10 Reasons You Should Run a Half Marathon


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Running a half marathon is far from easy. It takes time, energy, focus and determination. Sometimes it feels like all you get in return are blisters, an increased appetite and a ton of laundry.

But those moments are few and far between compared to what you get back: setting a goal and accomplishing it, while you get in better shape, make new friends and learn more about yourself.

1) It’ll get you back in touch with your world

If you’re anything like me, your life is centrally located in a few places. My office, my apartment, my favorite coffee shop, the local running store I can’t stop going to just to pet everything. It’s easy to forget about the things you never see.

Committing to a half marathon training plan means committing to more hours a week outside. Unplug. Go without headphones. Run down a mystery trail. Take a left where you’ve always gone right. Use your hours in your running shoes to reconnect with your community.

Get a little lost — you never know what you might find. If you’re a stickler for mileage, get a GPS watch. It can be pricey but the freedom is amazing. As soon as my running partner and I got a watch we tossed out our normal loops and planned courses and just started to explore.

2) It simplifies your life

Life is filled with ups and downs. Some days it feels like everyone has invited themselves to weigh in on everything you do. As a journalist, I not only report to my editors but then manage the feedback that comes like a tidal wave from everyone who can hide behind a social media account. It can be exhausting.

If you’re someone who likes to make others happy, life can feel like a big game of tag, darting all over the place trying to appease everyone with their ever-changing expectations. More often than not, the weight of others opinions is all in your head, but it still can make you feel wiped out.

That’s where running comes in. Just go. Put one foot in front of the other. Every step is a step in the right direction. Plain and simple. No one gets to weigh in. You get your goals. On days when you’re overwhelmed it feels great to go put a few miles in knowing that you’ve done a good job and you’re 4 miles closer to your goal of a half marathon. You did it — and that’s that.

3) It’s low-maintenance fitness

All you need are running shoes. Don’t get me wrong, I love my running gadgets. I swear by my Garmin Forerunner 220, wear my Misfit Shine fitness tracker everywhere, am obsessed with Milestone Pods and can’t stop acquiring running outfits.

But the reality is, all I need are my running shoes. No matter where I go I can ask around for a good trail or loop and once I slip my running shoes on I am good to go.

I always feel better after some exercise and as long as I have my shoes — I know I can get in a run. Don’t have the cash to fly your bike around with you? Can’t transport your gym across town to squeeze in a workout? Just hit the pavement.

4) It gives your self esteem a boost

I am not going to talk about weight loss here. Sometimes during training I weigh more than before I started training. Sometimes I weigh less. The difference? I don’t care. It’s hard to be mad at your body for gaining a few pounds when you know it can run 13.1 miles.

It’s important to be healthy — but by running and setting a goal, you shift your focus from what your body weighs to what it accomplishes. Did you know my thighs (which are growing larger — and heavier — muscles by the second) have sped up my half marathon PR by more than 10 minutes? I have no interest in what the scale has to say about that.

5) It gives you space to spend some time alone

I get my best thinking done on a run. If something is bothering me, I can usually sort it out in my mind while I listen to the comforting background music of my shoes crunching on the gravel. Even when I don’t have a problem to sort through, time spent running is time taken advantage of in my brain.

I’ve never been good with downtime so when I head out on a run, I come back with a story idea, a plan to reorganize my work space, a grocery list and a to-do list. When you’re out there alone for hours every week, it’s hard not to reflect.

Through runs I’ve been able to realize what’s really bothering me, when I need to apologize, when I need to stand up and say something and when I just need a nap. I know me better because of the time I’ve spent being honest with myself.

6) It brings a new, magical energy to your life

When you’re out for a run, you don’t usually have the option to quit. Somehow, you have to get home. If there is a hill in the way, you’re just going to have to go up it.

All of this is hard at first. But once you get into your half marathon training, your body starts to understand the work it has to do. Then the magic happens.

That stamina moves into your non-running life. Need to stand just a little longer even though you back hurts? At least you’re not at mile 9 of a 14-mile run. Need to sit through a boring meeting for 40 more minutes? It’s probably not as daunting at that hill you use for repeats.

7) It’s a challenging — but achievable — goal

A half marathon is an enormous accomplishment, one that takes dedication and hard work but doesn’t leave your body torn in half, broken and constantly ravenous like full marathon training.

Race day comes and while you’ll be plenty sore the next day, you can still make plans to do things. Marathoners are better off staying home rather than risking having to confront a single stair.

8) It introduces you to a world of new people

Sometimes a friendly new face can turn your day around. I’ve met so many people through running. Some are now my best friends, some I’ve only waved to on the path. No matter what, it’s always nice to have a new connection. Runners are an active and supportive bunch on social media.

