MISSOULA — It is officially the start of Marathon week in Missoula. Usually, the focus is on the fastest runners in the pack, but there’s a dedicated group that doesn’t need to run for an impressive time.
The marathon is filled with runners who cross the finish line in less than three hours. While that’s impressive, a group of around 50 people will begin their half-marathon walk on Sunday morning.
The average age of the group is 65, and some finish in less than four hours.
“I got interested and I joined the walking group, which we have about 42 members, and I do the marathon every year because it’s the best thing to do in Missoula,” said the fastest walker in the group, Marie-Ange Buzan, who clocks a pace of 12-15 minutes per mile.
The group is run by an ex-runner and now walker, John Pitcairn, and he says just because they’re walking doesn’t mean they don’t train just as much as the runners.
“Saturdays are for our long walk for endurance purposes where we go up to do two different 12-mile walks. And then that’s the crux of our program, the long endurance building training program,” said Pitcairn.
On four other days of the week, the group does more relaxed workouts, but most are still out there five days a week getting ready for the big race on Sunday.
“I’ve known a lot of them for seven or eight years, and they’re just a fun group to be with. They’re a high-energy group, they enjoy being with each other. It’s competitive within themselves, not against one another. Saturday mornings are just the most enjoyable,” said Pitcairn.
After months of training, those 42 walkers’ hard work will pay off as they cross the finish line on Sunday.