400m is like playing 18 holes in golf. You can have a bad “front 9” and comeback with a good “back 9”. You can have a great “front 9” and blow up with a bad “back 9”. Or you can just play consistent golf and play a great 18 holes.
You can look at the indoor 400 meters as a 2 lap analogy.
Unlike the outdoor 400 meters where you run in your lane the whole way, the indoor 400m is a different story because you break for the pole after 2 turns. (Some high school meets use a waterfall start like the outdoor Mile, which I truly detest)
Here is how I breakdown the indoor 400 meters (assuming an equidistance track of 50 meter curves and 50 meter straightaways)
One this is certain: YOU MUST HAVE YOUR RACE STATEGY IN YOUR MIND BEFORE SETTING IN THE BLOCKS. You must also have a Plan B if it does not go according to plan. One reason for this is the fake heat sheets, and poor seeding of athletes, plus the dark horses that will run a superb race out of nowhere.
First 40 meters
Go all out. Run the first 40 as if it’s a 40 yard dash. No saving yourself. Unused ATP-CP will not come back and help you.
Depending on your lane and the track dimensions, take advantage of the downhill portion if you are on the outside lane on a banked track. Like using overspeed training devices, any artificial method to achieve your top speed more efficiently is a plus.
In some cases, that first 40 meters may actually be 50 or 60 meters. Remember, youth athletes will reach top speed sooner than elite sprinters, so don’t be afraid if that is only 30 meters.
40 meters to 150m (Break for the Pole)
This part is crucial. You have to stay relaxed but at the same time you must get out quick. You must stay in your lane and be very careful not to touch the lines on the track, especially coming on the second curve.
150 to 340 meters
After 2 turns, you break for the pole position. Again, be very careful not to touch the lines on the track, and of course, do not cut in too soon. (You’d be surprised at the number of DQ’s I see every year)
If you are on the outside lane, and clearly in the lead, start cutting gradually, to the shortest possible distance between two points.
If you have someone very close to you, re-accelerate to get in front if possible, but don’t expend too much energy on this segment or you will be in a World of Hurt over the final 100 meters.
If you are not in the lead, re-accelerate to get in the best possible position, then relax and draft behind (but not directly behind) the runner in front of you. You want to be slightly to the right of the runner and ready to pass at any given moment.
At the 2011 Boston Indoor Games 400 meters, check out DeeDee Trotter in Lane 6 try to overtake Natasha Hastings in Lane 5. Trotter is clearly behind Hastings at the break (150m) and tries to reaccelerate and pass her. Also, a lot of energy is spent trying to pass her on the outside on the 3rd turn. Hastings runs a smart and aggressive race by not giving up the lead. Look at Trotter’s form over the last 50m, as she is clearly rigging. Hastings wins the race from gun to tape.
Here is the video for the 2011 Boston Indoor Games Women’s 400 meters:
340 to 390 meters
This phase is the last 60 meters on straightaway.
If you are in front, relax, and keep good form, putting more emphasis in your arms. It is rare to see someone come from behind, unless you are Tyler Christopher.
If you are not in front, start your kick for home just before the curve ends and where the straightaway begins.
390 to 401 meters
Gather, and get ready for the lean. See yesterday’s article from Lee Evans, the master of this final and important last phase.
Any other suggestions on how to race the Indoor 400 meters?