Half marathons are growing in popularity. Longer than a 10 k run but shorter than the full 26 mile marathons, a half marathon seems achievable for many people, myself included. In fact, my wife and I have committed to running a half marathon this year. Our reasons are probably like a lot of people's:
- We want to get in shape
- We want the sense of accomplishment
- We dream of doing a full marathon someday
A half marathon is 21 kilometers, or 13 miles. When I was younger I'd run 6 miles each morning before working out, but that was more than thirty years ago. Now my longest run is the annual Vancouver Sun Run, which comes in at 10 kilometers. My time is usually about an hour, which is also about the world record time for a half marathon. I don't think it will be too hard to finish the half, but I still want to train.
As of 2011 the largest half marathon was held in Gothenburg, Sweden, with almost 60,000 entrants. There are other large half marathons, in cities like New York, Boston and Berlin, along with countless others in cities around the world. Some people combine vacations with half marathons. Interestingly, more women run half marathons than men.We're going to enter the BMO Vancouver Half Marathon, which, like many halfs, runs concurrently with the Vancouver Marathon.
There are lots of training regimes or plans available online. Things to consider are your general fitness level and your running experience. Many websites recommend that you be an active runner with at least 6 months of running under your belt with a pace of 10-15 miles per week before taking on a half marathon. It's also good advice to consult a doctor before you start a training regimen. We're ignoring both requirements, but that's because we're already pretty active.
The BMO Vancouver Half Marathon occurs May 5, 2013, which gives us just over 4 months to train. Most training plans are 12 weeks or less, so we have lots of time. Our challenge is the weather. It's winter, and the next four months will be cold, dark and wet. Staying motivated might be hard, but there are some solutions. The first is to join a running club. There are usually several in larger cities, and most have half marathon training programs. Another option is to contact a local running supply store - they generally run training clinics as part of their marketing programs. You can also purchase coaching programs online, complete with email reminders to keep you moving.
Training programs themselves are often as short as three weeks, but twelve to fourteen weeks is more normal. For a beginner a twelve week training program with a goal of finishing the half marathon in about two hours is quite realistic. Training revolves around a weekly schedule, with two days off per week for recovery (advanced runners sometimes forgo the rest days completely, but this is not recommended for beginners or older runners). A beginner training plan will probably see you run between 15 and 25 miles per week, tapering off just before your race.
You don't have to spend a lot of money on running gear. All most people really need are some good shoes, although more people are now running barefoot! For beginners, though, get some shoes. Visit a running store and get professional advice. If you like the shoes after running in them for a week or two, buy a couple more pairs. Doing this allows you to dry or air out shoes between runs, and you won't have to break in some new shoes just before race day.
Purpose designed running apparel is available for those who don't want to run in jeans and an old T-shirt! One feature to look for is fabric designed to wick perspiration away from the body. In hot sunny weather you'll need light clothing that protects you from the sun. In colder weather you'll need layers, and a hat is a good idea - most body heat is lost from the head. And remember - training in dark rainy conditions means you need reflective clothing if you spend any time running where there are cars.
A lot of people call half marathons the Goldilocks race because they aren't too short or too long, but are just right. A beginner can train for one over the course of 3 to 4 months. They help you get in better shape, they give you a sense of accomplishment and they can prepare you for running a full marathon. There are lots that you can enter, in your home town or on vacation. You don't need to spend a lot on gear. What are you waiting for? Make this the year you surprise your friends, family and yourself and run a half marathon!