What’s in a Half (Marathon)?

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By Megan Cox

We all know about the first marathoner, right? It’s such a cheerful story. Legend has it that a Greek messenger named Pheidippides was sent from the battlefield of Marathon to Athens to announce the defeat of the Persians.

It was August, apparently, and Pheidippides ran the entire way. What happened when he finished? He died from exhaustion. Inspiring, huh? I guess the moral of the story for us runners is that 1) you should never overexert yourself in the heat, and 2) proper training is essential.

Anyway, the marathon as we know it was one of the original modern Olympic events in 1896 (although the distance wasn’t standardized until 1921). And there are now more than 500 marathons a year (that, my friends, is a lot of miles).

But what about the half?

Well, the half-marathon has become very popular in just the last ten years. Many half-marathons share the same course as a marathon (remember my list of tough half-marathons?).

The race is popular because a half-marathon is super challenging, but training for it doesn’t have to take over your life. For example, I am a mommy of a six-month-old and a two-year-old, and I am running a half marathon next month. Tough? Yes.

Impossible? I don’t think so.

But I digress. As for the history of this popular race, I found the best way to track it was through the world records. To find these records, I visited the Association of Road Racing Statistic Yearly Half Marathon Rankings.

For men, the first record is from April 22, 1956. Osvaldo Suarez ran a half distance at 1:08:54 in Santiago, Chile. For women, the first record is from August 20, 1978. Marty Cooksey ran her half in 1:15:04 in San Diego, California.

I actually didn’t realize the race is officially over fifty years old. That’s exciting! And that means when I run my half in December (at a decidedly non-world record rate), I’ll be a part of that history.

I’ll also be part of a group of focused and dedicated runners. There are estimated to be over 900 half marathons in the United States at this point, which goes to show that this distance is highly appealing.

But I do want to emphasize that we half-ers are just as tough as full marathoners. In fact, many of us have run full marathons. Half-marathon runners are dedicated racers with busy lives who choose the distance because it IS so challenging.

And so I say, yay for us! We deserve a pat on the back. And if that doesn’t motivate you, just wait for my next post, where we talk about the current world records. Whoa! Some people are just born with jet packs, I guess.

Others, like me, just plod happily along.

This is a guest post by Megan Cox, an Oklahoma City-based novelist, writer and contributing blogger for HalfMarathons.Net. Learn more about Megan at her website.

One thought on “What’s in a Half (Marathon)?

  1. I love halves, too, a great challenge that can fit into a busy life, great for relatively new runners like me who are over 50!

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