Training

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Beginner half marathon programme

This programme is for beginner runners who would like to train for a half marathon. It will focus on completing the distance comfortably.

The programme is for you if it's the first time you have run a half marathon or a long time since you have run any longer distances. To get the most out of it, you should be able to run 5km in under 40 minutes, and you may have completed the beginner 5km programme.

The training schedule in this programme is a regular four days per week. You will have the opportunity to try some of the training techniques that more experienced runners use, such as speed and tempo runs. These will increase your running performance and provide some variety in your training, which will help to keep you motivated.

Alternatively, you may choose to do all the runs in the programme at a steady pace. This will get you around the race comfortably. Just run for the length of time given in the programme.

Clothing

In this programme you will be setting off on some fairly long runs, so you may be running outside for longer than you have done before. Make sure that your clothing and shoes will keep you comfortable over the 12 weeks, particularly later in the programme when you will be doing the longer runs. Also, keep in mind the seasonal weather changes that may happen over the 12 weeks.

Beginner half marathon
  Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4 Week 5 Week 6
Mon Rest day Rest day Rest day Rest day Rest day Rest day
Tues 30 minutes easy run/recovery run 30 minutes easy run/recovery run 30 minutes easy run/recovery run 40 minutes easy run/recovery run 40 minutes easy run/recovery run 40 minutes easy run/recovery run
Wed 30 minutes easy running 30 minutes tempo running 40 minutes tempo running 50 minutes tempo running 30 minutes tempo running 50 minutes tempo running
Thur Rest day Rest day Rest day Rest day Rest day Rest day
Fri 30 minutes easy run/recovery run 30 minutes easy run/recovery run 30 minutes easy run/recovery run 30 minutes speed running or cross training 40 minutes speed running or cross training 30 minutes speed running or cross training
Sat Rest day Rest day Rest day Rest day Rest day Rest day
Sun Long run: 3 miles or 5km race Long run: 40 minutes Long run: 5 miles Long run: 60 minutes Long run: 7 miles Long run: 8 miles
  Week 7 Week 8 Week 9 Week 10 Week 11 Week 12
Mon Rest day Rest day Rest day Rest day Rest day Rest day
Tues 40 minutes easy run/recovery run 40 minutes easy run/recovery run 40 minutes easy run/recovery run 40 minutes easy run/recovery run 40 minutes easy run/recovery run 40 minutes easy run/recovery run
Wed 40 minutes tempo running 40 minutes tempo running 50 minutes tempo running 40 minutes tempo running 40 minutes tempo running 40 minutes tempo running
Thur Rest day Rest day Rest day Rest day Rest day Rest day
Fri 40 minutes speed running or cross training 40 minutes speed running or cross training 50 minutes speed running or cross training 40 minutes speed running or cross training 40 minutes speed running or cross training 50 minutes easy run/recovery run
Sat Rest day Rest day Rest day Rest day Rest day Rest day
Sun Long run: 60 minutes Long run: 10 miles Long run: 5 miles Long run: 12 miles Long run: 6 miles (at race pace) Half marathon race (13.1 miles)

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Training aims

Weeks one to three

The first three weeks are a lead into the programme. Take it easy, but do consider having a go at tempo running. For a tempo run, start with a two to five minute warm up before running at tempo pace for five to 10 minutes. After this, jog slowly for a couple of minutes to recover before repeating another five to 10 minutes at tempo speed. You have just completed 30 minutes of tempo running.

With your other training sessions, don't worry about how fast you are going. The aim is to get your body used to running these distances. However, it can be helpful to have a look at your mile times if you are aiming for a certain time for your half marathon. For example, running at around 10 minutes per mile for the race would get you round a half marathon in about two hours 20 minutes.

Another good way of checking your progress is to run a timed 5km early on, either by yourself or in a race. If you have done some running before starting this programme and have a good base of fitness, you could try this at the beginning of the programme or in place of the three mile run at the end of week one. Doing a timed 5km run will give you an idea about what you are capable of, and you can chart your progress by trying to fit one in every three weeks or so. As you get fitter, a short fun run can replace a tempo session and still leave you with the energy to do your long run at the end of the week.

Pace management

Test your pace to track and improve your performance

Weeks four to six

By now you should be ready to do an hour-long run. Over weeks four to six, you should be hoping to increase your tempo running to 20 minutes at continuous tempo speed before taking a two to three minute recovery jog, and then taking the pace up again.

You are now increasing the distance of your long runs, which will help you to run further in comfort. Because of this you might be tempted to "go for it" and try to run tempo speed for the entire 30 to 40 minutes. But resist the urge. After all, running more than 40 minutes at tempo speed is getting close to full race running, and you don't want to risk injuring yourself before the race.

On Fridays, you can try speed running or cross training. Alternatively, you could try some speed intervals from our intermediate programmes, outside or on a treadmill. This can work especially well if you have less time or are doing gym sessions. If you are still sore from the tempo running, your body is telling you it needs more time to recover, so keep Friday as a recovery day - take it easy and don't forget to stretch.

Weeks seven to nine

You are about to conquer another big hurdle - the 10 mile run in week eight. Remember to tackle this milestone steadily and mentally break it down into stages, either by one mile or 10 minute chunks. You may find that you need to drop your pace down to a very slow jog or even a walk.

Having completed your 10 mile run, you are then rewarded in week nine with an easy week in terms of your long run. The five mile and 50 minute runs in week nine are a good opportunity to concentrate on your running pace. If you are running an average of 10 minutes per mile, you are doing well and on schedule to finish the half marathon in about two hours 20 minutes. These runs should seem easy - if they are, you are ready for the long run in week 10.

Weeks ten to twelve

The big test of your readiness for the half marathon is the 12 mile long run at the end of week 10. By this point you should have built up good aerobic fitness and endurance. The main challenge will be motivating yourself to keep going for the full 12 miles. The good news is that if you can do it now in training, then the extra mile and a bit on race day will fly past easily as the excitement and atmosphere of the race carries you along.

After this big test, you will begin your two-week "taper" in weeks 11 and 12. This is a time of recovery and preparation for the race. Your aim is to keep the gains you have made over the past 10 weeks, while ensuring that your body has time to recover before the race.

The six mile run at the end of week 11 is a good test of your readiness for the big day. Push yourself a little on this one and concentrate on being efficient in your running. If you find that you ran the six miles in about an hour, and felt that you could have run it again after a few minutes (if you had to), then you will do very well in your race.

Your last week is all about getting ready for the race, so take it easy. Make sure you do plenty of stretching to stay loose and prevent injuries. Your tempo run will be the last push, which is designed to keep your aerobic fitness up. Take it easy again on Friday to make sure that you are well recovered and have a good rest on Saturday. In fact, on the Saturday it's best to do almost nothing at all - don't spend hours walking round the shops or be tempted to fit in one last training session. All the work is done and you should be more than ready for the race. Good luck!

Bupa sponsored half marathon runs