inclusive as we possibly can," Parker said.
"There's a lot of people that I see walking at that pace or are capable of walking that pace that could walk a marathon. And they don't know it," Draper said.
It was Draper's idea for the walker training team and as such, he's one of the coaches.
"Bill Draper is the nudge behind making all this happen. His sole desire of making this happen makes him a great coach," Parker said.
"One foot is on the ground at all times. You have a fast cadence. You move your arms in an efficient motion. You do it at a conversational pace. You're not gasping for air like I used to when I was trying to do a fast marathon," Draper said.
Even though these athletes may be going at a slower pace, they will be exerting themselves for a longer period of time.
A normal runner might finish a marathon in four hours. For a walker, that can be as long as six and a half to seven hours.
"It's as much mental as it is physical. That's one of the things the training team will teach the group is to be able to go out and do this and toughen us mentally as well as physically," Draper said. "If you can go for a hike in the mountains, if you can go for a walk around your block, it's the same thing. You just have to do it longer."
No matter walking or running, the goal is the same - to cross the finish line. And the goal of the training team is the same as well - to instill the confidence needed to prove to yourself that you can do it.
"I've done things so many times because I didn't know that I couldn't do it. I think that's sometimes what people need to realize. Don't overthink things."
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