Thanks to the encouragement of a couple commenters, Anonymous and Kupka, I'm dedicating myself to speed work. In the eight years I've trained for marathons, I rarely have done any speed training. One summer when I ran with a New York Road Runners Club class, we did speed workouts. But it only lasted a six weeks, then I went back to just running. This has worked just fine for me, but it's clear I've plateaued. Most of my runs, and even my marathons, are at about the same pace, from 7:00-7:15. Anonymous, a 3-hour marathoner, assures me I'm running too fast. I particularly appreciated the simple advice of Kupka: longer on the slow runs, faster on the short runs. Tonight, I tried a hard run.
The best thing would be to finally join a running group to have structured speedwork. But I figured I'd get started on my own with a fartlek run of about five miles. Fartlek is Swedish for "speed play," and it's a way to shove a speed workout into a normal run. Basically, you just choose arbitrary distances -- like a tree 1,000 feet ahead -- to pick up the speed. Tonight, I tried it out at the Bridle Path. I ran over at an easy pace, probably about 8:00 per mile. I did this for nearly one mile. Then I picked it up. My watch is still in Avalon, but my guess is I was running about 6:00 per mile. Hard. I lasted for only 3/4 a mile. From there, things kinda went downhill. I did another five pickups of various distances. I felt like crap, eerily like my first runs ever when I was totally out of shape.
Tonight was hot and humid, but it's mostly a case of my body not being used to me demanding it work hard. That's good. The fartlek is good because it's interesting, and I can still do the workouts on soft surfaces. I figure I'll mix in some hill workouts on the Great Hill and even a trip to the 1/4 mile gravel track in the north end of the park.
5 miles, maybe 35 total