“You need speed, speed’s what you need!”
So said Mickey to Rocky Balboa when tasked with getting the Italian Stallion into shape for his first bout with Apollo Creed.
Mickey’s method was to get Rocky to chase and catch some chickens around a pen.
My technique is a bit more prosaic – I run quickly between the bins at my local park.
The idea is based on what some call fartlek running, a Swedish term, which I translate as varying your speed between set distances.
And the great thing is you can vary it to suit you.
At least that’s what I do.
Now that the miles are beginning to pick up, I’m starting to think beyond just going for a run and maybe adding a bit of speedwork.
Thanks to Norwich City Council there are quite a few bins dotted around the route at Sloughbottom Park, so typically when running my three laps I pick a couple and then either go hell for leather in the gaps between them (usually about 50 to 100 metres or so), or accelerate between those which are further apart.
But fartlek running is what I like to do when I need to vary things a little – I’ve also done it when out road running and just wanted to mix things up a bit, but when out road running I would usually up the pace for a minute or two rather than go full pelt.
Though I’ve found this approach works better for me when I’m running with someone else as you can take it in turns to vary the pace.
I would contrast all of that with what I would call interval running, which for me is track based (though you can use your local park too).
I owe this one to my old Hewett School PE teacher Terry Marney, sadly no longer with us.
Basically, what Mr Marney made us do during athletics lessons in PE was run flat out for 200m around the track and then walk back the remaining 200m to the start to get our breaths park.. and then start again.
Do this three or four times, he would say and you would start to get fitter.
He was an interesting teacher, prone to refereeing football matches from his car, dipping his headlights, instead of using a whistle, and consuming lots of Polo mints. He was also a heavy smoker, yet somehow managed to outthrow the much younger and fitter Mr Edwards when challenged to compete against him in a javelin contest.
“Boys love competition!” he would intone, or get us to hold our arms out and rotate them while shouting “spring is in the air!”.
They don’t make them like that anymore I suspect.
Anyway, I digress.
So – does it work? I certainly feel like it does make a difference, which I normally notice more on race day when I seem to have a bit of extra speed in the legs.
However, I don’t think that I have successfully managed to improve my speed enough to improve on my race times.
When I was comfortably running half marathons (if there is such a term), I was normally posting times of around the 1hr 48 mins mark – I’ve never really been much quicker than that.
But I always wondered if I could get to 1hr 45 and who knows even under that. Age might be against me now though as I’m 43 and I also think that to do so might require a bit more effort than I can ever muster, without seriously upping the ante.
In any case, these days I feel a lot slower. Some of that I think has to do with being a bit heavier than I used to be – near the 14 stone mark (that’s 89kg, according to Google, or 196lbs for my two or three US readers out there – I thank you in any case).
But good news – in the last week it looks like I’ve shed half a stone – or 3.2kg, or 7lbs.
So with the weight starting to come off a bit, may be now I can look seriously at getting quicker.
I imagine judicious use of technology could help – such as my Strava app, or a a heart rate monitor.
But if anybody has any tips too, I’d be happy to hear them.
Otherwise, I’ll stick to the bins.