Through tweeting on the hashtag #runchat I met a bunch of fabulous runners who came into town for Washington D.C.’s Cherry Blossom 10 Miler in April. We all met up for doughnuts after the race and it was like we’d known each other for years.

Once you get into running, some of your non-runner friends won’t be totally fascinated by every last detail of your long run or the status of your black toenail. Running friends — well, they get it.

9) Because you can

Caleb was just 15 pounds when I met him, but his adorable smile filled up my whole heart immediately. Caleb has Congenital CMV (Cytomegalovirus) and Microcephaly a virus linked to developmental disabilities.

I met Caleb through a wonderful program called Who I Run 4. The organization matches runners with children who have special needs. The point? To provide some always needed two-way inspiration. I do the running and report back to Caleb (and his mom) about my experiences.

We both will keep each other going – and smiling. The main way the group encourages runners to communicate with their matches to through posting on Facebook. Words, photos anything that lets your match know you are thinking of them.

Whenever I lose my motivation I remember Caleb and the other special needs buddies at Who I Run 4. Some of them won’t ever get to run. Some will never feel a runner’s high. I am lucky enough to know how good a hot shower feels after a 22-mile run through the polar vortex. Just being able to experience it makes it worth it.

10) Once you do it, no one can ever take it away from you

You’ll never have not done a half marathon every again.

Did you get that? That’s all I could think of when the finish line came into view at my first 13.1. “Once I cross that finish I’ll be a half marathoner. Even if I never run again, I’ll be a half marathoner.”

It’s a great feeling and while the time to wear your medal will pass, your triumphant finishing photo will inch down your Facebook wall into the abyss of accomplishments past and your race shirt will decompose after too many washes — you’ll always be a half marathoner.

7 comments… add one
  • Mary I Run 4 Summer November 21, 2016, 12:57 pm

    Thank you for writing this piece. I have recently, in the past 2 weeks recently, to conquer my first half marathon in April.

    I’m nervous & excited as my longest event has been a run/walk 10k. I found a 20 week training schedule that starts tomorrow. I’m going to continue my METCON classes, yoga, spin classes, hiking & my weights in preparation.

    In training for my 10K & the Bisbee 1000 Stairclimb, my I Run 4 Buddy Summer has been a constant motivating force. She has been since Oct 31st, 2013. When I joined I expected nothing in return. What I received has been invaluable in the relationship I have with my buddy & her family…even though I’ve never met her. The thought of her pushes me when I’m feeling lazy & don’t want to do the work. She pushes me in a race if I’m struggling & she’s helping me regain my health from half way across the country even though I’ve never met her.

  • Michael October 1, 2016, 7:38 pm

    Today I ran my fist 1/2, other than a 5k last month, I never ran an event before. Finished a respectable 2.48.38. my story is this>>>I retired in January after a 24 1/2 year career in law enforcement. I started down a dark path, drank too much, picked up smoking again…a woman friend gently persuaded me cut it out, work out, get in shape, In May 2016, gave up the drinking and smoking, I started walking, than walking running, then all running, suffered thru a brutal humid hot summer of training, did a local 5k
    in August… now this…I am eternally grateful to you Cynthia, I will always be a half Marathoner…xo

  • Lisa September 18, 2016, 2:01 pm

    I am 47, and have been through some incredibly rough spots in my life, that include addiction and violence. I ran my first Half Marathon in a state women’s prison, of all of the unlikely places…three and a half years ago and never looked back…with three “halfs” under my belt, and newly home, I’ve resumed running as a free person, averaging 40 miles per week, and looking forward to my first half in the “real” world:)

    Running (and tons of yoga) not only saved my life, but became an amazing piece of grace for me forever:)

    • Daniel September 21, 2016, 12:30 pm

      I ran my first half in prison too! I did 17 years in prison and have run several since I’ve gotten out. Running saved my life too. And continues too

  • Cathy September 6, 2016, 12:44 pm

    When some racing colleages at work asked me to join them I said “You know how old I am? I’m 53 years old and I never ran in my life!” The only running I did was chasing my girls when they were toddlers. Eight half marathons later and here I am at 56 still running strong and addicted to trail running. My dream is to run the Great Wall of China and Iceland and other destination races.

  • TJ February 9, 2016, 11:31 pm

    Sitting here trying to figure out whether to enter the 10k or the Half Marathon. Thanks for the encouraging article! Lots of good reasons to go for it.

  • Jonathan December 29, 2014, 10:37 am

    I agree with every item on this list, with the exception of #3. Reason being is finding the right pair of running shoes is vital & important and can get expensive. A person can’t walk into a budget store like say Big 5 sporting goods sporting goods and get a pair of running shoes that will last them many miles and provide them with the proper support and not prevent running related injuries.

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