New to 400m

Hi guys, question for the 400m coaches/athletes who post on the forum. I coach a guy who is just about to turn 17, his background is in 100/200 11.3/23.2 but was becoming frustrated with the 100m and after a couple of decent 4x400m runs fancied a crack at the 400m individual. He had his first race at the weekend, running 52.67, going through 200m in 24.3 (planned for 25.0) and 300m in 36.9 (planned 38.0) not bad till 350m then it felt like a bear had jumped on his back.

My question is should I try to get him to run slower through 200m (bearing in mind he said it felt very comfortable), or
same pace at 200m but not to push the 3rd 100m quite so much (12.6 in the race) or

keep doing the same with the plan being the last 50m will get quicker as he gets stronger.

I’m a bit reluctant to slow him down, bearing in mind it was the first race of the season and he will be competing at 200m as well.

Looking forward to your replies as ever.

I’m not an expert, and there are several on this board that may chime in, but I’ll start it off. If he is capable of 23.2 for 200m, then 24.3 (+1.1) is about right for the first 200m. His second 200m split is then 28.37, and that is the real area that needs addressing. My personal opinion would be to keep the first 200m fairly close to +1, or maybe +1.5, and work on special endurance to bring up the second 200m split. How to do that during the season is a little beyond my expertise, and hopefully others will offer suggestions.

Here is a great learning opportunity for you both. I wouldn’t change anything up just let him run a few more before you start to manipulate things. This will provide you with much information. If you try to adjust variables after his first 400m you may not identify what is it you need to adjust or modify and you may unintentionally have him start to put barriers up…not a good thing for a 400m guy.

Remember its not uncommon for a newbie to the 400m to require a few races before they get a feel of being able to run them out. If you start manipulating variables you could stunt natural progression.

I hope you are excited as you seem to have a good guy not afraid to go out hard, this is good. Usually you will find short sprinters be more conservative as they do not want to hurt.

Let him race a few more times and you may find the BE improves just through adaptation. Just instruct him to do the same and the last 50m will improve with a few more runs. This doesn’t mean the last 50m will not hurt…it could hurt more but, the speed end may improve.

The last 50 is going to hurt for most people. Think technique in the last 100, try not to think run harder.

Although I think they will get better as they learn about the last 200m of the race.

Many thanks for the replies guys, all of you endorse my thoughts which is great, but happy to hear from anyone who thinks differently. I’m confident his 200m time will go sub 23s this season which is why I don’t want to slow him down, our goal for this season is low 50s. The pace he ran at the weekend is the goal pace for low 50s run, he was meant to go through 200 in 25s and 300 in 38s, aiming for 52s, he was so comfortable he didn’t feel he was pushing it. He is racing over 300m tonight and 200m on Sunday, then a 400m on 12th May, so it should be interesting. The longest he has worked on in training is 300m, but he has also been doing the ‘come home’ 200m session in 26/27s with 2 min recovery. I have succesfully coached 400m in the past, but not for a while, its good to get like minded people’s thoughts on the subject.

If his second half of the race was as strong as the first, he should be able to go 24.5 + 26.5 = 51.0 If he can go sub 23.0 this year and his endurance was in place, he would be on pace for sub 50.0. Having gone sub 53.0 already, it will be interesting to see how much he can tighten up his second split. Keep us posted, and good luck.

Well 3 weeks have passed and training/racing has been disrupted by illness and bad weather, so no 300m race (unwell) and no 200m race, the latter was due to a whole meeting being abandoned due to terrible weather, British summertime eh. But we did manage to fit in a 300m + 100m session 38.7/14.0 9 days before running 52.87 last Saturday. This time he ran the 1st 200m in 25.2 (planned 24.5) and had to play catch up, finished strong but could have been faster overall. The following day he ran 23.9 200m into a headwind, ran a good bend but suffered from 120m, said the energy just went from him. He understands its early days and we are still learning what he can and can’t manage.

I agree with spike that just running the event will bring him on loads. The 300+100 (off 60sec?) was a good indicator for what he did a few days later. Other options are 250m/120m, 200m/200m whic will all be race replication runs/specific endurance.

There is also some information regarding 200m times versus 400m times and being able to do your 400m in 200m best x 2.20 will be a good bench mark performance. Going under that requires a bit more endurance quality.

It was off 30sec recovery. Its been a bit quiet lately, he has had exams and feeling a bit down, but still managed the 2x2x200m session a few weeks back - 24.5/26.5 35min 25.0/25.6 2min between runs. He raced in foul wet and windy conditions on Saturday in 53s winning easily. All we did the week prior was 3 sessions of pace judgement/rythym work over 120m and 100m, no more than 4 reps in total. I have always used runs over the 1st 120m timing through 100m to set the pace for the race, we did this last weekend, but Tues/Thu adopted KK’s sessions of rythm runs into and out of the 2nd bend. I took this idea from the excellent Lactate Threshold e-book, and my athlete enjoyed the sessions and it gave him his confidence back.

Hi Phil

Analytic study of elite 400m performances from both genders over an extensive period of time has revealed that an ideal, evenly run competition performance should be based on the average 100m split of the required finishing time.`
These splits show slight variation which may be further amended to suit the training status/capabilities of the individual/developing athlete.
The first three ideal splits are: 98-101% of average split; 104-106%; 101-103%. The final split is tolerated rather than scheduled and there is a marked falling away of percentage as the tiring athlete attempts to hold the performance together the best s/he can and, if the planned percentage targets are adhered to, normally results in 92-93% of the average split.
Michael Johnson: 43.18WR -Average split (rounded up fractionally) = 10.8
WR performance actual splits:
First 100m = 11.1 (c 98%)
Second 100m = 10.12 (c 106%)
Third 100m = 10.44 (c 103%)
Fourth split = 11.52 (c 93%)

Based on the above, I usually advise developing 400m runners to aim for percentage splits of 100% (brisk start with caution, aim to be in good condition at 300m); 105% (challenge, rather than attack the back straight); 103% (relax on the bend, take a mental breather!); 92-93% (don’t fight your technique, relax and make do with what you have left in the tank!!)
For a 50 second performance this breaks down as: 50/4 = 12.5
[12.5; 11.9; 12.1; 13.5]
Persevering with the average splits for the first 3x 100m allows the athlete to develop anaerobic status over an extended period of time and eventually to have more in the tank for the final straight, which is where the greatest improvement in performance time will be achieved.

I hope this is of use/interest to developing coaches and athletes alike!