Half marathons are becoming more and more popular. A half marathon race is 13.1 miles or 21.1 kilometers long, which is exactly half the distance of a marathon.
Why Run A Half Marathon?
People run half marathon races for different reasons. Some of the most common include:
- They’ve already run a 5K or 10K and want to challenge themselves even more.
- They want to see what it feels like to train for and run an endurance event.
- They eventually want to run a marathon, but want to see what it feels like try a shorter distance first.
- They’re training for a full marathon and want to evaluate their fitness level.
- They want to beat their personal record in the half marathon.
What’s Involved in Training for and Running a Half Marathon Race?
For beginner runners, the half marathon distance can seem extremely intimidating. Before you decide to take on the half marathon distance, it’s probably best that you train for and run a shorter race, such as a 5K or10K. After that, you’ll probably feel more physically and mentally prepared to run a half marathon. The training period for a half marathon depends on your running base before you get started. To start a training plan, you should be running for about two months and have a mileage base of 8 miles per week. With that type of training base, you can train for a half marathon in 12 weeks. More advanced runners can train for a half marathon in 8-10 weeks.
The training for a half marathon requires that you run at least three days a week, with one of those runs being your long training run. Your long run will gradually increase during the training, topping out at 10 to 12 miles (for beginners). You do not have to run more than 10 miles during your training in order to complete the 13.1 miles on the day of the race.
How Long Will It Take Me Run a Half Marathon?
Answer: Finishing times for most half marathons (13.1 miles) range from a little over an hour for elite runners to 3+ hours for slower runners or walkers. Predicting race times is never an exact science, but you can use a chart or calculator to determine a ballpark half marathon time, based on a recent race. Here is a useful calculator to try: Running for Fitness Race Predictor: Just plug in your age, gender, and time/distance from a recent race. The calculator then shows you how you might perform in races at other distances. This calculator shows several different predictions, based on different formulas. So you get a range of predicted times, and you can see that it’s not an exact science — just an estimate.
How Accurate Are Race Time Predictions?
Keep in mind that your half marathon time prediction is just an estimate of what you might achieve, if you do the appropriate training for the half marathon distance. It doesn’t mean that you’ll automatically run that time because of your fitness level. In addition, the course terrain, weather conditions, and how you’re feeling that day will also factor into your race time.
In most cases, only experienced half marathoners will achieve their predicted time. If it’s your first half marathon, focus on completing the race, which is an incredible achievement. If you’re looking for a ballpark finishing time prediction for your first half marathon, add 5-10 minutes to the calculator prediction.
More About Half Marathon Times
If you’re curious where you might place (top 10%, middle of pack, etc.) in a particular half marathon, look at the results from last year’s race. The size of the field and the range of times will probably be fairly similar this year.
Some half marathons do have time limits, such as three hours. So if you’re a slower runner or walker, make sure you find out if a half marathon you’re interested in has a cut-off time.
13 Reasons to Run a Half Marathon
1. You’ll stay motivated to run.
While some runners can race a short distance like a 5K with little or no training, most would have a tough time trying to get through a half marathon with no preparation. So having a half marathon on your calendar will keep you motivated to stick to your training schedule. On days when your motivation is suffering, you’ll think about how you’ll feel if you have to back out of the race or if you try to run it completely undertrained.
2. You’ll burn a lot of calories.
Training for a half marathon requires logging a lot of miles, which will turn you into a calorie-burning machine. Of course, you need to make sure that you’re not overcompensating for those lost calories by going overboard at post-run meals, especially if you’re hoping to lose weight by running.
More: Why Am I Not Losing Weight With Running?
3. You’ll experience lots of health benefits.
Beyond helping you to lose or maintain weight, there are lots of other health benefits of half marathon training. Running will strengthen your heart and ensure the efficient flow of blood and oxygen throughout your body, which helps decrease your risk of a heart attack. Exercise is one of the best ways to naturally reduce your blood pressure if it’s above normal and it can help keep high cholesterol in check. Running also improves your immune system, so your body functions are more effective and efficient at fighting off germs.
More: 10 Great Reasons to Run
4. You’ll have a lifetime of bragging rights.
While the half marathon distance is growing in popularity, the number of people who’ve completed a half marathon is still very small. Once you cross that half marathon finish line, you’ll be joining an elite group of runners who can call themselves a half marathoner.
5. You’ll discover new running routes.
If you typically stick to shorter distances for running and racing, training for a half marathon will force you to find new places to run, since you’ll be doing a long run every week. Check outMapMyRun.com or ask local runners for suggestions on where to run.
More: Where Should I Run?
6. Your training will have more structure.
If you’re the type of person who likes to follow a schedule, you’ll love training for a half marathon. Every day you’ll look at your training schedule to see what you need to do, whether it’s running, cross-training, or taking a complete rest day. Each week, you’ll add a little more distance, so you’ll really feel like you’re making progress toward your half marathon goal.
More: Half Marathon Training Schedules
7. You’re less likely to get injured than if you trained for a full marathon.
Runners training for a marathon log a lot of miles, putting them at greater risk for overtraining-related and overuse injuries than those training for a half marathon. Because the mileage demands are not as high as they are with full marathon training, you’re more likely to give yourself a rest day when you’re starting to feel a little pain, which can often prevent a full-blown running injury.
More: 7 Steps to Injury Prevention
8. It’s not as time-consuming as training for a marathon.
Running fewer miles in training also means that you won’t feel like your training is a part-time job, which is how some runners feel about marathon training. Many runners find that half marathon training still allows them to have a nice balance between their training and their work and personal lives. And if you do have aspirations to run a full marathon, it’s a good way to test the waters and see if you want to take on that challenge.
9. You’ll meet other runners.
Some running groups or clubs offer half marathon training, so you can train with a group. At the race, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to meet other runners, whether it’s waiting on line at the porta-potties, standing at the starting line, running in the race, or celebrating post-race.
More: Benefits of Group Running
10. You can support a cause.
Many half marathons benefit charities and worthwhile causes, from disaster relief to fighting cancer or other diseases. Running for something that’s bigger than you is a great way to stay motivated to keep training, meet other runners to train with, and can make your races even more meaningful.
11. You’ll get a medal (and a shirt).
OK, so maybe the idea of getting a finishing medal doesn’t get you too excited but — whether it’s a medal, a shirt, or a great finishing photo — the point is that you’ll get a little reward for your efforts. And having a reminder of your accomplishment is always great for a motivation boost. Many half marathons offer decent swag, like a technical running shirt, and have race expos where you can pick up some running gear freebies and samples.
12. You can travel to new destinations.
If you love to travel, running a half marathon is a great excuse to visit a new city or country. You’ll get to see a lot of the local area in the race, and, unlike marathon running, you won’t be too sore and tired that can’t take in some more local attractions post-race. Many half marathons get discounted rates on hotel rooms and other travel expenses, so you may even save some bucks.
13. You can spend time with family and friends.
Many runners have discovered their love of the half marathon distance after being convinced by a friend or family member to sign up for their first one. Whether you train or travel to the race together, you’ll get to spend time with one another and bond in your pursuit of a common goal.