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What it Feels like to Run a Half Marathon

by Daniel Johnston

Running a half marathon is an awesome experience, and it is in fact my favorite of all the race distances.

When I decided to sign up for a half marathon, me and my friend decided to do it together so it seemed like a great opportunity. I knew I could easily finish, but I also wanted to finish relatively fast. My initial goal was under 1:30 (or 6:40 pace per mile).

Unfortunately, as I soon realized through my training, that was unfeasible. I trained the best I could, using Hansons Half Marathon Method. As the best pace as I could hold for my training runs was 7:45 (which were half the length of a half marathon), I started to become really worried that maybe I couldn’t go as fast as I wanted after all.

I revised my goal to 1:35, which I was still worried about. But I read from all kinds of people that you can run a half marathon faster than you think, and if you’re able to keep the pace in your training runs you should increase your goal pace!

So on race day I settled in behind the 1:35 group (I knew better than to try and speed and keep up with them; pacers always go way too fast, but I tried to keep them in my sight to motivate me) and got going. I went out a little fast for the first mile, but not too much.

1:35 is a pace of 7:15 per mile. I was knocking ’em off easy. 7:05, 7:25, 7:07, 7:03, 7:22. Before I knew it, I was already halfway done! I couldn’t believe it. After experiencing the horrible pain that is a 5k, I’d imagine the half marathon would be infinitely more difficult. But it was a breeze. No problem!

At mile 7 it started getting a little harder, but not much. I was just listening to my music and feeling great! I had a little GU and drank gatorade at every station, and that seemed to work well.

A nice thing I noticed about the half marathon is that people are much more supportive and encouraging of each other. In a 5k everyone knows they are fully capable of doing it, but a half marathon is a big event. It is a thing people plan for, talk about, and work up to. Consequently, there is a feeling of camaraderie running a half marathon, that we’re all in this together and we all recognize the achievement and effort of this race.

Towards the last mile, things got pretty challenging. The last mile I had to really push myself to keep pace. I had been running with a guy for about a mile, and as we got to the finish line he sprinted, trying to beat me. I didn’t follow him, because I was afraid I would collapse before the finish line!

I felt so great when I was done, though. I finished in 1:35, which was awesome! Not only that, but I placed third in my age group in my first ever half marathon!! I’m still bragging about that one 🙂

The reason a half marathon feels so great is because you’re running usually about fifteen to twenty seconds slower than your lactate threshold. Your lactate threshold is the point that lactic acid starts to build up in your muscles. That is not fun, and it’s what makes 5ks so challenging, because they’re run about twenty seconds faster than your lactate threshold. So basically, a half marathon pace is a pace you should be able to keep all day (but you don’t have to, like you do in a marathon). It’s also short enough that your body doesn’t start breaking down or having physiological problems.

So physically, running a half marathon feels great. It puts the least stress on your body of any race that I know. As long as your body is strong enough to complete it, you’re going to enjoy it if you don’t go too fast at the beginning (a mistake that far too many runners make).

Emotionally is the best thing, though. While running a 5k feels great, it does not compare to running a half marathon. I still have not recovered from the thrill of my first half marathon. I worked hard for months, and I accomplished it! I will never forget the amazing feeling I had running that early morning, having the time of my life with the rest of the universe.

If you’re thinking about running a half marathon, I would definitely do it. For your best race, though, training is a definite must.

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