Since 2000, the number of half-marathon finishers in the United States has nearly quadrupled. The half marathon is the race runners are most interested in by a 77% overall poll margin according to Running USA. If you are not familiar with the half marathon distance, this is typically a road race of 13.1 miles. It can be thought as an attractive distance because beginners who aspire to eventually run a marathon see this half marathon distance as the first big step towards that end goal. This distance is enough of a challenge that you can stay focused with a long term goal, but it does not feel as intimidating compared to a marathon training plan.
As for marathoners, half marathons are an excellent distance to keep them in shape for their next 26.2 mile race. Often a half marathon is in a training plan for a full marathon. Not only will the 13.1 distance help with the 26.2, it will help get a good base for those 5ks, 10ks and so on. It is the sweet spot of all the races, still fast, but an endurance race, but not a sprint like the 5k and 10k. The half marathon is an attractive distance for all these reasons, and if you came here for advice because you are new to the distance, or would just like to increase your times and get that PR, hopefully I can provide some sound advice.
With my running journey I had to first learn how to run. I spent a whole summer learning how to run a solid 5 miles without dying and before I knew it, I jumped up to 10 miles because the crazy people in the run club I joined convinced me to. As you were probably thinking, these same people convinced me to run that first half marathon. Now, I was the idiot that never even raced a 5k, 10k, or 15k before the half. 13.1 miles was my very first running race and I was terrified, but looking back it truly just takes a plan, support, and stubbornness to reach that goal.
Tip #1: Pick a race
Pick a half marathon that is either convenient for you because it is close to home or another family member, or a destination where you can lay on the beach or explore that city after you die from running for such a long time. Try to pick a race that you have research on that has the following: a flat course, good crowd support, and a snazzy medal. (The medal in the end is such a cool reward!)
Tip #2: Learn how to run properly
If you have read any of my past articles, I harp on good form and learning what your body’s biomechanics are, especially for your foot type. Get in the proper shoes, and multiple of the same kind because half marathon training can take some wear on the shoes and the last thing you want to do is run on “expired” shoes and have an injury right before or after your race.
Tip #3: Have a plan
Get yourself a plan by contacting a running coach, getting a friend who has ran a half marathon before, or going in blind by yourself, but get yourself a plan. There are many free plans online that will have options such as: beginner, intermediate, or advanced runners. These plans are based to get your ready for that half marathon and as for beginners, will slowly introduce you to the distance. It will really focus on creating a base mileage. Like my own personal story, these half marathon plans will get you ready to start running those 5 milers and then slowly have you do those 5 milers repeatedly during the week. After this, the distance on each run will progressively increase.
If you already have these base miles, then you are even in a better situation because those first couple of weeks will be very easy for you. Eventually the plan will get up to 10 mile runs and closer to that half-marathon distance race. Be wary of the plans that you cannot mentally handle. There are some plans that will have you running even 14-16 miles to be ready for that half marathon. This is the thought of more is more. If you are over-prepared, you are prepared. For some people this can just be wear and tear on your body, for others, this is reassurance they can conquer the distance. If this is too much, be glad to know that I am a firm believer that if you can knock out a 10 miler and feel awesome and like you are not going to pass out, then you can do a half marathon. Depending on you as a person, if you need the reassurance that you can do that distance before the race, then find a plan that will have that distance on there. I would highly recommend Runner’s world for these plans.
Tip #4: Have fun
The half marathon is a great gateway race to do a full marathon, or for me it was a full marathon and then the sport of triathlon. Who knows what this will lead to, or if this will merely be that thing to cross off your bucket list. Nonetheless, the people in the running community are wonderful, the environment of the race day is unforgettable, and the experience of doing something that not many people can say they have done is something to have pride of for the rest of your life. My thought process with running is if you have a body, then use it. If running that half marathon helps you move, then do it. If not, find something else that makes you move. Your body is not something to take for granted. If there is any ounce of you that is interested in doing this, do it. You will not regret it. Prove it to yourself that if you set your mind to a task it is achievable because that mind set is not only necessary in these race hobbies but for everyday life.