Saturday, 10 November 2012

Magic Potion Fartleks

For some great running routes, see the Route List
If you ask me, the best way to increase your speed is to run fartleks, informal accelerations done during a normal training run. If you want to run faster races, mix a few sprints into your runs. Within a week, you'll notice big gains in speed and general fitness.

I was first introduced to the technique when my Florida Track Club running-neighbor in the Green Latrine in Gainesville, Florida told me about his running idol, legendary coach Percy Cerutty, and his fartlek method. I soon bought "Training with Cerutty" by Larry Myers and began reading about Cerutty's theories and his training methods.
Melbourne Tan-Track runners
Cerutty had a lot of eccentric ideas for his runners: sleeping under the stars, mimicking a racehorse's running style, emphasis on upper-body training. But when I later began running races regularly, I tried out fartleks, and found that they worked for me.

One of the best things about them is that they're so easy to integrate into your training schedule. You don't have to add any new disciplines or workouts to your routine. Just add accelerations as your momentary fitness allows.

Here's How:
Head out on a typical training run. Give yourself a few minutes to get warmed up. When you feel ready, look for a spot at least 100 meters ahead on your path. Now just speed up to a fast pace and hold it until you pass the spot. Your heart-rate should be noticeably faster now. Then slow down again to your normal pace (or slower, if needed) and run for at least a few more minutes until you recover. Repeat for a total of 3 or 4 times during a half-hour run, or 5-6 times for an hour run. That's it.

You can do it without setting rigid start/stop intervals. Just do it as you feel ready. If you are feeling especially weak, lower the acceleration speeds as needed.

In the end, this will add much more to your fitness level than adding much longer, slow runs to your plan, like 20-milers. Of course, you'll need to run some long runs too. But if you're training for a marathon, half-marathons are as far as you'll need to run during your training runs.

With fartleks mixed in, your training speeds will soon be much higher, and you will see less and less difference between your normal pace and your acceleration pace: the fartleks will almost blend into each other.

Re-learning the Lesson:
I re-learned the lesson about fartleks myself in the last months, hence this article. Over the years I have been slowing down from my earlier form. After 35 years of running, with various knee injuries and an operation, and now general arthritis, I had cut back my running more and more: fewer runs, shorter and slower until I was down to a couple of 20-minute slow runs a week. But I noticed that when I was traveling somewhere interesting and I wanted to run just a simple 10-km route, I felt shattered afterwards.

I had cut down my running too far. So, I decided to increase my fitness again, by running longer, more often and with fartleks. Within weeks, I felt like a new person. And so far, my knees have held out. And as long as they do, I'm sticking with my fartleks. What a difference they have made!

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Augsburg Siebentisch Running Route

Click here for route map
Length 8.6 km (5.3 miles), terrain flat except for small hill at beginning/end

For more routes, see the Route List.

Here's a route if you're in central Augsburg but you want to get out into some nature. This will follow the Lech-ditch south into the Siebentisch woods stretching south of town, along the Lech River.
Augsburg's Fuggerei, world's oldest public housing project
The woods goes on pretty much forever, and I wouldn't be surprised if you could keep on running up the Lech valley, over the Alps and on into Italy with this route. We'll keep it a bit shorter here, though. I was in Augsburg in November, with it getting dark soon after work, so I could only make it out partly into the woods each evening before everything got too black.

NOTE: if you have more daylight, you should definitely head further into the woods:  you could add an extra circle around the north part of the woods (called Spickel), or run east towards the main Lech River and then along the river itself or cross the dam to another lake on the other side, the Kuhsee (Cow Lake).

The route starts at the Rathausplatz, the town hall square, with the gigantic renaissance town hall (and the white Perlachturm watchtower to its left) dominating the scene. Looking at the size of the town hall, you can imagine how rich Augsburg was in the middle ages, when the Fugger family and the textile industry made the place wealthy. The old town is much bigger than most towns of the time.
Augsburger Rathausplatz
Facing the town hall, run down Barfüsserstraße (Barefooter-Street, named after the Franciscan monks), to the left of the Perlachturm. Hey, if you're a barefoot runner, this is your place! Follow it downhill until it levels off at Mittlerer Lech street, where you turn right.

You are now running south down a little lane with a roaring stream rushing down the side. Sometimes, the stream runs below the street, sometimes it's open to the air. Actually, it's more of a ditch than a stream. The medieval Augsburgers dug several parallel ditches from the Lech River through here to power water mills. Just behind the houses on the left side is another similar street with a ditch.
Running along the Lech ditch
Back in those days, water power was the number one energy source for industry, and it powered the textile mills for hundreds of years.

