Basic Question: What IS speed endurance in the 100 meters and how do we train it?

Or, maybe a better way to say it: what is causing sprinters to slow down in the 100 meters pretty much immediately after they hit max velocity? A guy speeds up for 50-60 meters, hits a 0.85 ten-meter split and then usually hits a 0.86, a 0.87, a 0.88…

A few guys can hang on to a top split for two consecutive ten meter segments; I assume they’re still accelerating or decelerating, just at a level not discernible from simple split-taking.

What’s going on physiologically? There’s a great thread in the forums here about the lactic threshold (, but my admittedly basic understanding of the science here is that Sharmar’s response at the end is correct:

“Changes in muscle ATP and PCr during 14s of maximal effort sprinting causes a drop in ATP at a very high rate, the energy from PCr is used to rebuild ATP, preventing the ATP level from falling. At exhaustion both ATP and PCr is exhausted, it is then when both ATP and PCr is exhausted that the lactic system is recruited. During the 100m the alactic system is never exhausted since ATP and PCr is never fully depleted.”

However, Sharmar then says that the drop in performance is due to “neuromuscular factors” and not a shift in energy systems. But I’m not clear as to what this means.

Apparently, the positive effects of creatine are (a) significant and (b) come in during the last 40 meters of a 100 :

(“100 m time on the track was improved after Cr but not after placebo intake (Placebo: 11.74 ± 0.35 vs. 11.76 ± 0.35, Cr: 11.68 ± 0.27 vs. 11.59 ± 0.31, P<0.02) with this difference being the result of a faster time during the last 40 m of the 100 m race.”).

Does this indicate that there’s more/better PCr stores for the creatine-supplemented athlete, such that the ATP can be rebuilt better?

Going purely on anecdote, my last two 10 meter splits are dramatically worse this year, when I’ve been off creatine, than they were last year, when I was on it.

Next question:What’s the most effective way of training speed endurance for the 100…and why?

Now, per Charlie himself, science should follow training… but I’d like to get an understanding of why people are getting their results out of their preferred methods of training SE.

So: what does running a 150 in training do for the last 30 meters of a 100 meters? I know I’ll be slowing down for everything after 60 meters (in fact, I’m an old fart who slows down after 50); what does running practice runs where I’m going 1.10+ for 100-110, 110-120, 120-130, etc., do for me trying to hold on to my top split and maybe go 0.99 from 60-70, 1.0 for 70-80, etc.?

Why not just run a bunch of really high quality 100s and more specifically work on that 50-100 meter segment? Is it to get my body used to running slightly submaximally and hang on to my form/technique as best as I can when my muscles are degraded?

I’d love to hear some opinions from the awesome minds of this site.

I think first of all it entirely depends on the type of athlete you are. I’ve been lucky enough to have a chiropractor friend who has an Omega Wave, and it showed that I am very much a “strength” type athlete who probably depends on volume to get me fit before I can run fast. My top athlete is the polar opposite, and can tolerate only low volumes, but the work he can do is done at super high quality. For someone like him, going short to long with limited volumes works nicely. For me, I cannot tolerate much alactic work, so long to short is a better approach.

Also, the long to short approach may take more races to get you to PB level, as the races function as specific sessions moreso than in a short to long program.

Keeping these types of variables in mind, you can figure out what type of workouts will get the best results for you.


Thanks, T-Slow. I’m more like you, my top runner is more like yours. If we’re doing 3x120 on a given day, I’m usually catching up to him on #3…even though his PR is 0.80 faster than mine!

Back to the basic question: what is going on when we’re slowing down in the later stages of the 100?

In doing video and split analysis, I’ve noticed something that I find extremely interesting:

In the last 10-20 meters, stride length is pretty much the same (sometimes even longer, as Charlie predicted) as it is at Max Velocity. The limb action is also pretty much happening at the same speed. What changes is the ground contact time: it’s a shade longer at the end of the race over what it is at the fastest segments.

