Fartlek is a Swedish running term meaning speed play and fortunately for me the woodland trails of Austria provide an ideal location for this Scandinavian form of training.
The trails near where I live are marked with coloured paint like the one in the above picture. These trail markings will generally be anything from 20 mtrs to 200 mtrs apart, in difficult rocky terrain they may be 10 mtrs apart or less.
What I did today was to run gently for 20 minutes to thoroughly warm up the leg muscles. Having done this I then ran at varying speeds for 20-25 minutes from one painted marker to the next, but basically alternating between fast running and slower running or jogging. I then warmed down for 15 minutes with a medium paced run and finally a short walk.
I think Fartlek is an ideal training tool for short winter and autumn days provided the ground is not icy. I will now include it in my winter training regime which is basically a maintenance programme and which will now proceed roughly* as follows:
Sun: long slow run - 2 to 3 hrs
Mon: walk 30 mins - 1 hour
Tue: short run - 1 hr
Wed: fartlek - 1 hour
Thu: steady run 1 hour
Fri: walk 30 mins - 1 hour
Sat: hills 1 hour
*If I elect to do a race or two then obviously there will be changes. But this will probably not be very often, as the off-road running season is now drawing to a close.
The photograph below serves to highlight an important aspect of ultra-distance running and this is the mental strength required to bring the runner to the end of the race. The deserted streets, the blinding sun, the unforgiving road surface, and no end in sight, are just some of the challenges that ultra-runners have to contend with. There will be painful knees, annoying blisters, dehydration, fatigue, cramp, feelings of nausea, problems with kit, etc., etc., but ultra-distance runners tend to carry on regardless. They run and run until a doctor pulls them out of the race or an official sends for an ambulance or they fail to meet a time check or until they finally arrive at the finish. It's all a battle of wills. The will of the body crying stop! The will of the mind defying the protestations of the body. It's man (or woman) challenging himself. Seeking his limits. And winning through. It's a sport not to be entered into lightly. Be prepared to suffer. Be prepared for setbacks. Work on your mental strength. And then you'll enjoy it!
Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner - - - Hanns Steiner (Der Fisch)
I first made the acquaintance of Leopold Eigner about 10 years ago. That's him with his name on the front of his trademark running vest.
It was not long afterwards that I saw him running in his bare feet in an uphill 5km road race. I later asked him over a beer if he'd tell me why he ran on tarmac without shoes. It toughens the feet, he told me.
Since those days I have followed the running exploits of Mr Eigner Express and I have discovered that he not only runs 5km road races in his bare feet but he also runs in marathons, ultra-marathons, mountain marathons, and 6, 12, and 24 hours ultra events in which he covers ridiculously long distances.
I recall the time I saw him disappearing up the side of a waterfall with a TV camera strapped to his forehead. He was making a film about the Hinteralm Brutal Race in which we were both competing. And yes, despite the headgear handicap he did finish ahead of me!
In a recent edition of the monthly sport magazine Top Times he was featured in a double page spread. It was his 50th ultra event and it was the Ötscher Mountain Marathon - a 70km 2-day race. Day 1 consists of a 50km gorge run in rocky terrain. Day 2 is a 20km run over the narrow ridges and the rugged peak of the Ötscher mountain. I was pleased to note that he wore his shoes.
The above photograph shows Leopold Eigner with his fellow team members at the start of the 1st Salzkammergut Marathon in Bad Ischl, Austria.
The marathon route is over the classic 42.2 kms and, let us say, interesting. After a series of undulations, each more severe than the last, the race leaves the road through valley of the Ischler Ache and follows the shore of Wolfgangsee to arrive at a punishing 250 mtr climb and a forest trail. There quickly follows a knee-jangling descent down a gravelly path where cornering too fast could see you sailing into the forest canopy. A disused railway line then takes competitors through the so-called Marathon Runner's Wall and then its back on the road and on to the finish.
One race that Leopold Eigner has firmly in his sights is the Race Across Burgenland. This annual event attracts an elite field of about 20 ultra runners. It is a 268 km road race through the Austrian province of Burgenland from north to south; from the border with Slovakia to the border with Slovenia.
Such is the world of the Eigner Express. Long may it continue.
It was, it has to be said, a pleasant change to come down from the mountains and take part in a relatively flat and furious 10km race at the weekend. There were other Wolfgangsee races too: 5.2km, 27km, 42.2km. More than 3,000 runners enjoyed a crisp autumn day, clear blue skies and the sparkle of sunshine on water.
- a green medal -
Group of runners entering St. Wolfgang. The Bard is 3rd from the left.
Behind me in the picture below is the picture postcard town of St. Wolfgang with its landmark church tower. That's where the race will finish. I'm standing near the start line at Gschwandt.
The trail follows a disused railway track as far as the village of Strobl (to the right, out of pic). There you are halfway. Next comes the undulating Strobl to St Wolfgang road section and the sharp descent back to the lakeside and the finish.
Wolfgangsee 10km: 328th (50mins 12secs) (11th of 29M60's) 927 ran.