Half marathon is new king of the road

It's half the distance. But a full measure of achievement.

That's one reason the half marathon is the fastest growing endurance race. While the marathon is still the glamour event, the half marathon is where the bulk of the runners are.

"I love doing the half marathon more than the full marathon because you can recover quicker. You can be back to work the next day," said Don Wennerstrom, managing partner of Running Wild in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

"It's so time-consuming to train for a marathon. We live in such a hectic world, it's hard to fit it in. But if you can get in 9 to 11 miles for your long (training) run, you can participate in the half."

According to Running USA, which tracks trends in the industry, participation in half marathons nationwide increased 10 percent to 650,000 in 2007 from the previous year while the number running marathons (412,000) remained the same. The percentages were similar the previous year, and the growth of races throughout the country indicates the trend is continuing.

"Obviously, it's something that has taken every race across the country by storm," said David Scott, race director of the ING Miami Marathon and Half Marathon. "It's an attainable distance - 26.2 miles can seem daunting, but 13.1, it's reachable."

While many marathons are now paired with half marathons, the latter is increasingly becoming a stand-alone event. The 13.1 Marathon series has gained popularity the past couple of years with eight 13.1-mile races in major markets.

The half makes sense for the casual runner whose main goal is to finish a major endurance race and for semi-serious competitors with limited time to train.

Elite runners benefit by being able to run several half marathons in a year, whereas they may only do one or two marathons. They often run a half while preparing for a specific marathon.