If you think the marathon is the trendiest race in the U.S., you’re only half right. According to Running USA, a non-profit organization of the running industry, the half-marathon has been the fastest growing road race distance in the U.S. For 2008 (the most recent data available), there were approximately 900,000 half-marathon finishers, an increase of 665,000 finishers since 1987 (235,000). For three consecutive years, the total number of 13.1 mile finishers has grown by 10% or more in this country. In addition, the number of half-marathon races in the U.S. has jumped from 450 in 1998 to 830 in 2008.
Many use half-marathons as tune-ups for full marathons. For those who feel the 26.2 mile distance is too daunting, half that is a great alternative.
The largest race in this category is the One America 500 Mini-Marathon in Indianapolis. The course stretches from downtown Indianapolis to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and back. And yes, the 35,000 participants actually get to complete one full 2.5-mile lap around the famous Indy 500 racetrack. Other half-marathons on Runner’s World magazine’s list of recommended “Better Halfs” include:
• Philadelphia Distance Run, Philadelphia, PA (I've done this one three times!)
• Rock ‘n’ Roll Half-Marathon, Virginia Beach, VA
• Georgetown to Idaho Springs Half-Marathon, Idaho Springs, CO
• Race to Robie Creek, Boise, ID
• Lake Chabot Trail Challenge, Castro Valley, CA
• Napa to Sonoma Wine Country Half-Marathon, Sonoma, CA
• Valley of the Gold Half-Marathon, Oro Valley, AZ
• Half-Shell Half-Marathon, Key West, FL
• 3M Half-Marathon, Austin, TX