The Difference Between Running a Half-Marathon & a Full One

A half-marathon requires a different training focus.
i Kent Horner/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images

Running a marathon -- whether half or full -- is the Holy Grail for mamy runners. It's an excellent way to increase your training efforts and stay motivated as you prepare for a race. Still, some runners bite off more they can chew without completely understanding how the training for a full compares to a half marathon. By understanding the key differences, you can decide which race is best depending on your level of endurance, training and motivation.


The most glaring difference between a full and a half marathon is, obviously, the distance. At 13.1 miles, a half marathon provides a natural progression for runners who have already conquered the 5K and 10K. A full marathon is 26.3 miles, and since it's so much longer, you can usually expect a greater difference in the terrain covered. Uphills, downhills and constant changes are more common in a longer marathon course.


While it might seem like apples to apples, the way you train for a half marathon is different from the training process for a full. During a half marathon, you can go for more speed, since you're running a shorter distance. Half marathoners are often interested in beating their times and getting faster miles in. Full marathoners are in for the long haul, so endurance training comes first. Increasing your per mile pace only comes after the endurance training has been completed. In fact, the marathon training is so extensive that some runners rarely take recovery days; instead, they "rest" by light training on recovery days.


You can definitely expect a slower pace on your full marathon run. Since you need to conserve energy for the sheer distance of the run, pacing can run anywhere from 30 to 60 seconds extra per mile when going from a half marathon to a full. While 30 seconds might be your goal, test yourself by adding 60 seconds to your half marathon pace and adjusting from there. It'll give you a better idea of how long it'll take you to finish a full marathon.

Hydration and Nutrition

While both half and full marathons are serious races, a full marathon makes specific nutrition and hydration demands. Both require pre-race fuel in the form of complex carbohydrates, but you should also plan on 30 to 60 grams of simple carbs per hour while you run. You'll need to pack more carbs for a marathon, since you'll burn out faster. As for water, plan to drink each and every time you refuel, as well as downing 5 to 12 ounces for every 15 minutes of running. After you hit the 90-minute mark, you'll need to alternate sports drinks and water to keep your potassium levels steady. Most races have hydration stations on hand, but you'll need to carry a carbohydrate bar or similar snack with you.

the nest