Training

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Intermediate half marathon programme

This programme is for runners who have already done a 5km, 10km or 10 mile race and would like to move up to the next distance, or improve an on an existing half-marathon time.

The programme uses long runs so you can cover the distance, plus tempo and speed work to increase your pace. Have a look at the how the programmes work article and make sure you are comfortable at using these techniques, and that this programme is suitable for you.

The programme involves running four times a week on the following days: Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. You can train on different days, but you should keep the recommended number of rest days between training sessions.

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. See our article on running kit for further advice on clothing. Also, keep in mind the seasonal weather changes that may happen over the 12 weeks.

Intermediate 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 30 minutes easy 30 minutes easy 40 minutes easy 40 minutes easy 45 minutes easy
Wed 30 minutes tempo 40 minutes tempo 45 minutes tempo 45 minutes tempo 45 minutes tempo 50 minutes tempo
Thur Rest day Rest day Rest day Rest day Rest day Rest day
Fri 30 minutes speed work 30 minutes speed work 30 minutes speed work 30 minutes speed 30 minutes speed 40 minutes speed
Sat Rest day Rest day Rest day Rest day Rest day Rest day
Sun 3 miles 5 miles 6 miles 6 miles. Record your time here: Minutes per mile: 8 miles. Record your time here: Minutes per mile: 8 miles. Record your time here: Minutes per mile:
  Week 7 Week 8 Week 9 Week 10 Week 11 (taper) Week 12
Mon Rest day Rest day Rest day Rest day Rest day Rest day
Tues 45 minutes easy 50 minutes easy 50 minutes easy 60 minutes easy 50 minutes easy 40 minutes easy
Wed 50 minutes tempo 60 minutes tempo 50 minutes tempo 60 minutes tempo 45 minutes tempo 40 minutes tempo
Thur Rest day Rest day Rest day Rest day Rest day Rest day
Fri 40 minutes speed 40 minutes speed 40 minutes speed 40 minutes speed 40 minutes speed 40 minutes easy
Sat Rest day Rest day Rest day Rest day Rest day Rest day
Sun 6 miles. Record your time here: Minutes per mile: 10 miles. Record your time here: Minutes per mile: 12 miles. Record your time here: Minutes per mile: 12 miles. Record your time here: Minutes per mile: 6 miles at race pace. Record your time here: Minutes per mile: Race day

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Training aims

Weeks one to three

The first three weeks are designed to get your distance quite quickly up to six miles (10km). This is the base to start your progression to the half marathon distance. These three weeks should also get you comfortable with tempo and speed training. You may want to repeat these three weeks or switch to the beginner programme if you find the distance increases difficult.

If you enjoy taking part in races and want to fit them into your programme, a 5km race can replace a tempo session and still leave you with the energy for the long run. This is also a good way to record your times.

Tempo running is a key element of the programme. Remember you don't run at tempo for the full 30 minutes; you incorporate bursts of tempo running and recovery periods into the run.

Use your first tempo session to get used to the feeling of running at a faster pace. For example start with a five minute warm up before running at tempo pace for five to 10 minutes. Then return to your steady run pace for five minutes to recover before repeating another five to 10 minutes at tempo speed. Run at a steady pace again and then try five more minutes of tempo speed. Remember not to go too fast and don't forget to have a five minute cool down jog after the tempo session.

In weeks two and three you will be aiming to spend longer doing tempo training, but each burst of tempo running doesn't necessarily need to be longer - you could just increase the number of short bursts you do in a tempo session.

Weeks four to six training aims

At this stage of the programme you should be increasing your distance steadily. If the six mile run in week three was a little tough, the second time around at the end of week four should be more comfortable.

Get into the habit of keeping track of your mile times and thinking about your pace. Week four is an excellent time to test yourself with a timed six mile run, or a 10k race if possible.

Try to run this distance at your race pace for completing the half marathon in your target time. For example if you are aiming to complete the half marathon in under two hours, you will need to be able to keep going at less than nine minutes per mile. This means completing the six miles in less than 54 minutes. Make a note of your time and refer back to it as you cover the six mile runs later in this programme.

The next two weeks increase the distance with eight mile runs. You may notice that you feel stronger when doing the second eight mile run.

Your tempo runs should also be progressing well. You should now be able to run for between 10 and 20 minutes at continuous tempo speed.

Speed work for a 10 mile race is not as important as tempo training, but fits in well if you are doing treadmill sessions in the gym or on a track. If you don't want to do speed sessions every week, alternate them with a run at your race pace.

Pace management

Test your pace to track and improve your performance

Weeks seven to nine training aims

By now, your long runs are building up well. It shouldn't be too much of a stretch to extend to 10 and then 12 miles. Look at your paces over the distances you have covered so far and try to plan for the 10 and 12 mile runs based on these times. Set yourself a comfortable pace and set out to run them consistently.

Your pace for the six miles in week seven should be quicker than your pace in week four, and at least the pace you hope to run in the half marathon. Don't set out this fast for the 10 and 12 mile runs unless you feel confident you can keep running at this pace. You aren't expected to run the 12 miles at your half marathon pace - you still have three weeks to build up to this.

Experiment with longer blocks of running at tempo pace but remember this is hard work, so don't be tempted to try to run tempo speed for 30 or 40 minutes in one go. Running more than 40 minutes at tempo speed is getting close to full race running. This isn't what you want to be doing just now because you still need energy to keep pushing up the distance. Be content with a couple of repeat 15 to 20 minute tempo runs with recovery periods in between.

Weeks ten to twelve training aims

Week 10 is tough, with another 12 mile long run. You may have pushed yourself quite hard to build up to 12 miles over the last weeks. Now you need to run it again to make sure you are comfortable with the distance and to mentally prepare for how you are going to run on race day.

Take note of your pace all the way around: it should be a little below your target race pace. You may want to lift your pace to your target level for a couple of miles if you are feeling strong, but make sure you slow down again so that you don't finish exhausted.

Your tempo sessions should mean you are running longer sessions at a pace above your race pace. This may be useful on race day if you need to make up some ground after a slow mile or after getting caught up in a crowd.

The aim of the taper in week 11 is to keep the gains you have made over the past 10 weeks, while your body recovers before the race.

The six mile run in week 11 is ideal for assessing your readiness for the race and preparing yourself mentally. Run this as if you are running the half marathon. If you aim to finish in under two hours, run at less than nine minutes per mile for six miles. Push yourself just a little on this one if you feel like it, but don't try to go for a fast time at this stage. You should finish feeling invigorated and comfortable, as though you could run another four miles.

Your last week is all about getting ready for the race, so take it easy. Your tempo run is the last push, designed to keep your aerobic fitness up. Have fun with this session and make sure your Friday easy run is just that - easy.

Bupa sponsored half marathon