A Half Marathon race 3 weeks before a marathon can be looked at as a tune up run. Everything, of course, depends on the individual, but, in general, you should have no risk running a half marathon 3 weeks before a marathon.
I know a guy who ran a 50K trail race this Saturday and then less than 24 hours later ran an easy BQ marathon.
The cumulative affects of many years of running .... one builds up over a long period of time .... and for those who have run for a long time consistently, it takes much less effort to build up for a race than for beginners or inconsistent runners .... and then there is the factor of natural ability.
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