Speedplay Coaching - major influences


Fartlek is Swedish for "speed play" 

"A system of training for distance runners in which the terrain and pace are continually varied"

In the 1930s Gösta Holmér, coach of the Swedish cross-country team, grew tired of his athletes being thrashed by Paavo Nurmi and the other Flying Finns. He devised a new training technique - "fartlek". Fartlek through the forest or over farmland was one of my favourite sessions as an athlete. Hence the name - Speedplay Coaching.

Gösta Holmér


In the 1950’s an overweight milkman hammered himself around the Waitakeres and devised “Lydiardism”. In the '90's I was given the book “Running with Lydiard”. I used it to coach myself to my first NZ title- the NZ Junior Cross Country Champs. I was converted. All my schedules are based upon Lydiard principles - no matter what level you are at. That stuff works!

Coaching influences

I got lucky. Very lucky. John Hunt in school,  the late John Davies  through university- a “first generation” Lydiard man and Olympic 1500m bronze medallist. Years later, 2:13 marathoner Craig Kirkwood, and NZ sporting gem and master motivator-  Jack Ralston. I learnt loads from all these guys, and try to do justice to them with every Speedplay athlete.

                                                                                         John Davies, 1500m bronze, 1964 Olympics, Tokyo (Lydiard's other pupil, Snell- gold)

Kenyan influence

I had read and read, everything I could over the years about the Kenyan runners, but in 2013 I went there. Living and training, carting my water, sucking up the red dust, and hanging on by my finger nails as the only “mzungo” in a pack of two hundred  athletes in a group fartlek session, trying to learn as much as I possibly could. There is a Kenyan influence to Speedplay Coaching that you probably won’t find in a running magazine.

Kenya, 2013.

 Japanese influence

In Japan, the marathon is like rugby in New Zealand. I have raced four times in Japan, and absorbed as much as I could. Crazy, crazy work ethic. 

Racing experience

Variety. Experience racing overseas and what that entails, including the challenges of racing at altitude, racing in World Championships, or how it feels to toe the start line with 40,000 other marathoners fidgeting behind you. 

Physiotherapy expertise

Key to getting fitter and faster? Consistent training. Biggest enemy to consistent training? Injuries. I hate them. Speedplay athletes don’t just have running to do, they have injury prevention exercises also, and a physio to help make a plan at the first sign of a niggle.

A programme that is unique to you

We are not all pro-athletes. We have stuff on. Speedplay Coaching needs to understand what makes up the “jigsaw puzzle” that is your life, and therefore design a programme that is unique to you. I love solving that stuff.

Running as a junior

I am passionate about keeping young athletes in the sport having seen too many talented youngsters burn out. I like my Speedplay youngsters to keep playing as many different sports as they can throughout school, developing maximal motor skills, and specialise later. Training needs to be fun, well balanced, and have a long term plan.


I get that tricky stuff. Phew!

Returning to running after time off

You are still passionate about the sport, but people are telling you you are wasting your time? That you are "not as young as you were". Well try having eight years off then starting again at 30. I can help with this!

   Left- Lydiard teaching John Davies hill springing, 1960s. A session John would take us through three times per week during the hill springing phase, also at Cornwall Park. Right- meeting Lydiard as a school age athlete, NZ Track and Field Champs.