What has sweeden ever done for running? Il tell you what…. Fartlek 

Fartlek – The Swedish Running Legacy

There are many different types of runners…. Some of us are joggers, others fun runners or trail plodders and marathoners, and at one end of the spectrum are elite runners/athletes. What we decide to call ourselves, or what category we decide to define ourselves in the running world is indicative of two features: 1. Our experience and preference for individual distances and events 2. What we see ourselves to be, or what level we see our ability and time/commitment to deem.

Each runner will have something different that they desire and something different which they class themselves. Some will cal themselves joggers, where others will be athletes. These choice of fartlek training for marathoncharacteristics give us lots of information about the runners sense of self. Personally, I have a theory that, regardless of one’s speed or stamina, there are only really two types of people who run: runners and Runners.

For the first group, running is something they do, and this is the same fro the second group, but for these people, running is a part of the person they are, it makes up their characteristics.

If you were to meet a runner at random it is hard to know, to which group do they fall. If you were to ask them how often they ran or how fast they run such and such a distance then this can bring unasked for tension and a unfortunate effect of making either one of you feel inferior.


There is a way to distinct between the two types of runners though. All you need to do is to drop in the word FARTLEK.. If they are they type that laughs,raises an eyebrow the slightest bit, and looks a bit bemused then you are talking to a runner. This is someone who hears the word fartlek and thinks “fart”.

But if you mention the word to the other group and they don’t bat an eyelid, and nod and look serious and start up a conversation about some interval session they had done last week, then you know you are talking to Runner. They are on the opposite side of the line, running is who they are not just something they partake in. If these people hear the word “fart” all that comes to mind is the type of straining developed in Sweden in the 1930 that consist of interval running receptions at different paces with varied degrees of recovery.

The word “fart” is in fact the Swedish word for speed. And the word Lek is Play. Together we have speed-play.This is a decent translation sweden training fartlek of the training routine. It was first developed by the swedish national cross-country coach “Gösta Holmér” in response to the Sweden team’s poor performances against their Finnish rivals. Fartlek isn’t a common word used in Sweden; most non-running Swedes wouldn’t even recognise it as a compound noun. But in fitness and the running world it is very well thought after as a tried and tested training technique with proven benefits for speed endurance.

Holmér’s vision was to combine speed work and stamina training into one session, this consisted of a runner making multiple alterations to their pace during a run or training session. Like interval training, it involves running at speeds far higher than normal for short periods. Where Fartlek differs from interval sessions is in the fact that these short bursts of pace occur within a continuous long run. The short, fast runs alternate with longer periods of easier running.

A Fartlek often occurs on trails or roads, rather than on a track, which means that it is commonly practised by solo runners. It is very hard to complete a fartklek session with someone else, because both runners will have different paces for their session, and if a slower runner tries to run with a faster runner, then they will not be running a fartlek session anymore and more likely be doing a temp training run. The independent element of fartlek gives the runner greater control over their own session. A session needs to be planned in advanced but fartlek allows a degree of free will and a sense for the runner to decide when they are ready for the burst in the run.

Try this Session fartlek for half marathon training HERE

This puts more responsibility on a individual runner. If they go too easy then the Fartlek session will become nothing more than a training run, with hardly any benefit to speed endurance or the desired goal. If you go too hard, or start too fast, then this risks giving yourself too little time to recover between bursts and will probably have to stop before you mea to. The key to getting a Fartlek right is to be both honest and wise, and, as a result, it is usually most effectively practised by runners (or should that be Runners) with more experience. The only time a fartlek should be performed in groups is if all runners are of the same level and even then they should have freedom to run at their own speed and pace.


As an athlete i perform fartlek on a regular basis. The session i do on a bi-weekly basis in the winter is a 30/40 min run: with 1min hard and 1min at slow jogging pace, continuous for the length of the run. This is a very hard session for me, but i know once I’ve done a good block of this training that I’m fit and usually ready to start my track training. This session can be tailored to whatever your goals are. Recovery can be increased and the burst can be either increased or decreased depending on the goal and level of the athlete.


If “fartlek” is something that you are not implementing in your training then you should look seriously into adding it in. If you are interested in other fartlek sessions that are tailored for you personally or want some more information on Fartlek then please get in contact and we will be happy to help you out.