How to Race and Train for the 200 Meters (Part 1)

This article is guest posted by Latif Thomas, CSCS, USATF Level II, Creator of Complete Speed Training for Sprinters.

Part 1: How to Race for the 200 Meters

Part 2: How to Train for the 200 Meters

The 200 meter sprint is the Rodney Dangerfield of the sprint events. It gets no respect. When we commonly think of the sprint events, the 100 meter dash gets all the glory and the 400 meter dash gets all the respect.

That leaves the middle child, the 200, left out in the cold. As an athlete whose primary event was the 200 at the collegiate level I’ve developed a certain affinity for running and coaching the event. While I’ve arguably had the most coaching success at 400 meters (and, where I’m from – the 300) I still love the Deuce best of all.

In this article I’m going to break this event down so that your athletes can find greater success in the event. Because a solid 200 meter runner can run the 400 (open and relay) and likely can drop down to the 100, or at least run the backstretch of the 4×100 (generally the longest leg of the 400m relay).

As you read this article, I invite you to think of questions and bring them to the discussion forum.

Before I dissect how I break up my macrocycle, let me first explain the simplest way to teach your athletes to run the race.

The main problem with inexperienced 200 meter runners is the fact they run the race like it’s the 55, i.e., they try to sprint the whole thing. The reason so many athletes get run down in the deuce is because they treat it likes it’s a race to the straight away.

It’s not possible to all out sprint the 200. There has to be a conservation of energy somewhere. Remember, athletes get run down not because the competition is accelerating past them, but because they are slowing down much faster than the competition. Top speed can only be maintained for a max of 2 seconds before deceleration begins (why even the 100m can’t be run all out). So, at best, 200m runners are going to start slowing down by the 60m mark. By the time they’re coming off the turn, of course they’re going to start rigging up.

All that being said, this is how I teach athletes to run the 200. It has worked quite well for my athletes.

Phase 1 – 0-40m (or first 5-6 seconds): Go all out

Phase 2 – 40m – 110-120m: (around the end of the 4×1 exchange zone, depending on skill and strength of the athlete): Float

You have to teach athletes they must float during this time no matter what is going on around them. It’s tough when the other athletes are burning the turn, but that just gives your athletes someone to run down when they start tying up at the same spot yours start to bare down. This is a learned skill and we practice it specifically starting late week 6 or early week 7 through the rest of the season (see below).

Phase 3 – 110-120m – 130-140m: ‘Re-accelerate’

We know that’s not what’s actually taking place, but that is what it should feel like. Have athletes ‘re-accelerate’ to full speed over a distance of about 20m. Focus on driving the arms down and back and applying force to the ground like they were starting from a dead stop.

Phase 4 – 130-140m – 200m: Relax, Relax, Relax

Relax the face, Relax the hands, Relax the shoulders. They want to try and outrun themselves over the last part of the race. But straining is the kiss of death. They have to run here with maximum speed, but minimum effort. Sounds like an oxymoron, but it’s the key to the finish.

I have found, with a few modifications depending on the athletes running style and physical strength levels, that this is the best way to learn how to run an effective 200 meter dash.

Now, how do we build the skills that maximize the effectiveness of all of these phases of the race?

Most athletes who will run this event in big meets are going to be 100/200 runners or 200/400 runners in practice. In our programs, we have always divided the training groups, generally, into these divisions based on the skill sets of the athletes and for time management purposes. An athlete who is concentrating on the 200 will spend 80% of their time in the 100/200 group and 20% of their time in the 200/400 group.

As a ‘tweener’ event, you have to consider a few things. First, during Championship Season, 200 meter runners are going to have to run rounds. Depending on where the athlete lives, that could be anywhere from 2-4 races over the course of the day. This has to be considered from the start of the season. A bad first or second round race can stick an athlete in Lane 1,2 or 8. And that is a tough spot for a young athlete to advance in later rounds, let alone win. Even worse, I’ve seen countless poorly prepared, highly seeded 200m runners run a banger of a semi-final. But once they got into the final, they were spent and faded coming off the turn.

That is why I’m a firm believer in the idea of having 200m runners race at 400m earlier in the season, whether in the open event or the relay. And usually both. At the same time, the pacing is not nearly as controlled as in the 400. So acceleration, maximum velocity and speed endurance are at a premium in this race, whereas a pure 400m runner can get away with less skill here.

Thus the open 100m and 4×100 are excellent ways to prepare for this distance. The good thing is that athletes will have many meets to run all these races and prepare for their end run. Because there are so many dual meets, relay meets and smaller invites early in the season, you can enter the athlete in events at your discretion.

About the Author

Latif Thomas (CSCS, USATF Level II) is the creator of Complete Speed Training for Sprinters.

For more information on Latif’s programs, see Complete Speed Training 2 and Complete HS 400 Meter Training

FULL DISCLOSURE:  I am an affiliate with CompleteTrack&Field and thus I earn a commission when you purchase through my link.   Commission earnings helps support the costs of running this site, which is the #1 Track & Field coaching site on the Internet based on web traffic.

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  • As a masters sprinter getting back into the sport after 16 years, I was having trouble with my 200′s… I had a hard time breaking the 26.00 barrier. I read this race method on Latif’s blog earlier this year, and now have a ‘master’s best’ time of 24.82. Now, mind you, improvements in strength, max speed, speed endurance, etc. have all played a role, but this race strategy has been a key component as well. It worked for me.

  • hey lee, thanks for the tips! i appreciate the helpful strategies… i usually run my 200 all out like its a 100 or 55, but ill try it. but i have a question, would you care to write another article on how to effectively run the 300? Considering that its much more difficult to pace because its not a 200, and definitely not as demanding as a 400.

  • haha, nope, indoor 300 meter would be nice, i just didnt know where else to ask, you should have a forums you know!

    • @Jared – yes, I’ve been comtemplating closing Blog Comments and redirect readers to a Forum, a similar format found in may other sites.

  • Hi Jimson,

    I usually try flat out for 200m, the thinking behind it being as I am a 400m trained sprinter I should have the legs at the end when other don’t, however I nearly got run down by someone in my last race who I was well ahead of at 100 -120m!!!! I will try this method, I guess I am jjust scared of losing too much time on this ‘float’ part!! I am 37yrs and this is my second season. I ran a 11.6/100m a month ago but I keep running 23.9 or 24.o….should my 200 be better than it is??
    any comments appreciated, I travel to the USA for the world police & fire games end of agust and I would like low 23′s……

    • @Doug, 11.6 for 100m should gve you 23.2 +/- 0.2 sec or between 23.0 to 23.4 HT (say up to 23.64 FAT). So with better speed endurance training, you should see your times drop.

      The 400 meters is a complex event with 8 zones (not 4 as people think) and a lot can go wrong. One bad zone will affect the others and subsequent zones. It takes SEVERAL 400m (i.e. 5-7 races) to finally get the race you want.

  • Hey Jimson,

    I appreciate the advice. Considering it is June already, would you recommened going back to the bigger volume speed endurance sessions at 90% or just fewer reps, big recovery at nearly flat out pace to help me reduce my 200 times?

    thankyou….

    Doug

    • @Doug, it depends on when your last BIG race of the season is, but I would go for quality (speed, speed endurance) rather than quantity.

  • hello i am a 16 year old in Wisconsin running 12.01 for my best 100 and 26.66 for my 200 the thing is i am told by everyone that i run very weird especially with my hands all over the world my coach tells me to relax any advice. i also run 400 for training of the 200m