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Why the 21.1K shouldn’t be called the half-marathon

Four arguments for why half isn't a fitting name for the 21.1K distance

In almost every event in running (except for two) the event you’re competing in is referred to by its distance. The two exceptions to the rule are the marathon and half-marathon. While the half-marathon is an accurate description of the 21.1K event, the title feels like it doesn’t do the race justice. Here’s why the half should lose its younger-sibling status and be referred to as the 21.1K.

SeaWheeze Half-Marathon 2019. Photo: lululemon

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The name marathon has a history

This isn’t an argument for renaming the marathon–that title has a long history attached to it. The name commemorates the Greek soldier Pheidippides who traveled from Marathon to Athens to report a victory in battle. However, the half-marathon has no history but to describe its sister race, the full. It’s like when someone refers to you as so-and-so’s younger sibling, you always feel a little short changed.

This event is really popular

According to The State of Running 2019, a study done by RunRepeat, the half-marathon remains the second most popular of the road racing distances, behind the 5K and ahead of both the 10K and the full. The event also has its own World Championship (coming up this March). Arguably, one of the most widely run events deserves its own name.

Philadelphia Rock 'n' Roll Half-Marathon
Photo: Peggy Peattie.

The half is nothing like the full

If you’ve run both a half and a full you’ll know that the two distances are entirely different. The training feels different and so are the race paces. But ultimately, you deserve more kudos than simply being congratulated on completing half of another distance.

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Triathlon has it figured out

Our triathlete friends have no problem referring to their half events by the their actual distance. In fact, the official name of the half Ironman World Championships is the 70.3 World Championships.

The one exception to this rule

American runners will refer to the 400m and 800m on occasion as the quarter mile or half mile. However, these names are never officially used in races, they’re just used colloquially. The way some Americans refer to the 400m and 800m might be the perfect compromise for the half-marathon as well–call it the half to your friends, but give it its own title come race day.

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