The half marathon has been the fastest growing race distance in the U.S. for the past 12 consecutive years, and it’s not showing signs of slowing down anytime soon.
For many runners, the 13.1-mile distance is like Goldilocks’ third bowl of porridge: It’s neither too short nor too long, it’s “just right.” For beginners and short-distance specialists, the half marathon is an intimidating but approachable challenge; marathon runners love it because it forces them out of their comfort zone and serves as the perfect tune-up three to four weeks out from a goal race.
From a practical standpoint, training for and racing 13.1 miles fits into the constructs of a busy lifestyle better than a marathon or ultra-distance race. The event itself doesn’t take all day and, in most cases, you won’t have too much trouble getting out of bed the next morning. It’s also long enough that it’s worth flying or driving to for a long weekend trip. (When was the last time you bought a plane ticket to run a 5K?)
Despite the half marathon’s ever growing popularity and accessibility, finishing one is still a big deal for any runner—because it’s nearly impossible to fake it for 13.1 miles. You’ve got to train diligently and have the discipline to execute your race day plan.
Committing to a training program is serious business and an ongoing accomplishment in its own right. Dedicating yourself to an 8-, 12- or 16-week training plan requires you to run consistently, increasing your long run and building up your overall mileage. It will challenge you to run farther or faster (in some cases both) than you ever have before—even on the days you might not feel like lacing up your running shoes.
Crossing that finish line is a celebration of all the work it took to get there. It resonates with new runners and experienced racers alike, whether you hit your pre-race goal or not. That excitement, along with the ongoing dedication toward the pursuit of a big goal, is contagious—you never know who it might inspire to take on a half-marathon challenge of his or her own.
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