If you’ve been bitten by the race bug and have a few 5Ks under your belt, chances are you’re looking for a new challenge. With half-marathons becoming incredibly popular, (there were more than 2,000 such events in the US last year!), it’s possible that running 13.1 miles is on your bucket list. However, if you’re a slow runner, you might be asking yourself whether or not this distance is within your grasp.
The short answer? Absolutely.
As more and more people join the running movement, all pace levels are represented. The run-walk approach has become increasingly common (and completely accepted) during long-distance endurance events. This is great news for slow runners, because it means these events are accessible to people of all abilities. Everyone can join in the fun!
That being said, when making the leap from a 5K to a longer distance, such as a half-marathon, there are a few things to consider when choosing your event.
Do you have time to train?
It’s pretty easy to complete a 5K without training. Sure, you might have to walk most of it, but you’ll still cross the finish line in under an hour and be able to walk the next day.
A half-marathon is different. It takes time to build up that kind of endurance
. Whether you plan to walk, run, or do some combination of the two, you need to train your body to keep moving forward for 2.5 hours or more. You’ll have to make time to consistently run at least 3 times per week for a few months. And, in the weeks leading up to your event, a few of your training runs might even exceed three hours in length, depending on how fast you run.
It takes planning and organization (not to mention mental strength) to stick with a half-marathon training plan, so be sure you’ll be able to clear your schedule as needed to support your goals. Depending on your current weekly mileage, you’ll also need at least three months to prepare, so choose a race that gives you enough time to train.
Finding a local (or virtual) training group can be a great motivator and accountability tool. I suggest seeking out a Galloway group near you or joining a Facebook community (like the RunBuzz Facebook group
) for support. Knowing that others are working towards the same goal can make all the difference in your training.
How big is the race?
For a newbie half-marathoner, a large race might be the way to go. There will be a wider variety of experience levels and speeds, and you’re more likely to find runners of your same ability. Also, the course is likely to be open longer, which means that hydration stations along the route will still be operational when you cruise through.
Is there a time limit?
There’s nothing worse than training your butt off for an event only to get picked up by the sweep van because you didn’t make the cutoff. You lose the powerful experience of crossing the finish line and getting your finisher’s medal.
There are lots of reasons why a race might set a time limit (city ordinances, availability of local police to direct traffic, etc.), but it still sucks to get pulled from the course. When choosing a half-marathon, take into account your projected pace for the event and select accordingly. There are tons of half-marathons that allow for 16 minute mile paces or slower, and it shouldn’t take much research to find one.
What are the typical finish times?
Even if there’s no time limit, when you’re a slower runner, you’ll probably find yourself running by yourself for extended periods of time or crossing the finish line towards the very end of the pack.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this.
Just like someone has to come in first, someone also has to come in last. But, if you think this will bother you, try to find a race that’s more likely to have lots of people at your ability level.
In other words, if last year’s last place finisher came in at 2:30, and you run a 15-minute mile, this might not be the race for you.
With all that being said, I think a half-marathon is an awesome goal to shoot for – it’s big enough to be a little scary, but also something that’s well within your grasp! Crossing the finish line will feel amazing and is something you’ll remember for as long as you live.