• Even after a difficult 13.1 mile (21K) race, runners can usually celebrate that evening
• Beginners who yearn to run a marathon see this distance as the first big step
• Marathoners find that the "half" keeps them in shape for their next "full"
• The distance is enough of a challenge to keep runners focused and energized
• Increasing long runs towards a half marathon race results in faster times at 5K, 10K, etc.
After studying findings of experts who specialize in ancient man, I’ve come to believe that training for long distances connects us directly to our roots. Primitive man had to walk and run for survival—thousands of miles a year. Through millions of years of evolution, the muscles, tendons, bones, energy systems and cardiovascular capacity adapted and expanded. A series of psychological rewards also developed, which make us feel good about ourselves when we run and walk at the correct pace in a consistent training program.
The primary goal of ancient migration was to reach the next destination. Likewise, the greatest joy for half marathoners comes in crossing the finish line. Finishing 13.1 miles is an elite achievement: only four tenths of one percent of the population does this each year. The satisfaction and accomplishment are similar to that experienced from the marathon.
There are quite a few lessons to be learned as one extends one’s endurance limit beyond 13 miles or 21K: conservation of resources, pacing, fluid intake, blood sugar maintenance, etc. But making a mistake during "half" training does not incur the injury risk or the down time experienced after marathon errors. If you find a way to enjoy a part of every run, your half marathon training can bring joy, satisfaction, achievement, and a positive sense of focus. For many, the challenge teaches individuals that they have unused hidden resources that can be used to deal with other challenges in life. Much of the success and joy comes from a unique endurance blending of body, mind and spirit.
I salute all who put themselves to a realistic challenge, such as the half marathon. If you haven’t done this before, you have one of life’s great rewards waiting for you as you discover that you have much more strength inside than you envisioned.