Every athlete has their favorite race distances.
The standard distances for running races are a 5k (3.1 miles), 10k (6.2 miles), half marathon (13.1 miles) and full marathon (26.2 miles). Of course, there are other distances too....some races are 8k, 15k or variations thereof, and there are many ultras, which is any distance over 26.2. I have run most of these distances in various races over the years, except, of course, an ultra. I'm not THAT crazy!
For triathlon, the standard distances are sprint (distances vary, but most are roughly a 500-750 meter swim, 20k bike and 5k run), Olympic (1.5k swim, 40k bike and 10k run), Half-Ironman (70.3 total miles including a 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike and 13.1 mile run) and a full Ironman (140.6 miles consisting of a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike and 26.2 mile run). While so far I have only done sprint triathlons, I have my first Olympic-distance (Oly) triathlon in September. Yes, I am nervous. Very nervous.
For running, my favorite distance is the half marathon. 13.1 miles. It's the perfect distance for me. It's long. Yes, the word "half" implies that it's short, but running 13.1 miles is a long, long way. It's especially long for a slow, back-of-the-pack runner like me, who has yet to break 2:30 hours in a half marathon. It's long enough that I need to train hard for it, but short enough that I don't have to train too long for it. I did my first (and only) full marathon back in 2003 (the San Diego Rock 'n' Roll Marathon) and the training for it took up most of my weekends, not to mention my free time after work during the week. Back then, I didn't have kids yet, and had all the time in the world on weekends to train. These days, I need to get up, out the door, and back in a timely matter as my family time is precious to me.
When I complete a half marathon (and I've completed 5 so far; one back in 1999 and the other 4 since August 2010 when I re-committed to running and fitness) I feel a sense of accomplishment. I don't get that same feeling if I were to run a 5k or 10k race. I mean, my weekday runs (I do two short runs during the week) are 3 miles each! So to pay to race that distance would be meaningless to me, unless I was racing for a specific cause or to run a PR (personal record). I often struggle in the last few miles of a half marathon, and really have to push to get through to the finish line. I like that. I like having to push hard, both physically and mentally. But again, it's not the enormous effort that I would have to do (and did do) during a full marathon.
I used to feel like I had to train for another full marathon in order to be a "real" runner. But I realize now that is nonsense. I AM a real runner. I don't need to spend all my free time training, and putting unnecessary stress on my body (I'm injury-prone, and, in fact, have plantar fasciitis in each foot) to do another 26.2 miles to prove that. Maybe one day, when the kids are older, and I feel like I WANT to do another full marathon, I will. Heck, if I really WANTED to do another full one now I would; I would find the time. But I don't want to. A half marathon is perfect for me.
I recently became aware of a group called Half Fanatics (an offshoot of the Marathon Maniacs). Here are the questions they ask to see if you are, indeed, a half marathon fanatic. I answered yes to most of them!
1) Do your thoughts switch to the next scheduled race immediately after finishing a half marathon? YES!!!!
2) Do you know specifics about many of the half marathons? Dates, courses, years run, etc? YES!!!
3) Do you know the story of how the half marathon got started? No.
4) Do you read books on running like "Marathon and Beyond"? YES!!!
5) Is www.marathonmaniacs.com bookmarked on your computer? Do you look at the race
schedule more than once a week? No.
6) Do you start to feel down when you haven't run a race in a while? YES!!!
7) Are your closets and dressers filled with race t-shirts? YES!!!
8) When asked about racing from non-running people, do you find yourself talking with great passion to the point that the person that asks the question regrets ever asking? ALL THE TIME!
9) Have you run races on back-to-back weekends? Or better yet, back-to-back days? NOT YET, BUT KEEP READING!
10) Have you run a half marathon as a training run? Or just to pace a friend? No.
11) When asked by loved one what your plans are for the weekend, do you feel guilty telling them you're running another half marathon so you tell them "it's only a 10k this weekend?" No, but between my half marathons and triathlons I'm tempted to!
12) Do you plan all your vacations around your races? SOME!
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you just may be a Half Fanatic!
Clearly I am a bit crazed with this distance. And I am determined to earn my membership in the Half Fanatics club by spring next year; maybe even by the end of this year! There are different levels of membership, depending on how many you complete and in what time frame. I think I can easily do the first level, Neptune. To do this, I have to either complete 2 half marathons in 16 days, OR 3 half marathons in 90 days. I am already signed up for Rock 'n' Roll Las Vegas Half Marathon in December and the Carlsbad Half Marathon in January, and want to do the La Jolla Half Marathon in April. If I do either the San Dieguito Half Marathon or the Safari Park Half Marathon next February or March, respectively, I will have done 3 halfs in 90 days. But now I am thinking of doing the Santa to the Sea Half Marathon, which is a week after the Rock 'n' Roll Las Vegas race....that would be 2 half marathons in a week, which would fit the criteria too.
I know this may sound crazy to non-runners....but for a person who LOVES training for and running half marathons, it sounds reasonable to me. As I said, everyone has their distance---and the half marathon is mine!