So, in the simplest numbers I can: my stride length stays pretty constant at 2.0 meters/stride from top speed to the end of the race. At my fastest portions, it will take me 0.09s of ground contact time to generate the force to travel this 2.0 meters. At the end of the race, it is taking me 0.11s to generate the same amount of force. This seems tiny, but compound it over 5 strides and all of a sudden I’ve gone from running 1.0 seconds for 10 meters to 1.1 seconds for 10 meters.

If I’m right about this, and what’s going on is increased ground contact time to achieve the same stride length - because there’s less force in each foot strike - what does that say about causation? Is this muscular (perhaps ATP-PCr energy system reaching its limit and muscles not working as efficiently?) or mechanical (form degrading such that I’m no longer in a position to deliver force in the best direction?)

Interested in the responses.

The way I see it, everything depends from whether you are going all out or sub max.
In general your CNS is not able to sustain max level of stimulation for prolong period of time, when you are at sub max, its way easier to sustain efficiency, relaxation and coordination.

I have been observing that in most threads people talking about developing speed, power, SE, strength. However many aspects such as coordination is not even touched. I guess you are thinking, what he’s talking about. Well is well documented that coordination plays important role is speed development or speed maintenance. I have to agree with what Irving “Boo” Schexnayder said: when you are playing game on easier/slower level you are going to have more control over what is actually happening, faster you go, higher level you operate you’ll start to making small mistakes which are going to contribute to slow you down, the same thing is happening while you are operating at high speed.

Re: ground contacts time, there is pretty good research about it. On many occasions we can observe loss of force application especially during SE runs.
Just one example, one of the reason as to why Oscar Pistorius wasn’t allowed to compete with able bodys was that, Achilles tendon losing its properties, the elasticity of the tendon is changing per every stride cycle and it can be as much as -10% for every cycle and when you have a springs you don’t have actually that kind of problem.

Dan Pfaff was talking about Surin who was struggling with sustaining high speed because of the lack of elasticity return, he said that he was really poor when he was performing low bounces for distance, he’s calling it “elastic endurance” After every SE run he was performing his rudiment circuit to improve this quality.

Kind regards

Fantastic response. I completely see what you mean about coordination.

So, running some 150s may give one the ability to get many more strides in at high, though submax level, and allow one to spend more time efficiently managing gradually declining velocity…keeping the body coordinated while running at 9.1 m/s might benefit one later on who is attempting to keep the body coordinated at 9.9 m/s?

If you have any more thoughts, wermouth, please share. This site has a long tradition as the best place for sprinting information on the net - I’d love it to keep it that way.

Just some of my thoughts.
The mind knows only one solution for running all out, but has different options for running submax, e.g. reduce the frequency, reduce the length, increase the flight time, increase relaxation etc.
Running 150s submax provides an inherent incentive to run relaxed (i.e. with improved coordination i.e. the same speed with less work) as this promotes energy conservation for the next rep.
Running 150s all out you also don’t really worry (subconsciously) about energy conservation because you know that there will be plenty of time for recovery.
If you improve your coordination at 90% speed you likely improve your efficiency at higher speeds and this allows you to explore new solutions for running fast.
I’m not saying running 150s all out does not help at all, there surely are benefits physiologically and in motor recruitment, but for improving coordination, as in removing unnecessary recruitment, running submax may be better.

Thanks, martijn!

I think it’s a bit more complicated than that.

My overall rule is to listen to Charlie, and I do it mostly like he did with Ben, i.e., 2X200 with long rest that we know that Ben cut to 2X150, and I am a short to long guy with high quality, long rest, few reps. I actually do 2X150 + 2X50, but personally, a lot of the workouts I do are exactly what Charlie did with Ben and described in this forum: Arguing with Charlie is hazardous to your speed.

You may develop coordination with 150s submax, but I don’t think you get SE (the ability to recruit in order to maintain output) that way. If you just do “SE” as IT-like, and you’re doing it in higher volume because it’s submax, then what you are really telling your CNS is that you want to put out less average force for a longer period. And if that’s all you do for overdistance, then when you need additional recruitment in the last 20-30m of a 100, you don’t get it. I don’t think you get the same effect for doing 85-90% for longer periods as you get from 95% or so for shorter periods. I also think this gets into the reasons why Charlie didn’t like IT–that all you’re really doing is tiring yourself out without getting productive work in.

