There are a number of difference between running a 5K and half marathon – the first of which is about 10 miles! While 5Ks are the shortest of common road-running distances and have grown in popularity with Color Runs and Glo Runs, the half marathon has been growing in popularity for the past several decades, as well. Its status was partly propelled by Oprah publicly completing a half marathon in 1994.
Whether you’re inspired by Oprah or you’re simply a yearning for completing something meaningful, if you’re a runner, you will probably take a liking to half marathons.
However, half marathons are not easy feat. Sure, if Oprah can do it, so can you. Especially if you’ve already completed a 5K. But you’ll have to put in some work to be able to do it. And if you think I mean the same work you put in to complete your 5K, I mean MORE work along with different preparation, clothing, mindsets, and atmosphere.
Here is what it’s like to run and train for a 5k compared to a half marathon.
The Prep: 5K
If you’re running a 5K, stretching is recommended, of course, and some basic warmup exercises are certainly advised, but let’s be real: It’s around three miles. If your body breaks down entirely before hitting three miles, then you’re likely not in the shape to run anything resembling a race in the first place. For a 5K, you’re basically stretching so you don’t get a cramp. When it comes to diet, as long as you didn’t drown yourself in multiple bottles of wine and several pounds of Mexican food the night before, you should be fine.
The Prep: Half Marathon
On the other hand, the prep for a half marathon isn’t as simple. If you plan on running around 13 miles continuously, your diet better be in check. That means eating bananas and drinking chocolate milk like a boss and only eating carbs strategically so enhance your performance. It could be worse, when you think about it, and just requires some extra planning and experimenting with how your body responds to certain foods pre and post run. Me? I can only eat a banana and peanut butter pre run, anything more than that and it’s runner’s trots city.
And as far as stretching goes, there are some great yoga poses that help with stretching post run. You NEED to stretch after a long run if you plan to continue running the next week. Which leads us to …
The Competition: 5K
If you want diversity, 5Ks are your recommended place. Runners of all shapes and sizes will be participating, as the physical qualifier isn’t too high. However, for a half marathon you can expect a plethora of clones – thin, slender, athletic people who look like they run 365 days per year/7 days per week. These runners look at a 5K as a simple morning workout.
The Competition: Half Marathon
In essence, if the notion of a 5K scares you, you’re not ready for a half marathon. Some half-marathon regulars view a three-mile run as akin to brushing their teeth – they do it regularly and without a second thought.
The Clothing: 5K
For a 5K you can feel free to show up in whatever. Just make sure your sweatpants don’t slide down too far when you’re running. Also, make sure your shoes are decent. Most shoes will do, as long as they’re intact.
The Clothing: Half Marathon
For a half marathon, it’s a different story. Running around 13 miles basically yearns for wearing compression socks, primarily as a prevention against a nasty injury that could debilitate any running potential you may have, whether it’s pathetically little or just subtly little. You’ll also probably want to have run a considerable distance before in your race day outfit. Chafing can make 13.1 miles last a lifetime.
The Mindset: 5K
A 5K just requires you to run three miles – as a result you can dream about anything your mind pleases. It shouldn’t last much more than 30 minutes, which is less time than any obligation one can possibly think of – from a class to a movie. A 5K is one of the quickest legitimate activities imaginable as long as you’re not laughably slow. (And hey – if you are – that’s cool too – at least you’re running!)
The Mindset: Half Marathon
A half marathon? That’s taking up your day, even if you’re an amazing runner. Your mind needs to prepare for the run, in addition to the significant amount of prior training that needs to be done. You’ve already read it: The different prep, competition and clothing will all occupy your mind before the race even begins. As a result, you better hope your mind is even stronger than your legs, which – if you’re running a half marathon – are better suited to stretching or training than sitting and reading this article. So go run! Then take a nap, you’ll probably need it.