Half vs Full Marathon

by - Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Today's itinerary has us docking in Labadee, Haiti, on Royal Caribbean's private island. While we're there, the ship will be delivering relief supplies for the earthquake rebuilding efforts. I'll discuss in more detail my feelings on docking in Haiti when I return.

Until then, please welcome my bloggy twin in name: Jess from 21 Days who will be talking about deciding between a half and full marathon!

On January 5, 2007, I found myself at mile 26 of the Disney Marathon wanting to die. That’s not hyperbole. Seriously, my one desire on that day, in that moment, was to allow myself to keel over into the Epcot grass and allow myself to succumb to the pain and misery that the marathon was inflicting upon me and die.

A year later, on January 27, 2008, I found myself at mile 13 of the Miami Half Marathon, and as I rounded the last corner before the race’s final stretch, I felt invigorated, strong, and bursting with pride.

I crossed the finish line of both of those races, but the differences in how I felt when I crossed the finish line of those two races, pretty much sums up my two very different feelings about the half and the full marathon.

In 2006, when I registered for the Disney Marathon, I did so partially because I felt that, as a runner, my ultimate running goal should include conquering the marathon. I knew I was supposed to want to run a marathon. I was supposed to yearn for it, I was supposed to aspire toward it, and I was supposed to hunger for it. The truth was, though, that I really didn’t feel that passionately about it. I just felt that to be a “real” runner, I should feel all those things for it. So, I registered for the wrong reasons, trained inappropriately and inadequately, and ultimately, I missed my time goal by a huge margin and was in incredible pain at the end. So, I finished, yes. But it wasn’t a good race.

Did I learn my lesson after that? Of course not!

I turned around and registered for Chicago in 2007. That time around, I was determined to have my revenge on the marathon. I would train like a superhero and I would meet every expectation that I had failed to achieve at Disney. So, the 2nd time around, I trained with a group. I did all my long runs, all my speed work, all my hills. But none of that was all that much help that fated day when the marathon got cancelled in the middle of the race due to the extreme heat, and I found myself in a medical tent being treated for heat exhaustion instead of crossing the finish line in my glorious revenge.

Then, I learned my lesson.

I realized, after Chicago, that I didn’t really like any aspect of the marathon: I just felt like I was supposed to like it. And, that, certainly, wasn’t a good enough reason to train for one again. So, I decided instead to step back and think about what distances I did like – 5K was too short for someone like me who’s not speedy, 10K seemed alright but I wanted a greater sense of challenge when training and a greater sense of accomplishment when crossing the finish line. So, I naturally arrived at the half marathon.

Since crossing the finish line at Miami 2 years ago, I’ve run 5 other half marathons, and in the next few months, I plan to add 3 more to that. In the half marathon, I’ve found the perfect balance of a challenging distance combined with a manageable training schedule. I can run 20-25 miles a week and be in good condition for the half marathon; my long runs don’t take me any longer than 2 hours; and on race day, I look forward to the distance instead of dreading and fearing it.

Will I ever go back to the full marathon? Probably. But, I need to wait until I can come up with the right reasons to do so. For now, I’m happy with the half. It works well for me and the kind of runner that I am. Thus, discovering the kind of race I prefer, and being comfortable with that, probably makes me a “real” runner in more ways than what I thought I was doing when I forced myself to believe I wanted to be a marathoner.

You May Also Like


  1. Thanks, Jess from FL, for this post! A part of me would love to try and attempt the marathon distance but I can't think of very many pros to that. I love the HM distance and hope to do another one in the near future!

  2. I feel the same way about the half ironman triathlon. Since trying the distance the first time, it feels like the right distance to train for and really accomplish something, but still not end up in the medical tent or completely alienating your family to train like the full ironman will.

  3. i concur fully! thanks florida-jess for the guest post. i ran chicago '07 too - it was definitely rough. i've continued to drag myself to more marathons but i'm beginning to see the light too and may cutback here soon.

    pa/dc-jess - i am still jealous of you :)

  4. Thanks for allowing me to guest blog!

  5. Thanks for letting FL-Jess to post... now I get to know your blog too! I like it :-D I've done a full and some HMs... and although I LOVED that I finished a full... the half is just better on my lifestyle.

  6. Nicely said FL Jess. I agree completely with what you said, although I've never attempted a full, I just can't see myself committing to the training and the distance. The half marathon seems so much more manageable.

  7. I really love half marathons, but keep getting sucked in to fulls with this idea that it makes me more of a runner...so DUMB!

  8. Anonymous7:43 PM

    This post makes me super happy! I started training for a marathon in December only to find that my eyes were bigger than my stomach kind of thing..I decided after getting a cold that lasted way longer than it should that I was just too behind to catch up to the training plan and I would have to push the marathon to another time. I am not training for my first half-marathon. While at first I thought of it as a downgrade, I know think of it as much much more than that. I love the more flexible training schedule and more manageable distances. I completely agree with this post! I'm going to check out your blog now : )

  9. This is interesting to me because I am the complete opposite. I'm currently training for my 13th marathon (I've also completed 3 road and 3 trail halfs). Marathon training has been a part of my life for the past 5+ years, so I don't think twice about finding time to fit some runs into a busy week.

    However, I think a half marathon is a respectable race distance, and it is definitely a challenge to me. Actually, there's now a 50 states club for half marathoners http://www.halfmarathonclub.com/
    They also have a challenge where you can complete 100 halfs anywhere- so you don't have to travel to every state.