Koreans: Why Bolt runs 400m

In March 2004, Tokai University professor Chiaki Miyakawa, Japan’s famous short sprinter, was teaching promising Korean short-distance runners. He made a surprising move by telling them to sprint 300 meters 20 times.

Most of them could cover 200 meters at most, so 300 meters was considered a long distance and none of them finished it.

Fast forward to Feb. 22 last year. Usain Bolt, the world record holder in the 100 and 200 meters and three-time Beijing Olympics gold medalist, won the 400 meters with a time of 45.54 seconds in Kingston, Jamaica. Bolt said he trains for the event to prepare for races.

The wunderkind will compete in the 400 meters again at Jamaica’s National Stadium in Kingston Feb. 14. The event is not one of his specialties, but it will be his first race since the IAAF World Athletic Final in September last year.

His personal best in the 400 meters of 45.28 set in 2007 is far short of the world record of 43.18, but Bolt says he wants to compete in the event as a means of training for the 100 and 200 meters.

Seong Bong-ju, a specialist in exercise physiology at Korea Institute of Sports Science, said, “Training methods include the principle of overload. If you can sprint 300 and 400 meters, you can run 100 and 200 meters easier.”

Professor Miyakawa said, “If you want to cover 200 meters, you can set a record only when you can sprint more than 300 meters.”

This is understandable in the case of Bolt, who set a world record of 19.19 at the 200-meter final of the IAAF World Championships in Athletics in Berlin last year.

He celebrated his win by running dozens of meters after passing the finish line while other competitors were exhausted.

Bolt seemed as if he could have sprinted another 200 meter. He also holds the world record of 9.58 in the 100 meters, earning the title of the fastest man on the planet.

Eight-time world champion Michael Johnson of the U.S. also showed that training in the 400 meters is necessary for short sprints. With his strongest event being the 400 meters, he shocked the world by setting a then world record of 19.32 at the 200 meters in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.

Bolt broke that record in the 2008 Beijing Olympics Games with 19.30. As such, training for longer distances is important to short sprinters.

Another reason for Bolt’s development is training on grass. The tracks of the High Performance Training Center of Jamaica’s University of Technology, where the island country’s athletes practice, are made of grass. Bolt trains on the grass track then moves to the track for athletes.

Seo Mal-gu, a former coach who traveled to Jamaica to help train the Korean short-distance sprinter team, said, “Since grass is uneven on the surface, it helps the development of small muscles in feet and legs. Grass is also soft on the surface, making it harder to train on and more effective for training.”

So the Koreans have it all figured out then? Look for their rise to dominance at a meet near you.

I seem to recall that Charlie used SE 300’s with his guys (E.G. Ben asking to drop them since they ‘broke him down’). Even SE 150 for the 100m is technically overdistance.

So how is this new? Yeah, overdistance for events with an endurance component. Exciting stuff.

A friend of mine who’s a korean citizen but lives in canada with his family is a junior sprinter and gets his training plans from the korean coach.

He does tempo a lot. 300’s,200’s,150’s all the time. Also some of it is barefoot on a hard as nails indoor surface. The reasoning that I’ve heard a few coaches throw around is that it develops the hamstrings and glutes. Personally I think there are less painful and easier ways to develop these areas, if that is in fact their reasoning for the use. They’re really pushing hip mobility and glute/ham development.

He dropped his 60 time from 6.97 to 6.74. And that was his season opener. But there are a ton of other variables involved in his training that aren’t linked to the tempo he does obviously. I’ve been watching him closely during his workouts (he’ll come in and do his workouts with me) just running his tempo and busting out 6.7’s.

But surely he must be doing short speed work or other high intensity stuff like Olympic lifts and/or plyos?

Yeah, he did do short speed work and olympic lifts along with this program. Although I haven’t seen him go full speed in quite sometime now.

Thanks for that.

Is it a Long-to-Short set up?

The “20 times” part seems like a lot bigger deal to me than the “300 meters” part by itself.

IF the Koreans train their sprinters any way close to how they train their speed skaters, it will be done like this

take a ton of kids when they are young
throw them into the absolute grinder
the handful that survive will do well
the 99.8% who get destroyed will be left crippled and tossed aside (and/or moved into coaching)

Just like China and Russia and most places.


I heard a story that a Korean speed skating coach would carry a stick and hit the athletes with it if he wasn’t happy with their performances. Also, another coach who was wearing skates would kick the skaters in the shins when he was upset with their effort.

Good coaching, this should happen more often with some athletes.

I’ve heard stories like that and worse/better depending on how you look at it. The US hired a Korean to coach the national team here and he’s just destroying them. Stuff like being forced to run miles both directions to and from practice at a very young age. Stuff like that.

Jumped them straight into about 6 hours/day of training, several hours on the ice and 3 hours of dryland conditioning. Day after day after day.

Because that’s what a 20 year old Korean (who has survived that long) should be capable of. Nevermind that the US athletes don’t have the 10 year+ buildup to that level of training.

The system ‘works’ when you have thousands of people and don’t care about the throwaways. Not so much when you don’t.


I’m pretty sure its a short to long set up. He wasnt training with me until the end of december. What he seems to be doing now are repeat 80-150m. With his tempo still being 200-300m. I can’t say for sure, but he did tell me he worked on his start like crazy from Oct-Dec, so I would imagine he did more short stuff then. He doesnt speak english very well so communication hasnt been all that great. I usually have to ask specific questions that only can be answered by yes or no.