The training plan
I've been following for two weeks now is heavily structured, with that
structure relying on heart rate zone training rather than pace-work. It's a
meticulously designed program that at least appears
to be doing some good. (Of course, it's still quite early to say much about the
program's overall efficacy, but as I already wrote in a previous post, I have
made week-over-week progress.)
So, you can imagine
my surprise when I discovered that my Thursday evening workout was simply
listed as "fartlek run." When I clicked for more details, I read the
following: "Run, 40 minutes. Vary intensity throughout the run. Cool down,
stretch." These are very definitely not highly structured instructions.
From my perspective, they are more than a bit vague.
I have down fartlek
training before, of course. I even have a
comprehensive article on fartlek training here. (It's really good. Read
it!) Only, the thing of it is, when I do fartlek training, it's usually all
spelled out: 5 minutes at this pace and
then 2 minutes at that pace and then 4
minutes at the other pace… Never have I
been tasked to "just go for a 40-minute run and vary the intensity." See you in 40 minutes, kid. Do what you gotta do.
So, in preparation
for this workout, I started researching what sort of fartlek workouts other
half marathon athletes generally do. Although not surprising in hindsight, what
I discovered was that nobody knows anything about fartlek training that I don't
already know myself. After reading half a dozen of the best articles I could
find, I fired up my trusty spreadsheet, ready to map out a fartlek workout that
was as close to exactly 40 minutes as I could get.
hiding in a throwaway prepositional phrase in of one of these
articles, I discovered something I genuinely didn't know: "classic fartlek is based on feel and
inspiration." (Emphasis mine.)
Somehow, in more
than thirty years of running and training, it had escaped me that fartlek
training was originally intended to be unstructured
and fun. Who knew? No wonder I've always had a difficult time explaining to
people why they should do fartlek training and interval training. After all, a
structured fartlek workout is just an interval workout! The one is the other
and the other is the one. But that wouldn't be the case if the whole workout is
intended to be a lighthearted 40-minute outing with inspiration serving as your
Thus far in my
half-marathon training, I've thrown myself into the program whole-hog. I don't
usually train by heart rate zone, and in fact the running I've been doing over
the last several years has been very different from this program. But, I
figured that if I was going to do it, I should do it like they laid it out.
Garmin paid experts good money to come up with this program. It's not
guaranteed to work, but what are the odds that it won't?
In that spirit, I
decided to head out for an unstructured
40-minute fartlek run. If this schedule wants me to let loose and get a little
crazy, then let's unleash some crazy!