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Running programme - half marathon

Maybe you’ve just signed up for your first ever race or have set your sights on beating your personal best marathon time. Whatever your aim, we have a training programme to suit your ability and goal.

Before starting any programme, make sure you have a look through the plan. If it has different types of run, familiarise yourself with the techniques involved. And no matter what level you are, don’t forget the importance of preparation before training sessions and recovery afterwards. To find out more, read our information on how to avoid sports injuries.

The programmes involve running on several days a week. You don’t have to stick to these exactly, but be sure to keep the recommended number of rest days. These give your body time to recover so you’re ready for the next training session.

The programmes will take you towards, but not necessarily up to, your full event distance. The idea is that your fitness and ability progress steadily so that you’re ready to complete the full distance by race day. The atmosphere and cheering crowds on the day will help to push you on for that extra mile or so.

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  • How to choose How to choose

    Choosing the beginner programmes

    The ‘walk to run’ and 5km beginner programmes will suit you if you have little or no running experience but are generally fit and in good health.

    The 10km and above distance programmes are ideal if you want to run a longer event and are in the habit of running at least twice a week. They will suit you if you could complete a 5km run in 30 to 40 minutes, with a mix of walking and running.

    Choosing the intermediate programmes

    You don’t need to have run the full distance before you follow an intermediate programme. However, we recommend that you’ve been running regularly (two to three times a week) for at least 10 weeks. You regularly run 5km in less than 30 minutes and have probably also run 10km a couple of times in around an hour. Bear in mind that these programmes involve training on at least four days a week with some faster paced running.

  • How the programmes work How the programmes work

    All the training programmes have three key elements, which alter as you progress. These are ‘FIT’ which stands for:

    • F – frequency (how often)
    • I – intensity or pace (how hard)
    • T – time (how long)

    Exercising regularly and gradually increasing how much you do is key to improving your health and fitness.

    As you get fitter, you’ll be able to train more often and for longer in each session. As a beginner, this will mean that gradually you can run more and so need to walk less. At an intermediate level, you should find that you’re able to run distances faster.

    It’s hard to define ‘intensity’ (or pace) because it depends on your individual level of fitness, which will increase as your training progresses.

    Some of the training programmes involve different types of run – see Types of training for more information. These correspond to your ‘perceived effort scale’. The scale runs from one to 10, where one is standing still, and 10 is your maximum effort, such as running flat out. The table below has more detail.

    Perceived effort levels

    Effort level

    Effort rating

    Activity (approximate, depending on fitness)





    Standing still




    Minimal activity



    Slow walk

    Used in cool down



    Moderate walk

    Normal pace - used in warm up/cool down


    Fairly light

    Brisk walk/light jog

    Walking - striding out or jogging a little above march pace; heart rate and breathing increase a little



    Jog/easy running

    Easy jog - active but not challenging; breathing is easy and steady


    Slightly challenging

    Steady running

    Sustainable steady running - general race pace; breathing and heart rate are raised but not uncomfortable


    Challenging/slightly hard

    Tempo running

    Brisk - challenging running at increased pace; breathing should be harder



    Hard running

    Fast running with arms pumping - used in speed work and 400 to 800m distances




    Maximum effort - sustainable for one minute or less

    To get the best from the effort scale, listen to your whole body and think about how it feels. So consider your breathing, heart rate and how your arms and legs feel.

  • Types of training Types of training

    All the training programmes involve long runs and easy (recovery) runs, and some also include faster runs (tempo and speed).

    Easy runs

    These allow your legs to recover from hard effort and prepare you for the next day of training. Take them at an easy pace (effort level of five to six) and no longer than 40 minutes. You should be able to enjoy running without feeling tired.

    Long runs

    These should be your longest run of the week. They are for increasing your distance and aim to build up your aerobic fitness, efficiency and endurance. Your long run should be at a steady pace, effort level six to seven, so you can hold a conversation as you run. This will become your race pace.

    Tempo runs

    Constant speed running is sometimes referred to as tempo running. This improves your running pace.

    Although the true definition of tempo running varies, aim to run at a constant speed that feels ‘comfortably hard’. This should be about an eight on the effort scale. Stick to about 20 to 30 minutes at this pace and always include at least five minutes of warming up and cooling down.

    Speed work

    Speed work, either using intervals or hills, builds your aerobic fitness, strength and speed. Interval training involves running fast, but not sprinting, over a set distance or time at an effort level of 10. Hill running involves keeping your pace roughly constant, but increasing intensity to effort level 10 by changing the gradient that you’re running up. Follow each hard run with an easy one of at least the same length, then repeat. Try using a treadmill to help you get the distances, times or gradients right.

    Cross training

    This helps you to keep up your fitness but reduces the strain on the muscles you use for running. Take one session a week to do an activity such as swimming, cycling or using a cross trainer in the gym. This will work your muscle groups in different ways and help to stop you from getting bored of just running.

  • Physiotherapy

    At our Bupa Health Centres, we offer self-pay health services for a wide range of conditions, including physiotherapy.

  • Beginner Beginner programme

    The programme is for you if it’s the first time you’ve run a half marathon or a long time since you ran any longer distances. To get the most out of it, you should be able to run 3 miles (5km) in under 40 minutes – you may have completed one of the other beginner training programmes.

    One mile is equivalent to 1.6km. For this training programme, distances in km have been rounded to the nearest whole number for simplicity.

    Click on the image to download the full programme.

    Half marathon running programme - beginner 

  • Intermediate Intermediate 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 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.

    One mile is equivalent to 1.6km. For this training programme, where distances are specified, we’ve rounded them to the nearest mile for simplicity.

    Click on the image to download the full programme.

    Half marathon running programme - intermediate
  • Advanced Advanced programme

    This programme is for you if you consider yourself to be an advanced runner. You may have already completed half marathon (13.1 miles) races before, or possibly a 10km or 10 mile race, perhaps following the Bupa beginner and intermediate training programmes.

    One mile is equivalent to 1.6km. For this training programme, distances in km have been rounded to the nearest whole number for simplicity.

    Click on the image to download the full programme.

    Half marathon running programme - advanced

  • More Bupa running programmes More Bupa running programmes

  • Getting the most from your run Getting the most from your run

  • Tools and calculators Tools and calculators

  • Resources Resources


    • Start active, stay active. Department of Health., published July 2011
    • Zamuner AR, Moreno MA, Camargo TM, et al. Assessment of subjective perceived exertion at the anaerobic threshold with the Borg CR-10 scale. J Sports Sci Med 2011; 10(130–36).
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