What we know from research is that all systems turn on more or less immediately and at max effort, ATP tops at about 15 seconds and maintains near that point for a few seconds. I think you want to train in this window in SPP, and I think both Charlie and Tony Wells would agree with that based on what they actually did. That is at the end of SPP.

Then when you taper, you cut everything waaaaaay back, and part of what you do is something like 2X150 submax and everything else is either starts or 100/200 racing.

I agree that there may also be drawbacks of running submax. depending on the athlete and the volume, but I don’t think you should be too dismissive of other approaches to developing SE.
There have been plenty of succesful athletes with superior speed endurance in the 100m who’s training staple wasn’t 120-200m flat out, most notably Carl Lewis and his buddies under the tutelage of Tom Tellez.
You need to look at the needs and strengths of the athlete and the entire training program.
Training short-to-long it makes perfect sense to run the 150s fast in the period between the indoor season and the outdoor season and not reduce speed. And I’d like to point out that in the long-to-short CF program the speeds in the longer runs are also considerably slower than in a 150m all out.

You don’t need to go all out to recruit. The recruitment is occurring on different levels and in sub max conditions. Also over 150s you won’t be able to go all out in the first place. Going all out further then 50/60m is not really doable, whether is 100, 150 or longer, all are done in phases ins/outs.

I also disagree with “If you just do “SE” as IT-like, and you’re doing it in higher volume because it’s sub-max, then what you are really telling your CNS is that you want to put out less average force for a longer period”.

I would argue with you putting it this way, you are really telling your CNS is that you want to put max forces for as long as possible but somewhere at back of your mind pray that there is enough juice to finish the run, I believe that you’ll be looking quit good over first half, most definitely you’ll fall apart in the furthest stages. Having poor force application and form in the last 20/40m would that qualified as so called high quality rep?

CF once said that “there is difference between what you can go and what you have to go”

I think that we have two solutions

One: shorter distance eg. 60/100 instead of 150s.or option two sub max. rep.
I think that 85-90% is too slow to perform 150s, you can go around 95% and be able to retain full control.

The run needs to be well executed, that’s it.

Kind regards

Good stuff guys.

Just a personal anecdote here, anyone who wants to comment, feel free:

This year, I messed up and didn’t listen to Charlie; feeling concerned about me and my guys’ SE after a couple of meets, I doubled-down on speed endurance in practice and brought it up SPP volumes. Basically, I saw from the splits I measured, all of us were slightly behind schedule for the last 40 meters of our races. I thought the remedy would be to focus on the SE, even if it marked a departure from the plan.

So, for instance, on one Tuesday before a Saturday meet, I had us go 4x120. Another Tuesday was 3xflying 20 & 3x110. This sort of overcorrection went on for about a month.

The results: speed endurance got substantially worse throughout the season, even as other qualities stayed steady or improved. I’m a low-level guy who opened with an 11.5 and closed with an 11.8. My top guy opened with a 10.8 and ended with a 10.95.

Practical Point: I think the smart thing to do would have been what Charlie advocated: in the competition period, your races ARE your SE work.

Theoretical Question: What exactly happened? Muscle fiber conversion? General CNS stress? Combination of both?

Stylee, It is not so easy listening to someone else is it? On some level , why would you?

Here is the thing however.

I was just reading some articles about running a business. In order to make money it’s all about analytics and predictors that can be studied and tracked.

If people have read Speed Trap, understood it and know something about who Charlie was, they would come to understand there was a great deal or trial and error that went into what he did.

Take the last year of my running.

I went out one night with one of Charlie’s female athletes and wore high heels. ( btw, for those who do not know this , heels are murder for runners , especially sprinters).

Charlie didn’t love any of his athletes going out during the height of training.( which was basically all year around minus a few weeks for most)

He also hated his female athletes wearing high heels. He tolerated it every now and then.

Two days later I pulled my calf.

I never recovered from that calf issue that happened in September of 1997.

I might of but I insisted on lifting at ton of weights as I could not run. Getting strong made me happy.

Everyone feels like crap when they injured. To avoid the poor me or why me crap, I tried to do something about it.

