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What is a Half Marathon?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 23, 2024
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The half marathon is essentially half a marathon run, and it may also sometimes be called a mini-marathon. These events are becoming increasingly popular and sometimes people participate in a half marathon at the same time that a full marathon is held. The difference between full and half is fairly easy to understand. A half marathon is approximated 13.11 miles (about 21K). Sometimes marathons called mini-marathons are much smaller than this and there are 5K and 10K runs that can be called minis.

The appeal of the half marathon can be easily understood. They do not require as extensive training as do full marathons, but training is still advisable, and it can be very dangerous to try to participate in a long run if a person has not worked hard in advance to gain the endurance he’ll need to do it. Lots of people train together in groups or join marathon-training programs in order to prepare adequately to make a 21K run. Most of these events also have pre-registration which gives people time to train, and some of the more popular half marathons quickly meet the allowable number of participants.

As mentioned, these races are popular and they are held around the world. They’re not just for the average Joe or Jane either. Lots of professional and semi-professional athletes participate in half and whole marathons. Records on speed are duly kept at most of them and obviously change, as people are able to push the human body to new speeds and new endurance limits.

Throughout the world there are many popular half marathon events. One of the most popular and garnering some of the largest participation figures is the Great North Run, which was first established in 1981. It is held each year in England, and runners travel between Newcastle on Tyne and South Shield. In the late 2000s, number of runners in this marathon exceeded 50,000 people.

In the US, one of the largest half marathon events is simply called the Mini Marathon. It is held each year in Indiana. In the late 2000s, over 40,000 people ran the Mini Marathon, and attendance of the race is even higher.

For those who can’t run the half marathon, there are still plenty of reasons to watch one. It can be fun to cheer on friends that participate, and many of the large marathons have huge expos, plenty of delicious food, and lots of things to do while people wait.

Sports n' Hobbies is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a Sports n' Hobbies contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By manykitties2 — On Sep 07, 2011

@Saraq90 - One thing a lot of people don't think about when they take up running, and practicing for something like a half marathon, is how important your clothing and shoes are. These things can make your whole experience a lot more comfortable if you take the time to buy the proper workout wear. Any sports clothing store can help you pick out the perfect items.

Basically, while a lot of people just wear any old thing, you can buy clothing specifically made for running. These light fabrics actually help regulate how much air your body gets so you don't get drenched in sweat. Plus, if you are concerned about speed you can get clothes with less wind resistance.

Also, for the ladies out there, nothing beats running with a proper sports bra. I think that is one of the first things women should invest in.

By letshearit — On Sep 06, 2011

A good idea if you are looking at running a half marathon is to join a local club that helps you prepare for these kinds of events. I find that having experienced runners around you is a great way to learn all of the ins and outs of long distance running, plus you get to make lots of new friends.

When I first joined my running club a few of the members ended up taking me under their wings as it were. I got a lot of training tips from them, and found that the encouragement from them really helped me when I was wondering if all the effort was worth it.

By SarahSon — On Sep 05, 2011

My husband has been a marathon runner for many years. It has never been something that I have any desire to participate in, but I know how much he loves it.

His very first half marathon was in April and it was miserable for him. It was cold and rainy and almost felt like sleet. There were many participants who ended up not even running that day.

Since that time he pays a lot more attention to the time of year and location of the marathon he is going to be running in. Some races are picture perfect weather, and others can be way too hot or too cold to get a very good time.

By bagley79 — On Sep 05, 2011

I have never been much of a runner and can't even begin to imagine what it would be like to run a marathon or even a half marathon.

My son loves to run and has participated in many mini marathons around our city. His next goal is to compete in a popular half marathon in June. He has plenty of time to train and get ready for it, and I will be cheering him on from the sidelines!

This is a good month to run a marathon in our part of the country. The weather is usually perfect - not too hot or too cold and the rainy season is usually over too.

By StarJo — On Sep 04, 2011

My boss runs in an annual half marathon held in April. He is very weight and health conscious, and he runs a little every day to stay in shape.

In fact, he uses his lunch break to go run around an indoor track. He will just eat carrots and apples at his desk before going.

One of my coworkers told me that he was obese in high school, and this scarred him and made him obsessed with working out. She told me that he runs an hour on the treadmill after work every day, in addition to his noontime run.

By kylee07drg — On Sep 04, 2011

I can’t imagine running even a half marathon. I once walked eight miles, and it took me three hours. Plus, I was sore the next day.

