Walking Distance In a Day
July 14, 2007 3:27 PM   Subscribe

How many miles can a person walk in a day?

I Kings 2ff describes Elijah's last day(s) on Earth. It says that he and Elisha walked from Gilgal to Bethel to Jericho and then back to the Jordan. Is this a reasonable distance to travel in one day?
posted by jeffreyclong to Religion & Philosophy (27 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Sticking with the literary theme, while not answering your question, in DuMaurier's Jamaica Inn, Mary walks from Bodmin to Launceston and back in a day and part of a night, a distance of maybe 40 miles, spending a good amount of time at a fair in between. She routinely seems to walk distances of 5 or ten miles. I always thought she'd be awfully tired.
posted by nax at 3:37 PM on July 14, 2007

The Zulu would march 50 miles a day, barefoot.
posted by delmoi at 3:42 PM on July 14, 2007

I used to routinely walk about 7 miles a day, its doesn't take long, perhaps 2.5 hrs at a leisurely pace. On hikes, which are usually pretty slow paced, 20 miles is the most I would attempt allowing plenty of daylight at either end in case of emergency.

A very brisk walk can get you about a mile in 15 minutes. So if you walked all day (literally) and didn't stop, you could go a little under 100 miles in a day, but I think you would probably have to take a lot of speed or something.
posted by stormygrey at 3:43 PM on July 14, 2007

Well, walking speed X 24 hours.

Does it specifically say walked? If it just says they went, I'd guess they used transportation. I, not being in better than shape, have walked 15 miles in about 10 hours. They probably had bad shoes, possibly bad roads, shorter legs. I'm not sure how far all those places are from each other, but it sounds like a good long hike.
posted by Jacen at 3:45 PM on July 14, 2007

Questions about walking speed always make me think about Stephen King's short story The Long Walk. Without going into detail, the walkers have to maintain 4mph for as long as they can. So I always think of that as the benchmark for walking. So in eight hours, you'd cover 32 miles. (In the story, they actually walk for FIVE DAYS STRAIGHT and 446 miles. No idea whether that's plausible or not.)
posted by web-goddess at 3:48 PM on July 14, 2007

Reasonable, yes but quite a hearty walk--after much googling and calculating KM, leagues and miles I am estimating it is about 45 US miles--12 to Bethel, 12 to Jericho and 21 to Jordan. On the other hand I am not even sure if I have the correct geographic locations Thanks
posted by rmhsinc at 3:51 PM on July 14, 2007

It's quite possible to walk 100 miles in a day. Some people even do it for fun.
posted by afx237vi at 3:54 PM on July 14, 2007

When I was a kid, the Walkathon was 20mi.
posted by rhizome at 4:00 PM on July 14, 2007

I tried to figure out how many miles this journey would actually be.

From: Gilgal (modern-day Jiljilya) 32° 1' 39" N 35° 13' 10" E
To: Bethel (modern-day Beitin) 31° 55' 59" N 35° 13' 59" E
Distance: 7.44 mi
To: Jericho 31° 52' 0" N 35° 27' 0" E
Distance: 11.57 mi
To: Jordan River 31° 52' 0" N 35° 33' 3" E
Distance: 5.92 mi

24.93 miles later.

Of course this is straight shot from each location. If Elijah walked that far I would guess that he would be following the roads which would be considerably more distance.
posted by rancidchickn at 4:22 PM on July 14, 2007

Race walking 100 miles in 24 hours is considered to be a serious accomplishment. Not elite, but something to tell other people about. 3.5 miles per hour is a reasonable walking speed for casual walking.
posted by OmieWise at 4:28 PM on July 14, 2007

Paula (of ConstantTrek fame) walks about 25-30 km per day in the desert. Based on that, I think Elijah's trek is quite possible.
posted by Liosliath at 4:33 PM on July 14, 2007

the camino de santiago is about 450 mi. most groups tend to go 10 to 14 mi a day for modern travelers that aren't as used to long walks.
posted by ejaned8 at 4:38 PM on July 14, 2007

I used to work in a warehouse, and someone there worked one day with a pedometer. They found that they got about 20-25 miles over 8 hours, but that would have included a lot of long pauses for loading and unloading and picking stuff up.
posted by dilettante at 4:58 PM on July 14, 2007

When Ethan Allen and his Green Mountain Boys answered the Concord and Lexington alarm they marched 56 miles in 18 hours, with their gear. For modern backpackers a 20 mile day with a full pack is usually thought to be quite an accomplishment. Through hikers on the Appalachian often try to do one day all-out to see discover their limits. Mine turned out to be 36, though a friend did 40.
posted by LarryC at 5:00 PM on July 14, 2007

When I was on the Appalachian Trail for a few weeks, I regularly hiked 20 miles or more each day, even though I was on rugged terrain, taking down my tent, setting up my tent, taking a break to cook in the middle of the day, cooking at night, taking several other breaks through the day, etc. And I did all this during daylight hours, and afterwards still generally had time to read a book, write in my journal, write a few letters or postcards, and shoot the shit with anyone else camping nearby.

If I'd not had to cook my own food and arrange my own quarters, I'd probably have been able to go much farther, though I would have been tired.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 5:19 PM on July 14, 2007

Normal walking speed is about 3-3.5 mph.

