Now that registration has opened for the 10th annual B.A.A. Half Marathon, it’s time to get training for your best 13.1 mile ever. Fartlek runs are great workouts that elite runners rely upon to run their best, so incorporating Fartleks into your half marathon training will bring you back your best B.A.A. Half Marathon to date.
Fartlek may sound funny or offensive to some, but really it is a Swedish word meaning “speed play” and simply consists of sprinting and jogging on and off during a run. The fartlek workout was created in the 1930s and intends to add intense anaerobic bursts to an aerobic workout in order to increase endurance efficiency over a continuous period. Just like there is no crying in baseball, there is no stopping during Fartleks. The Fartlek workout creates a race-like scenario as a workout since your speed and efforts certainly vary throughout a race.
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Fartleks are fantastic because they are the most flexible workout around. Boston runners should especially take to the sprint-jog session since you don’t need a track or dirt trails to get in your workout. A fun way to fit in your Fartlek is to pick city blocks or even random landmarks like stop signs, fire hydrants or telephone poles as your benchmarks. For example, pick up the pace until the next mail box or sprint for the length of one T stop to the next.
Half marathon training is also a great group effort and Fartleks fit right in to this approach. As seen in the video below, runners run single file and then the person from the back sprints to the front of the line and holds the faster pace for the designated length. Once he/she relaxes the pace back to normal and settles in the front, the next person from the back can sprint to the front for the Fartlek.
A weekly Fartlek run should be incorporated into your half marathon training to gain some base speed and mileage, but also to teach your body how to handle itself during a “stressful” race-like situation. Make sure to incorporate a solid 10-15 minute warm up and cool down during your Fartlek workouts as this will help your body get ready for the picked up pace and add to your total mileage. Incorporating some fast 30 second strides to sharpen up is also a good idea, but remember–no stopping once you start!
Here are three Fartlek workouts to incorporate into your regular B.A.A. Half Marathon training plan:
Basic Fartlek: After a 15 minute warm up, perform 12-15 surges lasting 90 seconds somewhere between your 5k and 10k pace. Return to your regular run pace between each surge for 90 seconds. Cool down another 15 minutes. If you want the VO2 max benefits from the Fartlek, then no stopping!
Structured Fartlek 1: After a 15 minute warm up, perform surges of 2 minutes, 3 minutes, 4 minutes, 4, 3, 2 somewhere between your 5k and 10k pace. Return to your regular run pace between each surge for 2min30sec. Cool down another 15 minutes. For an extra benefit, perform this Fartlek on the actual race course to get a feel for the terrain.
Structured Fartlek 2 (Advanced): After a 15 minute warm up, perform a pyramid of surges 1 minute, 2, 3, 4, 5, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 at your 5k pace (fast). For the second half of the Fartlek, try to run each surge faster than the first. Return to your regular run pace between each surge for half as much time. Cool down another 15 minutes.