Making a comeback in the 400m--how realistic is this?

I am 32 years old and haven’t actively pursued sprints since HS. That’s not to say I’m out of shape, however, because I have never stopped exercising all together. I just changed my focus from sprinting to 5K’s then to olympic style weightlifting (in which I achieved some minor success).

I’ve always been naturally fast, but never harnessed my potential. In high school, I foolishly “trained” for track season by running cross country–that’s all, no sprinting drills or anything unless you count several reps of 400 meters in practice a few times per week. I never properly trained to maximize my sprinting/jumping ability because neither I nor my “coach” new any better. In spite of all this I ran the following times as an 18 year old:
55 meter–6.69
100 meter–11.3
200 meter–22.74
400 meter–52
long jump–22’5"
Mile–4:23 (in cross country)

I also have had recent success in training the olympic lifts and competing in some local/regional meets. Our OL coach tested my vertical and it was 33 inches and he told me that I probably have a natural tendency toward sprints/jumps rather than endurance. I am interested in joining a local track club and training and even competing again to see what can become of my times with some proper training methods. My goal is to break 50 seconds in the 400m. The only training I do now is moderate strength training and running intervals sprinting/walking in my neighborhood. Am I crazy or what?

Not clear what you are asking. If you are asking whether you should start sprinting again, why not? That’s your decision. There are plenty of opportunities for submasters (30-39) level competition. Lots of great information on this site about how to structure your training.

Hey Heat, I think its totally realistic. I also think that’s a great vertical jump. You can do this with time, guidance, and patience. It appears you have good strength, so I would just be curious of 4 things; your height, your weight, your general health, and what exactly are the intervals you are doing now. time/distance and recovery.


Thanks for the reply. I am 5’11’, 177 lbs. and in pretty good overall health. During the last few months, I have just done intervals of jogging and walking through my somewhat hilly neighborhood along with some overall strength training. Just last week, I went out and ran my first sprint in 15 years–I tried to run two 400m --about 10 minutes apart–and clocked 61.10 and 61.01. Last week I also got in two days of 8x100m at 13-14 seconds with two minute recovery time in between each one. I no longer compete in olympic lifting meets.

I had such bad training way back in HS, if you would even call it training. I didn’t go out for track until 11th grade so the coach said I should “run XC to get in shape for track” which was not a good experiment for one inclined toward sprinting. I struggled and staggered my way through XC, no matter how hard I trained and no matter how many long, slow distance runs I did. Now, I could run a good mile, and in one meet I passed the 1 mile in 4:23 on a cool, cloudy, flat course. But, usually after one mile, the bottom would fall out and I would be fortunate to run under 19:xx.

As for track, the basketball coach was the sprints “coach” and all we mostly did was run a few laps in practice. Run the straights, jog the curves. So, most of my times were run with very non-specific training and were the result of whatever fitness level I was on at the time. So, for the last 15 years, I never have really stopped running–I just haven’t done any sprint-specific stuff in that time. I want to see if I can get below 50 for a 400.

I may be decent at the 200 or even the 800–I just don’t know, but I do have a “feel” that the 400 should be the one I focus on the most.

If you want to then do it, why not. I’m 35 and started speed training age 31, wore spikes for the first time in my life age 32.
I’m not great, but constantly improving and already faster than anyone thought I would ever be.
Just make sure you take your time. Some improvements teenagers might see from one season to the other might take 5 years in our age…

gradual my friend…could be a phyio’s new car payment if you have too demanding of a program.

Hey Heat,
Sorry it took so long; been out of town. Those 13 sec 100’s would win some local all-comer meets out here. If you can run those 400’s in 60, you’re roughly on a 15 second hundred pace which puts you at approx. 45 sec for 300m. I think you’re in pretty good shape.

I really like Charlie’s general prep Dvd with the short hill work-outs. Me and my crew use that with tempo runs on the following day. Because we’re older we take wednesday off and run again thurs-fri. The main tempo work is the 1111-112-122-112-111, 50m walk between each rep, the ones being 100m and the twos being 200m and the dash being 100m walk. We keep them between 60 and 75% of our current 100 and 200 time until we get fit enough to use goal time.

We also do part of that tempo (maybe the first 2 sets until we are able to add the rest, one set at a time. This is done on grass or sprint turf to spare the body. Lastly my focus is to try to add about 200 meters a week until I can get to about 2600m per tempo workout.

this takes about 7 weeks and should have you ready to do some more specific training for your 200/400m goals.

Who cares how realistic it is. If you enjoy doing the 400m that’s all that matters and if you make it, you make it. If not, at least you had fun!


Two painful, sore, weeks into my return to the track I have read, researched, and considered the cournicopia of articles, advice from experienced folks here, and other sources of advice on training and am trying to combine principles that I hope will set on the right path. I also have a decent idea of how my body works as far as training is concerned. At this time, I can devote around 30-40 minutes per workout, that may not be much, but I have a full time job, two kids to look after, etc. Here are some ideas that I hope to apply that address speed and conditioning concurrently:

  1. With me, less is more. I have a hard time with high volume. This was true in my high school XC/track days, my subsequent 5k training, and in my olympic weightlifting preparation for competition. I always performed my best after allowing for rest periods (often days and weeks and to the chagrin of my coaches!)

