Steve Ovett 800 meter Training: Coach Harry Wilson

22px-Flag_of_the_United_States_svg Running My Way by Harry Wilson   ( 22px-Flag_of_the_United_Kingdom_svg   ( 22px-Flag_of_the_United_Kingdom_svg  UK residents click here)

Who can remember the Steve Ovett – Sebastian Coe rivalry back in the late 70’s and early 80’s?

I was always an Ovett fan. Unless Lord Coe sends me complementary tickets to the London 2012 Games, I’ll change my mind.

Once reason I like Ovett was the fact that he was a sprinter first, but showed up for the wrong training group.  (Just like Tommie Smith repeating 2nd grade because he went to the room with the number “2” on it… that’s his story)  This just proves that Arthur Lydiard was right.  Take a sprinter, build an aerobic base, don’t race them too much, and you can have a world class athlete.  Look what he did for Peter Snell.

Harry Wilson’s book Running My Way is an excellent book because he has detailed training logs over an entire season.  (I bought mine used for a pence).  I knew Ovett was doing high mileage during the GPP phase, but didn’t expect that many miles.  You can add them up yourself.

The logs below show a typical training week in the GPP phase, followed by his 2 weeks leading up to his 3:48.8 Mile world record in Oslo.  Ironically, Sebastian Coe set the world record 1 year earlier with a 3:49.0 (3:48.95) clocking on the same track!

Note how he only did 2 “track” sessions a week in the GPP phase below.  Again, I am firm believer that 800 meter runners must do multi-paced training to cover the rage from 400 meters all the way up to 1500m/Mile speed.  It also helps that Ovett was a sprinter first!

By comparison, the WR today for the Mile is 3:43.13 set in 1999 (before EPO testing).

A Typical Winter Week’s Training

NOV – MAR 1979/80
Sun
a.m. 10 miles road – 57/60 min
p.m. 10 miles road – 54/55 min
Mon
a.m. 5 miles road – Easy 35 min
p.m. 10 miles road – Fast/steady 52/53 min
Tue
a.m. 10 miles road – Hard on road 4 x 300m approx. with fast jog rec then across another very steep hill, 4 x 400m approx. jog rec.
Wed
a.m. 10 miles road – 58/60 min
p.m. 10 miles – Plus technique work at Crystal Palace
Thu
a.m. 5 miles road – Easy 35 min
p.m. 10 miles road – Steady 55/58 min continuous
Fri
a.m. 5 miles road – Easy 35 min
p.m. 5 miles road – Easy 35 min
Sat
a.m. 5 miles road – Easy 35 min
p.m. 6 x 1000m park – Hard with 30 secs 1 min rec (in spikes)

Transition Period

Sun
a.m. 10 miles – road Easy – 60/65 min
p.m. 4 miles Easy + 5 x 3 x 200m (27/28 sec) [30 sec and 3 min recoveries between reps and sets]
Mon
a.m. 5 miles – road Easy – 35 min
p.m. Track session 5 x 300m (37.4 sec ave) [2 min rest]
Tue
a.m. 5 miles Easy – 35 min
p.m. 6 x 700m – in park Very hilly at start, long downhill to finish (90% effort) [2 min] (in spikes) + 10 x 100m strides at end
Wed
a.m. 5 miles – road Easy – 35 min
p.m. Track session Technique work – high knees etc, 5 x 150m (16"/17") [walk] +10 x 100m (change of pace 11"/13")
[walk] + 4 x 60m (standing start) [3min]
Thu
a.m. Rest Weights in morning.
p.m. Hills – park 6 x 30 secs (in spikes – 90% effort) [jog], 10 min jog, then 8 x 15 secs [walk]. Aim at good knee lift
and technique.
Fri
a.m. 5 miles – road Easy – 35 min
p.m. 5 miles Plus 4 x 5 x 100m (14"/15") [starting at 30 sec on the first set to 5 sec rec on the last set].
Sat
a.m. 6 x 1000m in park (in spikes) [30/60 sec]
p.m. 5 miles Easy – + 6 x 100m strides on grass
Sun
a.m. 10 miles – road Easy – 65 min
p.m. Strides – grass 10 x 100m (13/14 sec accelerations, change of pace).
Mon
a.m. Rest
p.m. Track session Change of pace 4 x 400m (first 200m 28"/29", last 200m 23"/24")) [5 min].
Tue
a.m. Easy run 35 min
p.m. Strides 6 x 100m – Relaxed
Wed
Rest day
Thu
Travel to London, then to Oslo
Fri
p.m. Easy run 30 min + strides
Sat
p.m. Race 1 mile Bislett Games – World Record for Mile

Comments

  1. Pat Charles says

    Good stuff. Of similar interest would be a book I obtained in High School in 1982: The Complete Middle Distance Runner by Denis Watts, Harry Wilson and Frank Horwill. I’m not sure if it is still in print, but the pedigree of the authors speak for themselves.

    All the “basics” are covered including a chapter on “When things go wrong”, and an exquisite section detailing Jim Ryun’s training for 2 weeks prior to his world record run. I still have it, and it has not been lent

    • Jimson Lee says

      I am not aware of that book? I only know of his bio, “In Quest of Gold: The Jim Ryun Story”. Is there a way we can get a sneak peek?

  2. Doug says

    Jimson,

    my friend was number 1 in UK up to 18 (last year) and ran 1.53 as a 17yr old. last year he hit 1.50/800 and 49s/400. He ran a 48.9 early this year but his 800′ races have been 1.55/56 with a best of 1.53. he does mileage and repeat 400′s @54 with little recovery but is nowhere near where he should be with his 800. He does no event 700′s and occassionally does a 600 time trial. I think its his lack of 600 or 700 reps that have failed him this year….what do you think?

    • Jimson Lee says

      @Doug, it’s really hard for me to comment unless i see his 3 weekly track sessions (as well as the annual plan). I know speaking to Gary Reed that mileage can really affect the 800m runner. There is a sweet spot to mixing all the components to a 800m program. Also, I’d like to see some race splits and see where he is struggling. Perhaps at the 500m mark?

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