Speedwork is an essential part of any runner's training program, especially for someone like me who isn't going to win any races but is competing against only myself for time. (Side note: I passed up a 5K in my neighborhood on Mother's Day, and after looking at the results, would have won my age group had I decided to run). Tempo runs, track running, and intervals are all part of it, and so is a type of speed run that has an interesting name: fartleks.
Fartlek is a Swedish word for "speed play", and is basically short bursts of sprinting followed by recovery. In short, they are "micro-intervals".
This morning, I had a 4 1/2 mile run planned, and I wanted to shake it up. I had never done fartleks before, relying mainly on tempo runs and tempo intervals. So I gave it a shot today. I ran a half mile warm-up, then got into it. What I found was gratifying - my short distance sprints were followed by long recovery jogs, but when I finished, my time painted a nice picture: 41:24 for 4 1/2 miles, which equates to a 9:05 pace.
What that meant to me was that I was probably running my sprints at about an 8 minute per mile pace; much, much faster than any training run I've done before. My goal this year is to run a 5K at an 8 minute per mile pace or better, so there is hope that I can achieve this. I will still need to sustain that pace over 3+ miles, though.
But that funny word, fartlek, is now a permanent part of my training vocabulary after this morning's performance.