8 Reasons Why Half Marathon is the Perfect Distance plus My Favorite HM Speed Workout

I’m excited to introduce a new series: Monday Runday! Every Monday you will findΒ  a post featuring a variety of topics: workouts, recaps, reviews, training plans and more.

I am happy to start this series by talking about my favorite race distance, the half marathon, and why it is perfect for me, and possibly for you too. Plus I’m sharing my favorite half marathon speed workout.

La Jolla Half Marathon

According to Running USA, the half marathon is the fastest growing race distance. In fact,over the last decade, the half marathon has become America’s most popular distance in almost every category, by finisher growth, by debut half marathons, and for seven consecutive years, 2006-2012, half marathon finishers have grown by 10% or more. Since 2000, the number of half marathon finishers has almost quadrupled (from 482,000 to 1,850,000). And for the first time in history, 60% of half marathon finishers are female.

According to Running USA’s 2013 survey, the half marathon is the favorite distance of both men (38%) and womem (43%), and is the distance that most runners (77%) want to enter this year.

This many people can’t be wrong! Especially when they agree with me. Here are the reasons that the half marathon is the perfect race distance.

  1. Half marathon training can fit into a busy person’s schedule. Unlike a marathon, with runs up to 20 miles and beyond, the training distances for the half are manageable. Depending on one’s goals, a person can train for a half marathon running three or four days per week with as little as 20-25 total miles.
  2. A half marathon is a challenging race that requires training and finishing gives a person a great sense of accomplishment.
  3. A new runner can successfully train for a half marathon without as large a risk of injury as with a marathon. While adding on mileage too quickly can lead to injury at any distance, the relatively low mileage needed to train for a first half marathon makes it a lot less risky. Plus, running a half marathon is an obvious first step before jumping to the full 26.2.
  4. Half marathons are great for long time, multi-marathon runners who still love to run, love endurance events, but don’t want to or can’t run 26.2 anymore. This is my category. With iffy knees and exercise induced asthma, I don’t really want to run full marathons anymore (for now).
  5. Marathon training can be all-consuming. Families may feel neglected when you spend a good part of your precious weekend time out on the road, not to mention the several other days per week you’re training. There is a lot less time commitment to train for a half marathon.
  6. You still get an awesome finisher’s medal.
  7. Whether you’re a speedster out for a PR, or prefer to dress up and take pictures, you’ll be done within a few hours, can recover quickly and be ready to go dancing in the evening. Well, that might be an exaggeration, but when I ran a full marathon, I would invariably be nauseous for hours, get a headache, and be out of it for most of the day.
  8. No. More. 20. Milers.

So, have I convinced you? If not, consider this. While the price of races has increased for all distances, there are still many smaller half marathons that cost about $60-$70 to enter. Not so the marathon, where you would be hard pressed to find a race that costs less that $100, and many are double that amount. Of course, if you want to #rundisney, that is a different story.

My Favorite Half Marathon Speed Workout

If you are ready to start taking your half marathon to the next level, you will need to add some speed training to your training plan. There are two specific types of workouts that will help you get faster at this distance, threshold (or tempo) workouts, which are sustained runs of two to six miles run at your lactate threshold pace, and long interval workouts, generally run on a track, repetitions of 400 to 1600 meters at a faster pace than the tempo run. You will find examples of both types of workouts here.

This speed workout is specific to longer distance races, marathon or half marathon, because of the longer intervals and slightly slower pace. It calls for you to run each interval at a pace relative to your current 10k pace. Haven’t run a 10k lately? You can use this calculator to figure it out based on other distances you may have run. Then convert it to pace per mile (need help? try here).

Half Marathon Speed WorkoutOther things to know. After your warmup, do some strides to really get those legs moving and the blood flowing.Β  Do a stride by gradually accelerating to about 85% of your maximum speed, hold that pace for about a third of the total stride distance, then decelerate for the final third. Catch your breath for about a minute, then do the next stride.

Save your static stretching for after the workout. Doing them before your workout or race can actually slow you down. This link tells you why and shows some dynamic stretches you can try before you work out.

