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KickRunners.com › Articles › Fartlek






Perhaps the most fun running term to say, Fartlek means "speed play" and is a basic speed training technique.

The beauty of fartlek is that it can be done all year round, and you don't need to go to a track in order to do it. Most of the definitions we have for it though create the impression that it's something we whimsically do -- speed up, slow down, run fast to the next telephone pole, ... that sort of thing.

But fartlek can also be structured. It can be tailored to meet the needs of the particular distance you're training for, and the specific systems you want to train - whether you're an 800 meter runner or a marathoner. If you're among the many runners who believe that every workout should have a purpose, then it's good to know why you're doing a fartlek workout in order for it to be productive.

I'll lead off with a workout I came across that is suitable for the building phase -- the "Portsea" fartlek:

Portsea Fartlek


Originally conceptualized and implemented by South African coach M.D. (Bobby) McGee, the Portsea workout achieves the best of two worlds: it offers all the benefits of the fartlek yet retains some of the advantages associated with the interval session. Although the precise origin of its moniker remains a mystery, this fartleks success is well-known. For example, South-African running phenomes Simon Morolong, Johannes Mabitle, and Colleen De Reuck incorporated the Portsea fartlek into their training regimens, and have subsequently garnered wins at the Peachtree 10K, Tulsa 15K, and Falmouth 7.1 miler, respectively. The main focus of the Portsea workout is actually two-fold: (1.) to provide an endurance athlete with a viable alternative to interval work during the "building phase" of the season; and (2.) to prepare an endurance athlete for the mental and physical demands of the interval workout during the "peaking phase" of the season. The workout (as adapted for runners) goes as follows: 

  • 10-15 minute light warm-up
  • a thorough stretching session
  • 3x3 minutes hard (@ 3,000m race effort) with 75 seconds easy between each
  • 3 minutes easy
  • 4x30 seconds hard (@800m race effort) with 1 minute easy between each
  • 3 minutes easy
  • 3x5 minutes hard (@5000m race effort) with 1 minute 45 seconds easy
  • 5-15 minute warm down
  • a thorough stretching session


The workout specifications above (such as "race effort") can be easily adapted to other endurance sports (such as cycling, swimming, and triathloning) without affecting the fundamentals of the workout. When scheduling the Portsea fartlek into your personal training regimen, always try to pick varied and interesting courses. Although hilly, meandering terrain usually works well, avoid both steep or prolonged hills and sharp turns (which is especially true for the shorter "surges"). Also bear in mind that this fartlek is fairly challenging, and, consequently, should be preceded by at least a few weeks of shorter, less intense fartleks (e.g., 10-15 x 1 minute hard, 1 minute easy). In a similar vein, the workout should also be followed by one or two days of easy running, which will allow your body ample time to recover for your next workout. Just remember, the key to the Portsea fartlek, as with any other fartlek, is to have fun. Both your body and your mind will thank you for it. Best of luck!

Watson Fartlek ( 4':1'x8 )


This is good training for 10k, 5k, 3k and cross country. 

  • 10 minutes warm up jog.
  • Stride hard for 4 minutes with 1 minute jog recovery - repeat 8 times
  • 10 minute warm down jog




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KickRunners.com › Articles › Fartlek