While there are similarities between a half marathon and other distances, like a 10k or 10 miler, a half marathon demands a higher level of commitment to running and training. It’s not a race you can just wake up and do—it takes time, effort, and sometimes a little sacrifice. To be clear: The end result (running a half marathon) is worth it. But if you’ve never run a half before—and have perhaps run other, shorter races—there are several differences to keep in mind…
Training for a half marathon takes several months
When you train for a 5K or 10K race, the time you spend preparing can range from 5 weeks (for a 5K) to 16 weeks (for a 10K). In comparison, half marathon training plans range from 10 to 16 weeks (3 to 4 months), sometimes less if you’re an experienced runner
You’ll run more miles (and days) per week
Most half marathon training programs will recommend running 3 to 5 times a week. Weekly mileage can range from a little less than 32 km (almost 20 miles) per week to around 80 km (or roughly 50 miles) per week, depending on your experience level. Your long runs will also be higher mileage when training for a half marathon as compared to a 5k or 10k. That said, many training plans only have you run 16 km (about 10 miles) before your half marathon. Believe it or not, that’s enough to get you to the finish line! For higher mileage runners who have a high training frequency, your longest run will likely be between 16 and 20 km, or 10 and 12.4 miles respectively.
You’ll need to rest and recover more
As we said, half marathon training lasts 3 to 4 months, and you’ll be logging a good amount of mileage all the while. This means that, if you want to stay injury-free and be able to run on race day, you have no choice but to take your recovery and rest time seriously. You should be striving for eight or so hours of sleep per night, stretching regularly, and taking 1 to 2 rest days each week (or cross-training, depending on what your training plan advises).
Read more: Things you may consider if you think you’re ready to take to run a marathon.