Playing with traffic

On Wednesday I was meant to head to Saughton athletics track to do my usual session which is 12 x 400m hard effort with 50m jog recovery, then finishing on a 200m sprint. The idea of this session is to get faster over the weeks so the laps aren’t timed individually, its the overall time I am aiming to get down. Since the weather has been cold to say the least for the past couple of days in Edinburgh I decided I would give the track a call first to see if the track was actually open. When training over in Dunfermline we have already been moved off the track due to ice so I thought I better check here as well.

After a quick phone call the person nipped out to check the track for me, which I thought was nice of him. Traffic LightsAnother phone call five minutes later he told me the track was still very icy and not to bother heading to the track. A bit annoying as I haven’t managed to get this session in for a while now and I was really looking forward to it but never mind, I needed to find an alternative for the day.

Instead of the hard session on the track, I decided to run home from the office. The most direct route is about 4 miles but I really fancied getting out for some good miles since London marathon training starts on the 1st January and my weekly mileage is a bit on the low side just now. I left work and the sun was just going down and you could really feel the cold coming in at the same time.

I pulled my Buff up over my mouth and nose and it stayed there for at least 2 miles until I felt my lungs were ready for the cold. I was well wrapped up, from head to toe I had, my Ronhill hi-viz beanie on, a Buff round my face, my Pitreavie AAC running jacket which covered a long sleeve wicking tshirt and also a short sleeve wicking tshirt, moving down I had my Ronhill running tights on which also had my shorts over the top, then a pair of thicker than normal running socks and my blue Saucony Guide 5s. I was cosy! Oh, I almost forgot, I also had on my Decathlon, cheap as chips but super warm, running gloves on. I have to admit I am really impressed by these gloves, they are the first pair that I can comfortably wear on long runs and not feel that my hands are over heating. I usually get this and need to remove my gloves which then causes my hands to get super cold due to the sweat cooling on the skin.

Anyway, you are probably wondering a couple of things by now, a) why is the title of the blog ‘Playing with traffic’ and b) why I have a photo of some traffic lights. I will explain.

The route I take to get a longer run in back to the flat is boring, very boring. For anyone familiar with Edinburgh, the most interesting bit is going from the office up over Drumbrae hill. From here I take a right and head down Queensferry road…actually, here is my route:

Queensferry road has a bit of an incline but that is about as interesting as it gets, its a pretty straight road, I then head down Ferry road and that is even straighter. To pass the time I decided to play with the traffic and throw in a fartlek session in to my longer run. Fartlek means ‘Speed play’ in Swedish, for more information check out the Wiki. Here are a couple of options for a fartlek session I found fun to do:

  • Hard effort from a streetlamp to the next, recovery until the next streetlamp and then run two lamps hard. Mix this up and do as often as you wish
  • Run hard from one bus shelter to the next, it’s surprising how close some shelters are and they were both for the same service!
  • Look for a set of traffic lights in the distance and run hard until they turn red or until they turn green. One thing I did learn however is, every red traffic light will go green but not every green will go red. (that was a long hard effort!)
  • Running beside stationary traffic, when it starts to move i.e. traffic lights change, pick up your pace and run as hard as you can to stay with the speed of the traffic. Once you can’t stick with the pace, drop back and do a recovery run.


It really did make the run go past quicker and made it a bit more interesting rather than the usual boring trudge along the straight roads. Give it a go and let me know how you get on.

Owain Williams

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