Five Reasons the Half Marathon is the Perfect Race Distance

Busy women, listen up! Forget adding stress to your life by training huge volumes and focus on a half marathon. Here’s why it’s the perfect race distance

Girls Run the World members at the Valencia Half Marathon after completing coaching with the GRTW coaches
Girls Run the World members at the Valencia Half Marathon after completing coaching with the GRTW coaches

According to statistics from in 2020, 52.2% of all half marathon participants on average are women. And here’s why this distance is understandably so popular.

You can fit your training in and a social life

Ever looked at a marathon training plan and seen a ‘3 hour run’ scheduled for a Sunday morning and thought no way?

Well, with half marathon training, you can fit in your training plans and a social life and work without it adding more stress. Yet it still requires the kind of training that will challenge and progress you as a runner.

‘So many women – and men – go straight into endless marathons and ultras even though it adds added stress to a busy life,’ says founder of GRTW, Rachael Woolston. ‘But there’s so much to be said for the humble half marathon; you get all the kicks of a marathon with none of exhaustion and stress of long training runs.’

Builds your strength and fitness

Endurance running such as a marathons and ultras largely rely on burning fat as fuel. The half marathon distance does this but it also creates much more power because it is a faster distance.

‘This distance is particularly good for midlife women going through peri or menopause,’ says Rachael Woolston. ‘Cortisol released during training for long endurance, can have an adverse effect, whereas shorter, sharper sessions helps create muscle.’

You eat more healthily!

‘When I get to the end of a marathon or ultra, it feels so unhealthy when you consider all the gels and rubbish you eat,’ says GRTW founder, Rachael Woolston.

While fuelling on the run for anything above marathon distance is necessary, you certainly don’t need so much poor nutrition when running half marathons.

The science says we can store on average about 90 minutes worth of carbohydrates in our muscles before it begins to deplete. So while you may need some fuel, you won’t need to eat nearly as much of the sweet stuff.

Recover quicker!

It stands to reason that the further you run, the more time you need afterwards to recover. Depending on your goals and how hard you push it in training and racing, the half marathon distance can be kinder on the body than the marathon.

Obviously, recovery is still a really important element of any training plan. But the volume of training means you won’t be wiped out quite so much every week.

The races are cheaper!

Scroll through a list of upcoming races and you will see a plethora of half-marathon distance events on offer. Many cities, towns and villages offer local half marathon races that are unique. They are often much better value, they’re easier to get to and you have enough time after the race to explore.

I loved my first Half Marathon at Reading. I found the training the perfect amount – a good goal to strive for but able to balance it with a full time job. I enjoyed it so much I went on to try for faster half and then some 20 milers and eventually marathons.

Jane Spurgeon, GRTW community member

Discover more about our half marathon training programmes and plans over on our platform. If you prefer to train with others, search for our Train Strong Together programmes, bringing women across the UK together online to share the journey. Find out more HERE.