The differences between a Half Marathon and a Marathon. Apart from the obvious.


Two weekends on the bounce I ran races. The Athens Marathon followed by the Conwy Half Marathon. This meant that not only was I incredibly knackered and wobbly after that week but also it gave me the idea of comparing my experiences with running 13.1 vs 26.2. It also lets me off the hook for not writing a post of each of the runs!

Before I start I should say that the Athens Marathon was my worst running experience, I suffered a lot of injuries twinned with a chest infection where as at Conwy my infection has pretty much cleared and the injuries stayed at home. So here are the big five differences from a beginner runner:

Just another brick in the…
The biggest difference for me is the wall. In Athens at about mile 12 I hit the wall, hard. With all the injuries flaring up like a highlight reel of all my worst ones from my year of running I really struggled. That twinned with the chest infection limiting the amount I could breath without coughing up a lung hampered any morale. I have never experienced the wall during Half Marathons, I don’t know if it is down to the distance or the fact that its much easier to see the light at the end of the tunnel of running. The wall is something I thought I had mastered but with the unrelenting hill/everest like mountain I failed to muster any of my usual mental tricks to get out of what I call “The Dark Place”.

Running to Distraction.
During a Half Marathon it is far easier to distract yourself. I run with music, always have and, despite the rise in races banning headphones, always will. My playlist is now about seven hours long and yet I find that during a Marathon the music can become repetitive and grating. On the flip side doing half the distance the music always seems catchy and uplifting. Athens runs predominately along a main road with little to actually see, the history of it all as it’s highlight. Conwy and most other Halves I’ve run there are a lot more too see, to distract yourself with. I actually find it far easier to run with other people during Halves too mainly down to being able to pace without too much calculating.

Just keep fuelling.
I have not perfected keeping my body fuelled at all. I am still very much in the trial and error stage of learning what my body needs and when. During a Marathon I end up filling my pockets with; gels, cliff bars and any other guff I have trialled in the build up. This can end up with me having to constantly hitch my shorts up as they start to be dragged down by the sheer weight of fuel. For a Half, I can survive on gel shots and the drinks provided on course.

Slow and Steady.
As I said above I find Half Marathons very easy to pace. I can usually start at a fixed minute per mile pace and keep to it throughout. For Marathons I have to do negative splits, this is the technique of starting slow and getting faster. I find that for Marathons it allows my body to warm up far better, avoiding muscle cramps and breathlessness. It works as a distraction technique but it is a huge kick to the morales when the timing starts to slip from the plan.

Sweet Dreams.
The best bit of running advice I can give to anyone is that a good night sleep is just as important as fuelling and hydration in the build up to a race. With a Half Marathon I can usually still push out a decent-ish time if I have had a bad night sleep. Marathons on the other hand are dictated by sleep, before Athens I had so little sleep and suffered for it.

What it comes down to is that the mindset for a Marathon is very different. You must become stronger mentally, more disciplined and crucially be able to adapt if things aren’t going your way. To believe you can is Half the battle, to pick yourself up when you begin to doubt is a Marathon.

Miles Left to Run: 98

NEXT RACE: Rome Marathon (3rd April 2017!)

Three Song Playlist

Feki & Glasshouse – Retrograde

The Japanese House – Face Like Thunder

Matt Nathanson –Bill Murray

One thought on “The differences between a Half Marathon and a Marathon. Apart from the obvious.

  1. Neale says:

    I ran the Rome marathon this year. Hands down my favourite marathon. There is so much to see, you’ll be well distracted from the distance don’t worry!

    Also, I planned to do a full followed by a half last month. Ran the Leicester marathon and planned to run the Luton half but chest infection meant I couldn’t run the half :/ so well done

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