You may be familiar with a workout called “Mona Fartlek,” which is named after legendary Australian marathon runner, Steve Moneghetti, coined by his coach Chris Wardlaw. Allow me to introduce – in case you have not heard of it – a similar sounding workout called “Jono Fartlek,” which was coined by Vancouver’s Mark Bomba – coach at Trinity Western University. Jono Fartlek is named after the seven-time World Mountain Running Champion and Olympian from New Zealand, Jonathan Wyatt.
Wyatt’s seven mountain wins include five consecutive victories, both of which are records themselves. He holds the New Zealand record for the half-marathon and has competed in the Olympics, Commonwealth Games and is a nine-time IAAF World Championships participant including three IAAF World Track and Field Championships. Like many Kiwis before him, he is a versatile runner, who owns competitive personal bests in distances from 800m to the marathon and every distance in between.
Moneghetti owns three Commonwealth Games marathon medals, one of each colour, bronze, silver as well as gold, which he won in the 1994 Victoria games. He also owns a bronze medal from the IAAF World Track and Field Championships from the 1997 meet that took place in Athens. He earned a bronze in the 10,000m distance at the 1998 Kuala Lumpur Commonwealth Games.
The meat of the workout should take 20 minutes to run, typically there are two 90-second efforts, four 60-second efforts, four 30-second efforts and four 15-second efforts, all with the same amount of recovery to match the effort – a sort of cut-down ladder-fartlek workout.
The purpose of the session changes depending on the time of one’s training year. So for example, should the athlete be in a base building period, then the efforts remain completely aerobic, but very near the top of the anaerobic threshold. The recoveries are floats, rather than easy jogging. During this phase, the run more resembles a tempo run with higher-level intensity than what a tempo of one strong effort can typically offer. During the quality phases of training, the recoveries can be a jog, while the efforts delve into the anaerobic realm. The efforts should be done by feel and can range in a feeling-based sense of pace from 1500m race pace to 10k race pace, again depending on the time of year. Mona Fartlek is used extensively in Australia.
Wyatt, upon a visit to Vancouver, BC, did some training in iconic Stanley Park with local competitive athletes, which included Bomba. Wyatt told Athletics Illustrated, “Well, I think the name Jono Fartlek came about courtesy from Canadian runner Mark Bomba, a fairly talented mid-to-long distance runner. We met when I came out to Vancouver for a few months and at the same time I also met a good group of local runners when I got to run the fairly legendary Haney to Harrison Relay, (H2H).”
A favourite of Wyatt’s coach, Graham Tattersall, it was always 8 x 3 minutes to the Kiwi runners that used to do this work-out, “however, the Jono version (from Vancouver) had us running in Stanley Park and meeting at a small lake and running laps that used to take about five minutes to get round. It was a good tough workout with three minutes solid speed followed by a two-minute float recovery where the key was relaxed, but fast running to get as much recovery as possible in the two minutes, but still maintaining a good speed, hence the word ‘float,’” shared Wyatt.
Wyatt, who confesses that he never actually did the Mona Fartlek session, said that the former workout is perhaps better known and is widely used in Australia.
“It (Jono Fartlek) was a staple workout for me in New Zealand where we ran it as a one loop circuit around the Wellington coastline, including warm-up and warm-down and it lasted about one hour and 15 minutes or so because we always started in the same spot, said Wyatt. “The finish point was always a point of interest and status after the 38 minutes of the session (8 x 3 minutes hard and 7 x 2 minutes float). There were, of course, a few in our group who just wanted to see how far they could get and did it like a 38-minute race!”
Wyatt, although trained on a similar program to that of the legendary Arthur Lydiard, ran a fairly short base phase of long, steady running over four to six weeks, where the longest phase of training was the speed endurance period, and the Jono Fartlek sessions were key. “Through the winter and during the cross-country season, until close to starting track it was a regular Saturday morning run. We even sometimes ran this and then ran a Wellington cross-country or road race in the afternoon,” said Wyatt.
Famed Oregon coach and founder of Nike, Bill Bowerman had his athletes run a 10-mile strong effort after having done, what he coined as a “Lydiard Fartlek” session, which included six times one minute plus various other cut-down efforts. His session could include 70 second and shorter efforts with a float type recovery.
Fartlek is a word from the Swedish language which translates to “speed play”. It was developed by coach Gosta Holmer, who created the workout or the form of running in 1937. The purpose was to combine some distance, while running faster within that distance than the runner can maintain, hence the “play” factor, which really was designed so that when the athlete felt inspired to run fast again, they just took off to the next landmark. This is one form of running that began the run by feel method that is often used during the base phase of training.