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Steve Moneghetti

Train Like A Champion

runABC coach Alan Newman recommends the Mona Fartlek for busy runners...

I first saw the legendary Australian distance runner Steve Moneghetti competing in the 1986 Edinburgh Commonwealth Games marathon. In cold and windy conditions, 'Mona' took the bronze (2:11:18) behind his countryman Rob 'Deek' de Castella (2:10:15) and former British policeman Dave Edge, representing Canada (2:11:08).

Earlier, he had contested 10,000m on the track, finishing fifth in 28:29.20, some distance behind an athlete I had coached as a junior – gold medallist Jon Solly (27:52:42) – the main reason I was in that freezing Edinburgh stadium in August!

Little Athletics had spurned Moneghetti as a primary school pupil, his father being told he was not good enough. However, at St Patrick's College Ballarat in Victoria, he developed into a superb endurance runner, representing Australia at four Olympic Games; six World Championships, and four Commonwealth Games. Career highlights include winning the 1990 Berlin Marathon, the 1994 Tokyo Marathon, and the 1994 Commonwealth Games Marathon in Victoria, Canada.

The 'Mona' era of joining 29 Australian international teams ended with 10th place in the 2000 Sydney Olympic Marathon – aged 38 – and he still runs every day, in his seventh decade, up to 100K a week compared with his peak mileage of 200K a week running twice a day, which led to a world record 1:00:06 at the Tokyo Half Marathon in 1993.

Despite a long athletics career and subsequent busy public life, Moneghetti maintains a disciplined approach to training. He has used a speed session designed to improve 5,000m performance practically every week which has become widely known as the 'Mona Fartlek' in Australia and worldwide, devised by his coach Chris Wardlaw.

This is an ideal session for anyone with limited time as the 'meat' in the 'sandwich' only takes 20 minutes – perfect for a lunchtime thrash. The 'Mona Fartlek' is bookended with a warm-up and warm-down run, so it could take an hour if these were also 20 minutes each.

Here is the 'Mona Fartlek' session:

  • 2 x 90 seconds, with 2 x 90 seconds 'float'
  • 4 x 60 seconds, with 4 x 60 seconds 'float'
  • 4 x 30 seconds, with 4 x 30 seconds 'float'
  • 4 x 15 seconds, with 4 x 15 seconds 'float'

Start at your 5K or parkrun pace for the 90-second runs and speed up as you drop each level. The 'float' recovery is best described as a fast jog, with no static rest. It's tough!

So there it is. You now have one of the 'secret sessions' of a world-class Australian athlete who was no stranger to our shores and who won the 1990 Great North Run in 1:00:34. We might not be able to emulate his achievements but we can all do a 'Mona Fartlek'!

Let us know how it goes...

Photo courtesy of Steve Moneghetti

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