A half marathon gives you a much more accurate estimate of your fitness level than a shorter race like a 5K because it closely mimics the demands of a marathon. For this reason, most people run it as a tune-up for their goal race.
The drawback of racing a half marathon is, because of its length, you’re going to need some recovery time afterward. Usually one to three days of reduced training will work.
More: How to Recover After a Half Marathon
But if you plan to race a half before the full, you're likely a more experienced runner. The additional mileage and longer workouts will have a protective effect on you, and allow you to recover more quickly.
However, some runners need more time to recover adequately. You know your body best and if you get beat up by racing, you should choose a shorter tune-up race like a 10-miler.
If you do choose to race a half marathon as your marathon tune-up race, follow these guidelines:
- Schedule them four to six weeks before your marathon to allow sufficient recovery
- Don’t run more than one half during a marathon training cycle
- Prioritize recovery after the race: extra sleep, an ice bath (or two), and some easy cross-training like pool running will help get you back to marathon training as soon as possible
- Reduce the volume and intensity of the next one to three runs in your training plan, then pick up where you left off
When you're able to schedule a half marathon before the marathon, your finishing time may be surprising! Marathon workouts get you in incredible shape and your half could be an opportunity to run a new personal best.
More: How to Make the Most of Your Marathon Speed Workouts
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