There are 24 hours in a day. Presumably, this hasn't changed substantially since the myth to which you refer was created.

That would be between 72 and 84 miles , at a consistent, uninterrupted pace.

Sleep, urination, hills, etc. would impact this crude estimate.

There are folks who can walk a lot faster.... above 8 MPH for Olympians in a 31 mile race walk in 2000. This translates into about 200 miles in a 24 hour day, theoretically. That is 6 times longer than a 31 mile race takes, though, and it is doubtful that such a pace would be sustainable for such an extended period.
posted by FauxScot at 5:33 PM on July 14, 2007

An interesting brief read, with a lot of historical examples of long marches, is here, which I think is a reprint of a 1979 USMHI booklet.

You don't need to be in all that impressive shape to manage covering more than 20 miles per day (depending on how rough those miles are, of course, and how much you are carrying). More than 30 miles starts feeling pretty long in my experience -- I've only walked that far a few times, and could really feel it the next day.

And the NYTimes had a recent article about George Martin, a former football player, who is supposedly going to walk across the US to raise money for charity. The article quotes him saying:

"I’ve been training for a 50-miles-a-day clip — up early and walk 12 ½ miles before breakfast, do 12 ½ more before lunch, another 12 ½ and a short rest in the afternoon, then a final 12 ½ before dinner and bed. It should take three and a half to four months. I know I can do it."

Link, although access may be limited to subscribers.

How realistic that pace is for 3000 miles, I don't know. He won't be carrying any weight, and will have plenty of support, so it might be quite reasonable. A 4 mph, 50 miles isn't all that many hours of walking, and if other people are taking care of navigation, meal preparation, and so on, it might be a pretty pleasant way to spend your days.
posted by Forktine at 5:55 PM on July 14, 2007 [1 favorite]

When I was in the Marines our humps would be between 25-32 miles. We had 100 lbs. of gear give or take 20 and would stop roughly every hour to refill our canteens. We would start at dawn and be done by early afternoon on our longest humps.
posted by Roundball at 6:09 PM on July 14, 2007

The Nijmegan march held annually for the past 91 years in the Netherlands consists of 4 days of 25 miles/day for a total of 100 miles, with a 22lb backpack (at least for the military men who participate, it can vary for civilians). I think it is a fair assessment of what most people can do.
posted by furtive at 6:15 PM on July 14, 2007

(In the story, they actually walk for FIVE DAYS STRAIGHT and 446 miles. No idea whether that's plausible or not.)

Well only two people in that story made it that far. Also, they were highly motivated to keep going.

I love that story.
posted by Bonzai at 7:47 PM on July 14, 2007

A number of people at Philmont Scout Ranch, where I work, hike 42 miles thru the mountains in well under a day as part of a staff challenge called the Ranger Marathon. It's doable.
posted by andythebean at 9:57 PM on July 14, 2007

When I was a kid, our school had a fundraising walkathon that was 30 km (18 miles) and I walked it in a relatively short day (starting mid-morning, done in time for an early supper) even at age 10.
posted by winston at 5:21 AM on July 15, 2007

I think FauxScott is onto it when he talks about the maximum distance a race walker could travel at full speed in 24 hours - there is no faster way of walking. World class race walkers can aparently travel a mile at speeds of up to"under 6 minutes" using this technique - but over the full 50km distance of the events the average speed for the world record is just under 8.4 mph. So if we take 24 hours at 8mph we have a distance of 192 miles. Having done the above mentioned Nijmegan marches a couple of times, completed the 54 mile Caledonian challenge in Scotland and had a couple of members of the centurion club tell me about their experiences I would say that that theoretical maximum is quite a long way beyond what anybody could achieve in practice.

If you are willing to allow people to run instead the calculations become a little different. For example Edit Bérces managed to cover 155.4 miles on a track in 24 hours - a world record. It would seem most of the people who have been trying to see how far they can travel in 24 hours have been ultra-marathoners rather than walkers.
posted by rongorongo at 6:56 AM on July 15, 2007

When I was a slightly overweight security guard I walked about 46 miles in a double shift. A four mile an hour pace is pretty easy for about eight hours, but then you start to get tired.
posted by BrotherCaine at 5:05 AM on July 16, 2007

I spent a number of years without a car. Commuting to work across town plus errands netted me about 7 miles most days, and that was working eight or nine hours at a sit-down job.

It isn't a significant strain to do 25 or so on a paved surface without much stuff, even without special training. The more you're carrying and the rougher the terrain, though, the less distance you should expect to cover.
posted by tangerine at 9:48 PM on July 16, 2007

I couldn't help thing of Stephen King's The Long Walk as well. That would be an entertaining, yet disturbing education about how well the average male can walk in a day.
posted by zardoz at 10:05 PM on July 16, 2007

A number of people at Philmont Scout Ranch, where I work, hike 42 miles thru the mountains in well under a day as part of a staff challenge called the Ranger Marathon.

And according to books by Beckwith and Haney, one of the final tests for selection in the US Army's "Delta Force" is the "Forty Miler" hike with a 75lb pack. I think it was Beckwith who said in his book that candidates are given 20 hours to complete it to pass.
posted by mrbill at 11:02 AM on December 27, 2007

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