A blog by runners. For runners.

13 reasons you should run a half marathon instead of a full

overcome-race-fear

Running is a hot item on those resolutions lists. A common goal? To run a marathon in 2014. It’s certainly shooting high and thinking big. I think all runners can have fun training and running this quintessential distance event.

However, a lot of new (and old) runners skip over an important milestone in their journey to 26.2 — the half marathon. And, at least from personal experience, the full distance isn’t always all it’s cracked up to be. I myself favor 13.1 for racing. It allows me to settle in and find a solid pace. I’ve seen tremendous growth, from finishing in over two hours a decade ago to, my current spring goal, around 1:40:00.

Here are 13 reasons to consider running a half versus a full:

  1. Schedule is shorter. Most marathon plans span 18 to 20 weeks or more. Half marathons, on the other hand, can be achieved with 10 or 12 weeks of training. That way, there’s less opportunity for injury, sickness, or other life events to mess with mileage or important workouts.
  2. Less stress on the body. Having completed multiple training schedules for both the half and full, I must say my day-to-day aches and pains are much less with half marathons. Maybe that’s because I’d peak around 50 miles for my full training, I do around 30-35 for the half.
  3. More free time. Along with lower mileage comes extra hours for other commitments or even, gasp, social time! Between working full-time and marathon training, my days/nights were pretty prescribed. With half training? I can finish a long run and be out the door for fun after a snack and a shower.
  4. Workouts are more varied. Unless you’re all-out racing the marathon, a lot of the training is just getting the miles in. Sometimes at goal pace, but other times, any pace will do. With half marathons, fewer miles means more chance to get in speedwork and tempo runs that yield big returns when it comes to PRs.
  5. Events cost less. Shorter distance means fewer logistics means lowered cost, at least in most cases. You can pocket the change or even sign up for multiple events without breaking the bank.
  6. Overall recovery is faster. Yes! Marathons can take a long while to rebound from, but half marathons may take only a week or two. A disappointing finish doesn’t have to mean a season failed. Usually you can sign up for another half marathon and try again with relatively fresh legs.
  7. Races are more common. Sure, there are many marathons and new full distance events popping up across the country and beyond. Half marathons, though, seem to be even more prolific — there’s likely one run in your own neighborhood.
  8. Competition at other distances is still possible. It may just be me, but marathon training gobbles up my ability to run fast in other events. The half allows me to keep pace at even the 5K distance, probably because my legs aren’t as tired and I’m able to keep up with faster speedwork sessions.
  9. Cross training gets more priority. Again, marathon mileage really adds up. If you’re into another sport like swimming or biking, half marathon training can give those activities proper weight without contributing to body burnout, ultimately making you a stronger overall athlete.
  10. Weight control is more manageable. If you’ve ever heard the myth about weight gain during marathon training, I assure you, it’s a real thing. Running high mileage requires eating lots of food (but not always craving the best choices). Running a lot of slow miles doesn’t exactly crank metabolism either. If weight control is important to you, half marathons can help bring everything into moderation.
  11. Travel is more fun. A lot of runners enjoy destination races, myself included. There’s nothing worse than expending great effort or — worse — getting injured after a big event and being stuck in a hotel room unable to enjoy the sights and sounds. Half marathons, even fast finish ones, are much less taxing and mean more sightseeing for everyone!
  12. Let-down is lessened. With a particularly long training cycle, huge achievement of running 26.2, and subsequent recovery period, there’s bound to be some marathon blues post-race. With the half distance, you can keep up racing year-round, monthly or more, and experiment with reaching goals at other distances, too.
  13. Middle ground is achieved. As I mentioned, a lot of runners set the marathon goal. A lot of these runners are also masters of the 5K to 10K, with nothing to boast in-between. Training for at least one half marathon before tackling the full is a smart choice if you’re looking to avoid overuse injury or mental burnout.

I’m admittedly biased, though. Is a marathon on your 2014 goals list? Who else, like me, is shooting instead for a fast half marathon time?

Written by  Ashley Marcin.