My favorite speed workout on the road is the fartlek run. Fartlek is a Swedish term for "speed play" - and the essence of fartlek running is to have the intensity or speed of the run vary throughout your workout. This means random intervals (based on distance or time) that are run at threshold pace (30 sec. per mile slower than 5K pace) or interval pace (about 5K pace) throughout your run. There need not be rhythm or rhyme - you can make it up as you go. It can also be shaped to work for short and long distance running. A wise runner once said, "The only way to run fast is to run fast." Fartlek sessions enable me to run fast.
I learned this style of running workout while running with the Morgantown, WV Runners Club, and found that it is perfectly suited for me. I am not keen on details nor structure and prefer not to run with a too rigid and predetermined schedule. Instead, I'd rather go with the flow, listen to mybody, and have the freedom to shake things up.
For me, this make-it-up-as-you-go strategy allows for a more enjoyable run and often takes me places I typically wouldn't go. I also like fartleks because I can run them anywhere - on familiar roads and trails - or ifI happen to be out of town on routes less familiar. I understand the big picture - I need speed training to accomplish my running goals - fartleks provide that style of workout while allowing more flexibility than traditional speedwork.
To determine my running pace, I use the Jack Daniels VDOT value/formula. These paces maybe found in Jack Daniels' book, "The Running Formula: 2nd Edition" - or available on numerous websites such as www.runbayou.com/jackd.htm. Using this calculator, you may determine your paces for various types of running:Easy Pace, Marathon Pace, Threshold Pace, Interval Pace, and Repetition Pace.
A typical fartlek run for me would be to leave my store in Greenville, and begin with a short warm-up of 10-12 minutes before entering the Cleveland park trails/roads. I then pick a stretch of trail/road to run at threshold pace between 5-8 minutes - followed by a 2-minute cool-down - 2 times. I follow this up with a less structured segment. I'll pick landmarks (e.g., picnic shelters, water fountains, big trees) and run between them at Interval pace (5K pace or faster). These landmarks may be one minute apart, up to five minutes - it's always different. I will run these intervals for about 25-30 minutes (including very short cool-downs of 30secs. in between).
I end the run with a threshold pace effort of about 10-15minutes. I am not big on slow cool-downs after a hard effort - it's never comfortable to me and it feels like my mechanics are goofy - so I prefer a quick smooth effort at the finish.
The beauty of fartleks is that they are adaptable for runners of all levels and distances. Beginners should stick to shorter intervals at moderate pace until they build base and gain the strength to endure the stress of speed work. Short distance runners can utilize fartleks to get their speed fix through short disparate intervals at Interval or Repetition Pace. And, long distance runners can incorporate a fartlek within a longer run - or specify a certain day to run fartleks of longer intervals at Threshold Pace. It works for everyone.
You may laugh when you first hear the name, but don't knock it til you've tried it! On On!