Racing a Half Marathon While Training for a Marathon

Racing a Half Marathon While Training for a Marathon
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As my marathon training gets into full swing and I’ve started to plan ahead for my long runs, I’ve realised I have 9 more weekends of running, and 4 half marathons, before the London Marathon weekend hits. Despite being far from an experienced marathon runner (I’ve only run one before, and trained for a second before I got injured), even I know it would be irresponsible to try and race all of them… but is it a good idea to race one at all? And if so, how do you choose your goal race?

Should you race a half marathon while training for a marathon?

The answer to this question depends on a number of factors, including things like:

  • How experienced a runner are you? If you’ve gone from couch to 5k to marathon training all in a relatively short space of time, it may be worth focusing on the bigger goal in mind. However, if you’ve got some decent mileage in your running past and/or have run a marathon/half marathon before, you might find racing a half gives you a good indication of your potential marathon time.
  • How quickly do you recover after long runs? It’s an annoying fact of life – some people recover more quickly than others. Racing, especially for longer distances, creates a significant amount of tissue damage and your body will need time to repair. If you usually recover quickly then great, but otherwise, racing a half could knock you out of marathon training for a week or two – not ideal as you get close to the big day.
  • Have you practised things like pacing, race-day nutrition, what kit you’ll wear for the marathon, etc? All of these are important for marathon day, and (in my opinion) only really fully tested when you run at speeds similar to, or faster than, your target marathon pace. But… none of this really applies if you’re running your first marathon and just aim to finish without a goal time in mind – you can practice all of these things on your normal long runs without having to race!

How to choose your goal half marathon race

So, now you’ve decided if you are or aren’t going to race, now to choose the race itself!

Personally, I’d LOVE to get a new half marathon PB, and I’d like to test myself before marathon day, so I’ve decided I want to race one of the halfs I’ve already booked and I’ve chosen the Reading Half Marathon on Sunday 18th March to do it.

A post shared by Georgina Spenceley (@fitcetera) on Here are the things that helped me to choose the Reading Half as my goal race:

  • Timing – the Reading Half Marathon is almost exactly one month before the Virgin London Marathon… pretty good timing to get a hard race in and still leave enough time to run longer before marathon day while allowing time for my muscles to recover from the speed.
  • Course – I ran Reading in 2015 (and loved it!) and managed to get within 3 minutes of my PB from 2012 on not very much training, which suggests to me that the course is pretty good for PB potential. It has a couple of hills, but is mostly flat with some nice downhill sections too… I think the official running term is “undulating”?!
  • Environment – Reading Half has really good support, and it finishes on a straight before heading into the Madejski Stadium for a track finish with a crowd… what better to encourage a final sprint? And to do that with a PB too – that would be amazing.
  • Logistics – the stadium-home of Reading Half means you have great facilities to make that pre- and post-race prep all the more comfortable. It’s a bit miserable sometimes when you go to a race and have to change in a field or walk forever to find your car/a toilet/the-reasons-why-you-decided-to-do-this-in-the-first-place!

I’m also lucky to be running it with the awesome IanRunsLDN, who’s offered to help pace me to my (hopefully) shiny new PB… I’m pretty sure the company will help! He’s already got a pretty good track record, with a 1:39 PB himself and having already paced me to my current 10k PB, so I know I’m in good hands.

A post shared by Georgina Spenceley (@fitcetera) on And as for the other 3 half marathons I’ve got booked? Those will now be likely to be longer training runs at a slower pace, with miles added on before or after.

Are you running Reading Half Marathon? Comment below if you are! And if you haven’t bagged yourself a place yet, you better be quick because entries to the 2018 race close tomorrow, 14th February.

Disclaimer: I have been given free entry to the Reading Half Marathon. As always, my opinion is my own and not affected by payment, or items/services gifted to me. To find out more about my policy on this and other matters, see my Disclosure page. Thank you to Reading Half Marathon for the opportunity to race.

Featured image by Will Patrick Photography.

Georgina Spenceley
Georgina Spenceley

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