Thursday, January 22, 2009

Running the best half marathon

I agree with Tom's post that the half-marathon has been given short shrift in the running world in favor of its older cousin, the marathon. For many people (including me for a number of years), the half marathon represents the best combination of distance running and stamina. Though it's half the distance of the marathon, runners still experience the, um, joy of hitting the wall as they work their way through miles 8-11. They still have to GU-up as they run and they're still quite tired when the thing is over.

For many, 13.1 miles is the longest distance that they ever want to run. It's truly a monumental feat and is a distance that very few people can run. It's nothing like the 5Ks that I talked about last week where everyone who has a pair of sneakers shows up. You have to train for these runs and many people train and train hard.

For me, the critical tip is to respect the distance. It's not a leisurely stroll through the countryside. It's 13.1 miles. You run 10 miles and then you have to run a 5K--no easy feat. You need to be concerned with your nutrition so that you have enough fuel for race day.

Prior to my first half-marathon, I actually ran the full distance. Most people say that you should wait to do it for race day, but I wanted to know that I could do the distance. And I think that helped give me the confidence that I could finish it. I haven't done the full distance while training for a marathon, but I've gotten close at 20 miles.

I think the half marathon is achievable enough that you can do the full distance, or at least 11/12 miles of it continuously prior to the race. There's nothing like going into a race knowing that you can do the distance.

My other tip is to run one in the same race as the marathoners. When I ran the Manchester Half-Marathon, it really psyched me up to know that I only had to do half of what the marathoners were doing that day. I was done at their halfway point and that thought helped me through as I started to get tired.

Conversely, during my marathon, it was a pretty big drain to see the half-marathoners finishing while I still had 13.1 to go. But I guess what goes around comes around.

At this point, I'm using half-marathons as training runs for whatever races I happen to be training for. I still respect the distance and bring fuel and am a bit sore afterward, but I'm not racing to win them. I'm racing to do the distance in a reasonable time and to burn some calories.

There's almost nothing better than putting those calories back on with an after-half beer!

This was written as part of the Runner's Lounge Take It and Run Thursday. This week's topic was "how to run the best half-marathon".


Mel-2nd Chances said...

great post!! Your paragraph describing the mental drain of having to do another 1/2 while watching the 1/2 marathoner's finish is the reason I want to hit a 30k distance in a race before tackling a marathon. I think it would help with my mentality of breaking up the second half!

Marlene said...

I love the HM distance. I've only run three (so far), but it's enough of a feat to be proud of without taking the time and commitment that a marathon does... in both preparation and on race day.

You raise some great points and I definitely agree.

I don't think I'll ever forget the 18K point during my marathon when the half'ers took a left turn to head toward the finish while I had to turn right... toward approximately 24 kilometres of hell. ;)

Petraruns said...

I agree with you how it's become the runner's poor relation - when really it, like the 5k and 10k, is simply a different kind of race. I think though - that despite the fact you Gu up etc. - it is a different race precisely because the distance is less of an unknown. In a way that means that you can push yourself harder - you're not worried about the wall at 18M...

Susan said...

Well said! A half is admirable, no question about it.