by John Stanton
Running or walking a half marathon is no small feat—it requires physical preparation and mental endurance. I am amazed when I hear race participants say: “I’m just doing the half marathon.”
Breaking news: the half marathon generally begins at the same start line and ends at the same finish line. You earn a medal, get a new race shirt and best of all, recover twice as fast as the full marathon runners. At marathon weekends across Canada, the 21.1K consistently draws more participants than the 42.2K.
Training for the half is more achievable if you’re trying to balance your athletic goals with family and work responsibilities. You can train, enjoy the process and still have a life. As you train, the goal is to be stronger and fitter each week—unlike a gruelling marathon training schedule, which can leave you fatigued and requiring an afternoon nap.
Consider joining a running group or half marathon training program and embrace the “conversational” pace. You’ll get fit and meet some new running buddies who will help you avoid any boredom on the long runs. Running in the cold, wind and rain is also far safer and more enjoyable with a group.
Your training runs will be an indicator as to what pace you are capable of on race day. The additional effort and excitement will generally allow you to run about a minute faster per kilometre at the race.
If you are running your first half marathon, you may have an overwhelming fear that you’ll be the last one to cross the finish line. Let this worry go, as there are now many walkers on the course who will share your joy in reaching the finish line and beating all the people at home on the couch.
Run/walk intervals are a smart strategy for those running a half marathon. Run for 10 minutes, then walk briskly for one minute. This combination will help you avoid the muscle fatigue that often occurs toward the end of a long run or race. Many runners find that the “10-and-1” run/walk strategy helps them achieve an overall faster race pace than if they tried to run the entire distance. Plus, they report fewer injuries.
At certain events, the half marathon is the premier attraction. For example, we all admire the men and women of the Canadian Forces, and their iconic race, the Canada Army Run, is no ordinary run. Held in Ottawa every September, the event offers a number of distances including 5K and 10K, but the half marathon is the focal point. There is also a “Commander’s Challenge” where runners complete the 5K followed by the half. Attending inspiring events like this help us to see that there’s no such thing as “just” a half marathon.
THE BETTER HALF
On Facebook, I found many half marathon fans who were eager to share what they like about the distance:
“The half marathon is totally accessible since the distances you run on weeknights and Sundays are all manageable for busy people. Plus, family and co-workers are really impressed with those distances, making you feel strong and formidable – which you are!”
– Jane M.
“I’d rather run a half marathon than a 5K or 10K. Short races, when you’re running your best, are pretty much flat-out from start to finish. A half marathon is long enough that you can pace yourself a little more comfortably while still aiming for a good result.”
– Brian S.
“The training is enough of a challenge without taking over your life like marathon training. The race distance is long enough to be challenging without recovering for weeks afterwards. Not too long and not too short. Just right.”
– Diana L.
“The distance fits nicely into an active lifestyle. The training isn’t all-consuming like a marathon or long distance triathlon. The race itself is over in a couple of hours, so you can enjoy the rest of race day without being exhausted.”
– Norine H.
“I love training for a half. You get to train with others with similar goals and possibly create new friendships. It is also a great way to tour a city and see sights that you would normally miss while driving.”
– Stephanie S.
“It’s a challenging distance to push myself, but not too far that it requires too much time away from my family life. It’s the perfect distance to show my kids to set big goals and achieve them.”
– Shelley T.
“I enjoy doing a half once or twice a year. It’s a nice way to get used to staying on pace and it’s really liberating to get the legs going
to the next level.”
– Danny M.
“It’s the perfect balance between pushing yourself beyond the normal daily run, and not being too much of a time commitment on everyday life.”
– Pamela L.
“I like the half because it is a challenging goal that is also fun and manageable with the right mindset and dedication. It also gives you tons of time to chat with friends on those long slow distance runs!”
– Paula F.
For more running commentary, questions and giveaways, follow me on Facebook at JohnStantonRunningRoom.