I remember when I was first starting to run, I fell into a common beginner’s trap – I had pretty much one gear, the idea of purposefully running at a specific pace for different situations never entered my mind. That’s not a big deal until you start to run longer runs, or as in my case, you unknowingly start a race with people who run much faster than you. I signed-up for a qualifying run for the Bolder Boulder thinking it was just a fun 5-K. I ended up running a super-human pace for the first mile, puked, and barely finished the rest of the course.
Now that Zola is recovered from last year’s injury, she’s been accompanying me on my runs. She has one gear, and it is fast (much faster than me). She starts out at a trot, turns it into a gallop, we run way faster than we should for the first part of the run and then end up jogging or even walking home. This is no way to take the dog for a run.
To address it I am teaching Zola to run at different paces, and the training technique I am using comes very naturally to dogs. You guessed it, we’re fartlekking. This technique of running fast, and then slow, and then kind of fast, then kind of slow, then really fast, keeps Zola guessing and establishes me as the pace setter. It’s easy to tell when we are running well together because Zola is either right at my side or just slightly in front of me.
The best part is that fartlekking will actually train me to run faster and longer, and at the same time it will teach Zola to be a much better running partner.