  2. I have access to some decent hills in my neighborhood. The main one is a steady, straight, about 40 degree climb that is around 350 meters. I could do a 30 minute run two or three days per week, part of which will be running this hill 3x each time I do this run.

  3. Track workout two days per week. Start off by continuing the 8x100m that I’ve been doing, maybe slowly add in some 200m runs at 70-80%.

  4. Lifting–overhead squats (my favorite!!) and power cleans with at least my bodyweight and slowly add weight.

  5. Still deciding which events to focus on. As I have mentioned, I was sort of a hybrid runner. I ran as fast as high 22’s in the 200m and as fast as 4:20’s for mile when I was in peak XC shape. It just depended on the season and what I was doing at the time. I’m considering 400, 800, MAYBE the mile, but the time I can devote to training will be a factor.

Let me know what yall think.

My reaction to your points:

  1. As an older athlete (51), I agree with your less is more approach. Rest is equally important as work as you age.

  2. 40 degrees – if that’s right – is awfully steep. I wouldn’t do it – especially for as long a stretch as you state. I also wouldn’t do a 30-minute run. Opt instead for tempo runs with short recoveries on grass.

  3. If the track work is for speed, I would cut the volume a bit and go 95%. I wouldn’t do anything on the track in that 80% area – too slow for speed and too fast for recovery work. If you’re looking for conditioning, you will get some of that with the tempo work on recovery days and the rest of it on the speed days as part of your quality work. You might consider one of your speed days as acceleration and max velocity work (short sprints up to 30m and flying sprints of 30 meters), and the other as speed endurance (reps of about 60 to 80 meters with full recovery and/or special endurance – two or three 300 meter splits [200 near full speed followed by a short rest and another 100 with whatever you have left]).

  4. You know more about the lifting based on your background so go with what works for you. I would keep the volume low, though.

  5. Try different events, see what you like and then adjust training accordingly. Obviously, if you decide on the mile, you’ll need to make some radical adjustments from this discussion as if you were training for 400.

Dig around on this site, and you’ll learn details about training programs for sprints.


Welcome to the club :D.

I am a masters athlete as well (M39) and started running last year after 17 years of inactivity.

I think we have a similar background when it comes to track because I used to run anything from 200 to 5k road races back in the day. My main events though were the 400/800.

I found it to be a slower than expected road back to training and competitions given my other commitments (work & family), but I’m still sticking with it. The great thing is that there are a lot of people in our age group who are going through the same challenges. We feed off of each other for motivation and encouragement.

Goals are good to have, but don’t let them discourage you if you don’t achieve them right away. Run because you love it and want to challenge yourself. Let’s face it, we are doing this for personal pride and satisfaction. There are no Olympic trials to worry about … no standards we must attain … no scholarships on the line … just you, the track or field, and your desire to be the best you can be (and to beat the 50 year old freak of nature who keeps kicking your butt all the time :eek: … sorry, personal demons :))!

Before I came back, I thought I’d be able to run a 52 400 easy after a few weeks of training. The reality was that I had a tough time breaking 57 in time trials. My first meet I ran 54.9 and was so happy, you’d swear I just ran 44.9 :D! I finished last year running 23.8 and 53.9 for the 200/400 (ran 22.9 and 51.3 this year). The point being that you should be flexible to adjust your goals as needed. Nothing is written in concrete.

One thing that I’ve learned over the couple of years is that speed is very important. You need to be fast (relatively speaking that is) in order to run fast. I changed my focus this year to speed rather than endurance, and it seems to have paid off. The down side is that I know I can’t run an 800 now to same my life, but that’s what I needed to do in order to drop my times.

One last comment on what speedz mentioned. I agree with everything he has said in the previous post, but if you plan on running 400/800, I’d keep the 30 min runs. As speedz pointed out though, you need to adjust your training to which ever combination of events you decide to run.

Good luck … I’ll be keeping an eye out on your progress with great interest.


My comments were based on the assumption that you would focus more in the 200/400 area. If you do go to 800 or mile, this forum may not be the best for you, though I suspect some of the same principles might apply.

Yes, I realized that. I only made the comment based on heatwave’s earlier post stating that he may consider 400/800.

What events do you compete in?

Hurdles mostly – some jumps and sprints, too.

Thanks for the encouragement guys. Right now, I’m just getting back into this so I haven’t settled on my focus yet. I think first, at least for the next several weeks, I just need to be running. Then, I’ll make some more specific goals.

I really do think that I will be 400/800, but it’s just so early to tell. After 15 years of no sprinting I just need to re-learn how to go fast. Who knows, in the process of re-discovering running, I may find that I can run a fast 100/200 and want to pursue that as well. I just never tapped into my sprint potential due to several factors ranging from poor/no coaching to racial reasons.

So, really, right now it’s just the unknown for me in terms of how my body will respond to running/training fast. One thing I do know is that I probably won’t be interested in any event over the mile, and I only mention the mile because way back when I could run in the 4:20’s primarily due to my XC training. I guess the ironic thing is that I also ran a 6.69 55m dash with zero practice. Granted, that’s not blazing fast, but it shows that I have/had good enough speed to potentially be decent.

Getting back into this feels awkward. My 8x100m the other day were run at around (I’m guessing) 80% and were all run between 13-14 secs. The funny thing is that I feel like I’m going fast but really–I’m not. I’ll keep yall posted .