Fartleks—the term probably calls to mind particular workouts, but fartleking isn't something you do in workouts only. If you've watched the elite race of a marathon and took a look at the splits the athletes ran, you'd see that their miles are kind of all over the place. They may have opened up over 5 or so for the first mile, then ping-ponged around the mid-4's throughout. They were fartleking.
Why is there fartleking in a pro race? A race can be run for two reasons: to get a fast time, or go for the win. The latter is a strategic race, and typically seen in the big-time races where titles and top three finishers are more important than the eventual time.
Fartleking, or throwing surges in during a race, is one tactic to break your competition.
Mentally, putting a gap between you and your competition can sometimes be enough to beat them before the finish line. Getting gapped or being stuck in "no man's land" is difficult, and can sometimes be the nail in the coffin for a racer.
More: How to Choose the Right Race Strategy
Fartleking Is Tough, But Worth the Effort
Fartleking in a race is not the "easy" way to get a fast time—it's tough on the body. Your body performs best when running even paces; when you drastically swing from a fast pace to a markedly slower one, your body isn't able to get into a rhythm. If a runner isn't used to fartleking, it's even harder for him to keep the pace or hang on, and the advantage will go to the one putting in the surges.
The lesson? If you're able to train your body to fartlek, or surge, in a race and hold it together, you can use it to your advantage and try to break your competition.
Practice fartleking, and get used to various paces. There are tons of different ways to fartlek outside of the traditional one-minute-hard, one-minute-easy formula.
More: How Fartlek Workouts Can Boost Your Speed
Finish Fast 800s Workout
- Jog easy for 15 to 20 minutes, and complete any dynamic stretches and strides you need to warm up
- Run 6 to 8 x 800 meters. Run the intervals comfortably hard through 600 meters, but for the last 200, really pick it up and hammer to the end
- Jog easy for 400 meters between each interval
- Finish with 10 to 20 minutes of easy jogging plus stretching for a cooldown
More: 3 Fartlek Workouts to Increase Pace