My best lift in a quarter squat was 315lbs 1x.

That was my big claim to lifting fame for my career. Sure. I was not running remember? So no competition from other stressors.

To this day I ask myself why and for what reason ?

I got scared and panicked and did not trust him ?

Why? Because I could and it felt good and I wanted to .

Gee whiz.

None of those things are good reasons when you have one of the best coaches in the world telling you what to do.

But he let me decide.

Why did he do that?

So that I could not come back on him at some later date and blame him.

I could only blame myself and we both knew it.

There was never debating going on with this man.

If he didn’t know the answer he was quick to say it.

If he did. He was prepared to fight to the end to prove it.

I get that you want to understand fully what happened and why? Sometimes you have to believe because. I know that is not terribly scientific but even he used to say sometimes he was not sure about somethings.

I learned to go forward with things I know for sure. Everything else? Well , you can figure that stuff out as a lesser priority. You can make great gains based on simple , tried and true methods long before things need to get overly technical. I know I am speaking of generalities here but it’s what I know sure. ;0

Stylee, to be honest, I’m having trouble understanding your original inquiry. What was your core question regarding speed endurance? Can you reduce it to one or two sentences?

  1. What causes the immediate slowdown after a sprinter reaches top speed - energy system failure/shift?
  2. What does running over distance (120, 150, 200, etc) do for counteracting effects of whatever the answer to question (1) is?

Or: Sprinting at top speed is about effectively applying force into the ground. Why does this force application degrade after 5-8 seconds of all-out sprinting? What do our various training regimens purport to do to delay or lessen this effect?

I like what wermouth brought up - “Dan Pfaff was talking about Surin who was struggling with sustaining high speed because of the lack of elasticity return, he said that he was really poor when he was performing low bounces for distance, he’s calling it “elastic endurance” After every SE run he was performing his rudiment circuit to improve this quality.”

I remember hearing that he would have Bruny do “endurance plyos”

I honestly don’t know if anyone has successfully delineated the exact mechanism at work. It’s likely there are several at play. All we know is that the established methods seem to work. But as performances increase and the race becomes shorter in total duration, speed endurance plays a smaller role in race performance. However, at this point maximum speed is so high that speed endurance training has the primary benefit of lowering CNS load in training and varying the stimulus more than its contribution to speed endurance requirements (if any) needed for race performance.

One theory is that the limiting aspect in sustaining very high intensity events may not have to do with the degree or rate of energy available but rather with induced impairments associated with metabolic processes.

Interesting thought.
I’ve understood the way speed endurance qualities have a shrinking influence as one moves up in performance levels for a while now, after I really dug into the splits. For the top guys, max velocity attained is an amazing predictor of placement within a race. I think I’ve found one or two examples in all of the splits research I’ve done wherein a slower guy beat a faster guy (both measured by top split). One I can think of off the top of my head is Surin beating Dwain Chambers for silver in 1999’s World Champs; Chambers ran 0.84 from 50-60, while Surin hit 0.85. Even in that one, where Chambers had an awful decline in the last 40 meters, Surin actually beat him to 60 meters. The loss is just as explainable by worse acceleration as it is by worse speed endurance.

But as Charlie pointed out, and as split analysis shows, speed endurance matters a whole lot more for slower guys (and women).

I have some doubts about some of the later splits (whence the reacceleration late in the race by so many of these women?) but you see a much wider variance in times for people with the same top speeds. Max velocity is still the dominant factor, followed by rate of acceleration, but there’s a lot of swing for times over the last 40-50 meters. For instance, Hooker and Lewis both hit a top split of 0.93 (10.7 m/s) between 40 and 50. However, Hooker’s superior speed endurance allowed her to hang on for a 4.89 last 50, while Lewis only managed a 5.0. That’s a 0.11 difference - highly significant.

Sorry for this statistical digression, just thought it was interesting. Thanks for your thoughts and please keep them coming.

Ha! Very very true.
We did everything by the books (Speed Trap, Charlie Francis System, and Key Concepts) for 6 months and then I threw it out the window because I was concerned about one element. If I had just stayed the course, it would have fixed itself.

There’s always next year to get it right though.