You'll pass the old Dominican monastery on the left side, then the street will end at Bei Sankt Ursula street. Turn left here, then right immediately on the first street to continue running south on Beim Schnarrbrunnen.

In a couple of hundred meters, this street also ends, at Margaretenstraße. So here, turn left to run to Remboldstraße, the busy street running parallel to the way you're heading.
Turn down this path to enter the park!
Turn right on Beim Schnarrbrunnen and then take the first turn down into the park running parallel to the street. It's quieter there. Now follow the path as it curves to the right, going around a big bastion that once guarded the southern end of town.
Follow this tunnel to Baumgartnerstraße
At the southernmost part of the park, take the tunnel under the street to keep running south along Baumgartnerstraße. It will go past a tram depot on the left and a few blocks of apartment buildings of various ages.

You will come to a loud street, Inverness Allee. But you can avoid crossing it by curving to the right through the modern little park, with the pedestrian path that takes you over the busy street.
Just past the railroad tracks: the woods begin here. Keep to right side.
On the other side, you'll find a tunnel going under the train line. Go through there, and you'll find yourself facing the woods.

Now, just keep to the right edge while running southwards. You will be following the same fast-flowing ditch. Off to the left side, you're passing the zoo. Along the right is a series of beer-gardens and lawns.
Turn off to right when you pass this sign to the Parkhäusl restaurant
Once you get past the last beer garden and lawn, you'll come to the Parkhäusl restaurant sign that you see above, where you take the paved bicycle path, Siebentischstraße, diagonally to the right. The path goes straight for about 400 meters, but after just 300 meters, you'll see a little lake to your right, Stempflesee.

The lake is only as big as a couple of football fields. At the south end of the lake, we've reached the halfway mark.
Stempflesee ducks in the evening
Loop around the lake clockwise and exit along the north end, where the stream empties the lake. Run north along the path next to the stream.

It comes back to the place where you turned onto the bicycle path a few minutes earlier. Now, just head back out the same way that you came.

But when you get back to the park around the bastion at Rote-Torwall-Straße, let's take a different way north through the old town. So turn left here and run around the bastion with its Roter Tor, the red tower, running clockwise around the bastion.

Turn right at the first side-street to run around the backside of the tower, past Murdocks Irish Pub, and you will find yourself facing the gate-tower from the other side. There are also two 500-year-old water towers next to it.

Now turn left to start running up Spittalstraße, going by the old medieval hospital. This place houses an institution that all Germans will immediately recognize: the celebrated kids' puppet theater, the Augsburger Puppenkiste.
Augsburger Puppenkiste is at home here!
Run north as the street changes its name to Bäckergasse. Then turn left where the street ends at the trees, and follow that street as it curves northwards.

Take the first left turn to run the one block to Augsburg's main street, Maximilianstraße. You will be right at the Neptune fountain. The street is amazingly wide here, with impressive old houses along each side.

Now just turn right and follow it the few blocks back to the town hall square.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Zurich Old Town Running Route

Click here for route map
Length 3.22 km (2.0 miles), terrain flat with two small hills

Zürich Routes List:
East shore out-and-back  
West shore out-and-back  
Zürich old-town loop  

Uetliberg hilltop trail

For more running routes, see the Route List

With a big lakefront, two rivers and two mountains, Zurich has a lot of varied and fun places to run. Here's my favorite little loop through the old town, but with stretches along the Limmat River and the lake.
Fog on the Limmat River on an autumn morning
I was looking forward to my work-trip to Zurich this week, since I hadn't run there in maybe 20 years. And I still had some very memorable runs in my head from way back then.

This short route starts at the main train station (Hauptbahnhof), heads up the main shopping street (Bahnhofstrasse) for a short way, then cuts through the old town and along the Limmat River to the lake. It then circles back through the other old town on the east side of the river before connecting back to the train station.
Zurich main station with statue of Alfred Escher
Sound interesting? Then make your way to Bahnhofplatz in front of the station, turn your back to the statue of railroad pioneer Alfred Escher, and head south along Bahnhofstrasse. This is Zurich's main shopping street, and it's a bit crowded here at the station. But in just a minute, you'll be free of the crowds. Only trams drive down the street. Further down the street, at Paradeplatz, the big Swiss banks have their headquarters.
Bahnhofstrasse: turn left at the end of the square
In just two blocks, you'll come to a green square on the right, in front of the Globus department store. At the end of the square, turn left and run the one block to the next square, Werdmühleplatz.

Turn right here and run through the square towards the street ahead, Uraniastrasse. On the left side, you'll see a stone bridge going over the street.