Some people just aren’t built to run, and I am one of those people. I can’t even run around the yard without getting out of breath.

I have a friend who loves half marathons. She was overweight for years, but she lost the weight by taking up running. She keeps trying to get me started running, but I tell her that my body just isn’t capable. She says that if she could do it at 250 pounds, I definitely could at 130.

By bluespirit — On Sep 03, 2011

Here are some half marathon training tips that have nothing to do with building your running endurance.

Figure out what foods you can eat before running and/or how long your body needs a break from food. I say this because when you get up in mileage you are running for so long it is better to not run on an empty stomach.

Figure out what you can eat while running. Generally when running these long distances people try and eat a energy supplement. And what their stomach actually likes in an energy supplement varies. Types of things I have seen people try to eat and seem to work great energy gels, energy jelly beans, energy fruit snacks, and energy bars.

Last but not least, some sort of lotion to reduce chafing or prevent it completely, the one I was given by a friend who ran was called udder cream. And guys a warning specifically for you: do not forget to put it on your nipples.

By Saraq90 — On Sep 02, 2011

I feel nervous about not only running so far but it seems even more would need to go into a half marathon than just the running. For example, how do you find the right shoes?

How do you find the right clothes? How much water do you drink?!

I could go on, but rather I will ask a general question: What are some tips for the whole half marathon process?

By Speechie — On Sep 02, 2011

@amysamp - There are a ton of half marathons in May, you can actually find a website that collects all the half marathons in the United States and some around the world that are listed by state or by month. I would suggest looking at one of these sites.

But if I may suggest, since I live in North Carolina, the "Run for the Warriors Half Marathon" located in Jacksonville. This half marathon has a charity that it sponsors (as I believe most half marathons do), but this charity is for the troops as Jacksonville is a town with a Marine Corp base.

Also important - the beach is not far from Jacksonville! So go run and then be lazy with some sand between your toes.

By amysamp — On Sep 01, 2011

@MrsWinslow - My husband and I both have run half marathons and he prefers the running and walking approach and I prefer the "trying" to run all the way through.

The interval approach is a great one! The last time my husband used it while running a half marathon he ran around nine minute miles!!! The interval he uses is to run for five minutes then walk for one minute.

There are even watches that can run this interval and it beeps to let you know when to stop running and then start back up again when the minute walk is over.

My husband does not like to spend money, so instead he found a free app for his phone that whistles at him.

I'd say the things he likes most about the interval training is 1) he gets to stop running at some point and 2) the intervals break up the monotony for him.

We were looking for some half marathons in May, so that they weather would not be too hot during training and the actual half marathon. Has anyone know of any on the east coast?

By MrsWinslow — On Sep 01, 2011

One option that not everyone is aware of is to run - walk a half marathon. I have a friend who does this. I'm not sure what intervals she uses but basically she runs for a while, then walks for a while, throughout the entire event.

She was pretty sedentary in high school, but obviously since she's taken up distance running she's lost a lot of weight. She mostly does 5K and 10K events, a few times a year, but just once or twice a year she does a half marathon as her big push.

By latte31 — On Aug 31, 2011

@Oasis11- It is not so bad after you’ve run a couple of half marathons. I started with a group at work. We all decided to participate in a half marathon that our company was sponsoring. We got together and found a half marathon running schedule and used that for our training.

If you have never run a half marathon before you need at least three months to prepare yourself. We trained five days a week and had longer running days and shorter running days. That is what surprised me. I thought that the training schedule would have us run longer and longer each day, but it didn’t. I think that my first week I had one day that I ran four miles. When I saw the training schedule, I realized that I could do the half marathon because it was a slow progression and I knew I would be able to eventually do it as long as I stuck to my training schedule.

I think that when you set big goals like this and achieve them it really offers you such a sense of confidence that is priceless.

By oasis11 — On Aug 31, 2011

I think that running a half marathon takes a lot of training and a high level of endurance to actually make it. I have never run a half marathon, but I know people that have and they really take their running seriously. Many of them have joined groups after work that go on scheduled training runs.

I guess that aspect would be fun because you get to run with a group of people and you are not alone. It also keeps you more accountable on the days you don’t feel like running because you will have someone in the group that will motivate you. For me, the 10K is as far as I am going to push myself, but I do have respect for people that do this all of the time. Running a half marathon is not easy but I bet it is exhilarating when you finish.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a Sports n' Hobbies contributor, Tricia...
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