Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A half marathon is not half a race

21.1km, or 13.1 miles. Whichever way you put it, it's a respectable distance. I kind of dislike the term "half marathon" to describe it. To be able to complete one, you have to be pretty darn fit. To complete it well (i.e., with both feet on the ground and a smile on your face), good dedicated training time has to be put into it. It requires discipline, knowledge, loads of time, and physical and emotional strength. For this reason, some people say jokingly that it's named wrong: the half marathon should be called a marathon, and the full marathon should be renamed a double marathon. That I disagree with, but I know that I have mixed feelings about the title "half marathon" as I'm now 24 days away from race day - the GoodLife Fitness Victoria Half Marathon.
Running a half marathon that's attached to an event that includes a marathon (and not just any marathon, but one that is a qualifier for the elite Boston marathon) is both awesome and not. It's awesome because it's an elite recognized event and running the half is one step away from running the full. But there's a part of me that feels like I'm taking the "short cut". Or that when I tell people about the race I need to insert the word "only" in my sentence: "I am only running the half marathon." In a book I am following as a training guide, written by John Stanton, founder of the Running Room, he says that it isn't called the "only half marathon" so we shouldn't call it that. I keep reminding myself of those simple words. It's for this reason that many runners who run halfs choose halfs that don't have a full marathon as an option. The previous halfs I've done have been that way, and indeed you feel like the cream of the crop!

I know that I'm doing something great by running this race. It's been 7 years since I was capable of doing a race like this and completing it. I had to overcome all kinds of health issues. I have lost and kept off 120 lbs. My body is still changing and my muscles are toning. I am anxious for another finisher medal to display with my other ones (they're a little dusty). I am eager to cross a finish line and prove to myself that although I'm days away from turning 31, I'm more fit, stronger, and faster than I was at 24. I'm not just running to complete the race like in the past. I'm running this time to finish within a goal time. I'm taking my training seriously. I'm running as much and as far as my guidebook is telling me. I'm taking rest when I need it, cross-training in sensible ways, being conscious of nutrition, and considering all the right gear. I'm running with a friend about once a week and will on race day, and getting/giving support, encouragement, and advice every step of the way. I've learned about the different types of running, found enjoyment in the challenging hill sessions and am looking forward to my speed sessions. I am currently running more than 40km per week and still get excited about every km I clock. This half marathon IS a big deal.

I think it's my competitive spirit though. Regardless of what I know about what I'm doing and how it's over and above the average runner, I know that my ultimate goal is to indeed run a full marathon. There's something so awe-inspiring about that idea. I believe that completing a full marathon might feel like the biggest accomplishment of my life. So while I don't want to say that my half marathon is half a race (that would be silly....), I will say that completing the half will make me half way there. Halfway to my ultimate goal. Wow!

I'm 24 days away from my half marathon, and 234 days away from the full I've set my sights on :-)


  1. Some great insights here! There's nothing wrong with always setting your sights on the next goal but always remember that you are exactly where you are meant to be in this moment. And that THAT is perfection. I KNOW you have a competitive spirit - in everything from ladder ball to karem and the numerous other board games we've played. :) But remember to shrug that off once in awhile even for a moment here and there. It's those moments that tell your body you are "enough". You've worked enormously hard, emotionally and physically, to get to where you are today. Enjoy that on race day as we cheer you on!!

  2. Hey, I posted that's me, Tas!!

  3. Couldn't have said it better myself. I, too, have had to work through the "only a half marathon" I realize how silly it is and how huge an accomplishment it is for me. Most people who are non-runners definately think that it is a big deal. And so should I. An acquiantance of mine who sees the glass half full (and perhaps more!) all the time likes to say that he will be running the "full half marathon"...emphasizing that it is a huge accomplishment to run that entire distance! I couldn't agree more.

  4. Patti, I love that idea - a full half marathon! I think that among non-runners, it's recognized that a half is a huge accomplishment. But when you get into the running community, you start to notice how many people can call themselves marathoners, and it can feel belittling. This race's glass IS INDEED HALF FULL. Let's make sure we definitely celebrate our half marathon finish in style. We are deserving of that! Hope your speed session went well today! We are so ready for the race already, the next 3 weeks are about making our finish even better!

  5. And Tas, thanks for cheering me on and being so encouraging :-)

  6. A 'full half marathon' is a great way to put it! Wow, the race is so close now! :)