Turn left and run up the gothic stone steps to the bridge, and then turn right to cross the bridge, going south on Lindenhofstrasse.

Follow Lindenhofstrasse uphill, entering the old town houses. When it narrows to a path with some steps, keep going straight uphill to the next square ahead, Lindenhof.
Lindenhof in autumn
Lindenhof is an old bastion that once protected the town. Now it is a leafy square with a great view, especially of the Limmat River to the east. I like to circle the whole plateau and look out from each side.
View from Lindenhof to other old-town side, with Grossmünster
Now continue going south by exiting down the cobblestone street heading south. You'll see the clock-tower of St. Peter's church ahead, between the houses.

Just keep running straight towards the church as the street goes uphill again. On the side-streets to the right are some of Zurich's finest traditional restaurants. And on the streets going downhill to the river to the left are the city's most expensive designer shops.
St. Peter's
Run straight towards the church tower, then turn left just before the tower, going down the stairs between two ancient houses. At the bottom, the metal stairs take you over ruins of a 2000-year-old Roman bath.
Roman ruins underfoot
When you come out, you are standing in Weinplatz, with expensive shops and hotels surrounding you on all the curving lanes, and the river right in front of you.

Here at Weinplatz, there is a wide bridge spanning the Limmat, and with the old town hall sitting out over the water on the far side of the bridge, in a neutral spot between the two old towns.
Along the Limmat at Weinplatz
Go to the little fountain, then turn right to continue running south, along the riverside path, with the water to your left side. You will pass the Fraumünster church, with its elegant, thin steeple. The church is named after the Benedictine women's cloister which it once served.
The old Frauenbad (women's bathing platform)
You'll now run past a small marina and two Victorian-era wooden bath-houses out over the river. Just after the bath-houses, you'll come to Lake Zurich. Cross the loud lakeside street and run to the waterside square, Bürkliplatz, to get a great view.
NOTE: This is where two other great little runs start, the East Shore Run and the West Shore Run. Try them out, too! See the links at the top of this posting.

Now turn left to cross the bridge over the river, where you come to a very busy intersection. Turn left again to start running north along the other side of the river. NOTE: To avoid crossing the street, you can also run down the steps to the right to then circle under the bridge on the little path and come back out on the north side of the street.

Running along the shore, you'll see the other old town section rising up the hillside to your right. This is actually the bigger old town, and is the city's entertainment area, full of clubs, restaurants, cafés and bars.

You'll soon come to the next church, the Wasserkirche, also built on arches over the river, like the town hall. And to its right, throning a terrace on the hillside is the Grossmünster church, Zurich's landmark building, with its twin, rounded towers.

At the Wasserkirche's front porch, turn right to go up the stairs to the terrace above. Run past the front facade of the Grossmünster and then continue uphill up the courtyard behind the church.
Along Niederdorfstrasse
Here you turn left and run straight through the whole old town. At first, this rolling street is called Münstergasse, but later the name changes to Niederdorfstrasse. There are lots of little lanes and squares branching off to each side, and you should definitely come back again to explore the neighborhood in detail.
One of the little lanes in the old town
Twenty years ago, the neighborhood was fairly run down, but it has been fixed up a lot in recent years, as people came to appreciate its unbeatable character and its great location in the town center. Today, there are a lot of new boutiques and restored side-streets.

On my first night in Zurich, 25 years ago, it just happened to be Fassnacht, the main carnival day in the city. I was wandering the Niederdorf neighborhood and was amazed to find "Guggen" music groups who were also wandering the streets. Each group was made up of 4 or more drummers who played driving rhythms as they went down the street. When different guggen-groups met at a street-corner, they began playing together, with new rhythms spontaneously being born on the spot. People were dancing in the street, and I spent half the night doing the same in this surrealistic street scene. May you also collect some great memories in Zurich!

But most nights, the streets are just filled with normal people going out to dinner or to a pub. The streets further up the hill, closer to the university, are full of students and their pubs and cafés, like those on Zähringerplatz, in front of the Predigerkirche with its tall, thin spire.

NOTE: When you pass Mühlegasse, you'll come to the cheaper end of Niederdorfstrasse, with some traditional and relatively low-priced restaurants, like the Johanniter and the Rheinfelder Bierhalle. If you want to try some typical Swiss food, make sure you try them out!
Traffic policeman at Central. Must be the last one left in Europe!
Niederdorfstrasse ends at the Central square, one of the main transfer-stops for a variety of tram lines, with its traffic policemen instead of traffic lights. Turn left here to cross the river and run straight west to the Bahnhofplatz, where you began.