Running: Half-marathons grow in popularity

Posted: August 12, 2013

On Monday, I start training for the Trenton Double Cross Half Marathon, which will be held on Nov. 9. It will be the sixth half-marathon that I have run in the last four years.

I'm not the only fan of this distance. Last year, half marathons had 1.85 million finishers, far surpassing marathons, which had 487,000, according to Running USA. Since 2003, the half marathon has been the fastest growing race in the country, and the number of finishers has quadrupled since 2001. Today, 60 percent of half marathon finishers are women.

I love this race. Not only is it a solid challenge, but I don't need to travel far to run one. There are plenty of half marathon options in the region that have met the growing demand for 13.1-mile races.

Here are the three big reasons it's such a popular race:

1. For beginners, it's the next logical running step, especially in a town with Broad Street.

After a 5K and a 10K, what's next? Here, for most amateur runners, it's the Broad Street 10-mile run, which is the seventh-largest race in the country. Another 3.1 miles isn't such a huge leap.

Brendan Isard of Philadelphia is making November's Philadelphia Half Marathon his first half. He ran cross-country in high school but took a long time off after a nasty foot injury, and got back into running through 5Ks and then the Broad Street Run.

He picked a half not only because his wife ran one last year, but for a bigger personal challenge, he said, than those shorter races.

"I had so much fun running Broad Street that I wanted to do something similar - something that gives you a tour of the city in a higher mileage race."

2. It's a challenge, but training doesn't take over your life.

Most beginner half marathon programs have runners doing, at a max, 25 miles a week, with many topping out at a 12-miler for the longest one-shot run.

That's a lot of running, but not the same volume of running that the marathon requires. I ran up to 50 miles a week preparing for the New Jersey Marathon, and became a hermit who left her house only to get in her miles. It was not the finest time in my life. I like the process of training, but I'm just not up for going all-out again this fall.

Jennifer Collins of Drexel Hill feels the same way. Like Isard, she is also running the Philadelphia Half Marathon as her first half. This spring, she trained for Broad Street with Team Philly, a city-based running group, and joined up again for her fall race.

She has thought about doing the full marathon, but "would really like to get a couple of halfs under my belt first. Training for the full is quite a time commitment," she said.

3. It's a trial run for the marathon.

It took me six years and five half marathons to get to a full marathon. It's a scary distance, especially when you haven't run it, and all you hear from your marathoning friends is about losing toenails, bloody nipples, and hitting the wall.

A half marathon gives you a taste of longer, sustained racing, and whether you like it and want to go for more. After I finished the Bird in Hand Half in 2010, I knew I could double it.

Here is where to do a half marathon locally this fall:

Lehigh Valley Health Network Via Half Marathon, Allentown, Sept. 8.

Alternative Half Marathon, Washington's Crossing, Sept. 15.

Rock 'n' Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon, Sept. 15.

OCNJ Half Marathon, Ocean City, N.J., Sept. 29.

Jersey Shore Half Marathon, Sandy Hook, Oct. 6.

Atlantic City Half Marathon, Oct. 13.

Run for the Buds Half Marathon, Wilmington, Oct. 19.

Hershey Half Marathon, Hershey, Pa., Oct. 20.

Trenton Double Cross Half Marathon, Nov. 9.

Philadelphia Half Marathon, Nov. 17.

Rehoboth (Del.) Seashore Half Marathon, Dec. 7.

Running: Running Calendar

West Deptford Park Summer 5K Series: West Deptford, N.J. Every Monday, 7 p.m, through Aug. 12.

Dead Harriers 5K & Hawaiian Shirt Racing World Championship: Warminster Community Park

Veterans Drive, above Johnsville Boulevard, near Street Road and Jacksonville Road. Registration closes Monday.

Browning Ross Summer Sizzler Series: 5K, Rowan University, Every Thursday through Aug. 29. 7 p.m.

Fee: $5, $3 for students. Age group prizes.






Please e-mail date, name of race, site, time and fee, plus registration information to sports editor John Quinn at

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