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Why is the half marathon so popular?

In recent years, there has been an explosion of half marathon races across the United States. Let's look at the stats. In 2000, there was only one half marathon ("Indianapolis 500 Half Marathon") with a total amount of finishers above 10,000, and only 4 with more than 5,000 finishers. In 2007, there were 10 with over 10,000, and 32 with 5,000 or more finishers. The nation's largest, the "Indianapolis 500 Half Marathon" grew from 18,000 to over 29,000 finishers in that time period. So why has the half marathon increased in participation? Here are some thoughts.

First of all, marathon race directors needed something else to gain participation. There were hardly any "in between" races between 10Ks and the marathon. Running a 10K and then thinking about the next step to running a marathon became intimidating for most recreational runners. So race directors decided to put in the half marathon along with their marathon to get more runners involved. The additional expenses are nominal and they basically run the same course. Now you see most city's half marathons are the same day as that city's marathon.

Secondly, like previously mentioned, is the intimidation factor, or lack thereof. A half marathon is not a daunting task to train for like a marathon. As seen over the years, on a July Saturday morning at Memorial Park, for example, the park is full of wannabe marathoners beginning their training for the "Houston Marathon". Then as October and November roll around, it is much easier to find a parking spot as the wannabes become less and less as the miles begin to take their toll on the body. Once runners begin to do double-digit miles every Saturday morning, injuries come up, fatigue, and the motivation factor dwindles. Training for a marathon is not easy, and only the strong survive. With that goes the training. A lot of moms and dads do the half marathon because of time constraints to train for the marathon. With soccer, baseball, etc. on Saturday mornings, it is easier to fit in a 10 mile run before the kid's game than a 20 mile run.

Thirdly, there has also been an explosion of walkers to the scene. With some marathons there is a stringent time limit to complete the marathon, and thus walkers cannot complete the marathon (unless they are race walking) in under six or seven hours. With the half marathon, the race directors are a little more lenient with the time constraints and figure most halfmarathoners can finish a half marathon in under four hours.

Another point is that, if there is a half marathon along with the marathon, one can see other family members who have been inspired to train for the half marathon come along and run the half marathon with the person who is doing the marathon. It can now be a family affair and not just about focusing on the person running the marathon. Everyone wins!

Lastly, a person feels that they are in pretty good shape if they can run 13.1 miles. Whether it was ran in under one hour or under three hours, a sense of accomplishment has just been made. They feel like a runner now. Every time at the park there are at least a handful of people who are wearing a half marathon Finisher's T-shirt. They are proud of their accomplishment, and they want everyone to know it. Yes, finishing a half marathon is a great accomplishment!

Credits - WorldwideRunning.com would like to thank the website Runner One (www.runnerone.com) for the authorization to reprint the article "Half Marathon Popularity" by Tim Neckar.


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