My Week in Running

This will be short. In fact, aside from a few pictures, I don’t have much to share. Yes, I did run, but the heat and humidity here has really done me in, so there is not much to brag about report. I ran a couple times with the cross country team, a couple times with the dogs, and a little bit on my own. This morning, after running my second two miles with Buddy, I stopped running and felt like I was going to faint. After only 4 miles! In spite of that, after a puff on my inhaler, I took the three little girls on a short run, and managed five for the day, but I was spent. After only five freaking miles! I hate humidity. And heat. And especially the combination.

Half Marathon - Buddy

Half Marathon - La Quinta

Half Marathon - View

Half Marathon - Running Girls

We had our annual fundraising car wash on Saturday. I wasn’t there because I woke up with a migraine. They did a great job, raised over $2,000, while I lay in bed feeling sorry for myself. On the bright side, it was hot and humid, and I missed that too. Two key points to a successful fundraising car wash. 1. Have the kids pre-sell the tickets (our kids must sell 10-$10 tickets each), and 2. Have a parent who does car washing for a living. We are really fortunate to have a father who owns a mobile car wash service. Win!

half marathon  - cross country Car Wash

Are there any running topics you would like to see covered on Monday Runday? Do you love the half marathon as much as I do? What’s next on your racing schedule? For me, I am planning on the Malibu Half Marathon on November 10, which Alan is announcing (they call him the Voice of the Malibu Marathon!).

You’re not a cookie, why use a cookie cutter training program? For a personal touch click here.

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  1. says

    I ran my first half last year and I am not sure if I have it in me to spend the time training for another. Glad to have done it once though!

  2. says

    Oh! I love this Monday run day idea – I can’t wait to see what you have in store!
    On the half being the best distance – I am currently training for my first one (kind if – a trail 25k I guess is the half in the trail running world) I think I’m going to be hooked!! I will definitely have to try your workout!
    And on this humidity… It is awful! Even short runs wipe me out for the rest of the day! I feel your pain! Here’s to fall getting here fast! Have a great day!
    Martha recently posted..Self Love SeptemberMy Profile

  3. says

    I’ve ran one half marathon and recently ran my longest distance to date since getting back into running (24km!).

    I do find a half-marathon to be a great distance to run. I’m toying with the idea of doing a full marathon one day but…we shall see. I’m in no rush right now. Just living and going with the flow πŸ™‚

    Oh and, I totally hear ya about the heat and humidity!
    Kierston @candyfit recently posted..Life Lived Naturally…My Profile

  4. says

    YES! This is WHY I love 1/2s. They are completely doable and don’t take over your life. I’ve quite marathons for now….and I’m going to enjoy as many 1/2s as I can. I love your speed workout. Completely reasonable.
    jen recently posted..Looking Back At AugustMy Profile

  5. says

    Nice post! After running about 40 marathons, I injured myself almost two years ago and switched to the half marathon distance. I didn’t think I’d feel as fulfilled running “only a half,” but love it for all of the reasons you listed! I love that they are becoming so popular!
    Debbie @ Deb Runs recently posted..One Lucky Reader Will Win…My Profile

  6. Lauracatherine Olack says

    I am training for my first half on October 12th but am suffering from horrible knee pain. I know I’m being stubborn and I’m in denial because I’ve worked too hard to be benched so late in the game! Have you dealt with this dilemma? Do you suck it up and run but at a slower pace?

    • says

      I’m so sorry that you’re dealing with knee pain. It’s hard to say what you should do without knowing exactly what the problem is (,meaning you might have to go to the doctor). Since it is your first half, I might guess that you have some runner’s knee going on. You should try taking a few days completely off, make good friends with ice and advil, then give it a try to see if there is any improvement.

      Again, I’m not a doctor, and without really knowing what’s wrong it is hard to say if just slowing down and muddling through will damage your knee more (which I’ve done, though I am not sure it was the smartest thing).

      Try the rest, and if that doesn’t help you should see a doctor. I know you hate to give it up, but look at the long term picture. If you find the problem, take the time to recover, you will have lots of half marathons in front of you. Just maybe not this one.
      Debbie Woodruff recently posted..Running for Others: Relief in ActionMy Profile

  7. Mary Carroll Bean says

    After I’m done with the LA 26.2 on 9 March 2014, I’ll probably stick to 1/2 marathons for a bit ….. all your reasons are spot on.


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