The half marathon
(13.1 miles) is one of the fastest growing race distances, with new races popping up all over the world. If you've been on the fence about whether you should run a half marathon, here are 13 reasons to give the distance a try:
John P Kelly
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.
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.
Kevin Arnold/Getty Images
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 out MapMyRun.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.
Linda Spillers/Getty Images
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.
More: Charity Running Groups