When I wrote about When Athletes Hit a Plateau – Change Distance or Change Training?, the thought of converting a 400 meter sprinter to a 400 meter hurdler was an option. I had that dilemma when I first started running 400 meters, because I wasn’t born with blazing fast speed.
As well, you can have a 110mH moving up to the 400mH. (right, Marc S?)
For the 400 meter hurdler, you have to look for characteristics such as good flexibility and coordination (i.e. hip mobility), good strength endurance, and someone who loves over-distance training and racing, such as the running the 600 meters. If they fear the 2 x 500m (or 3 x 500m) in practice, then you can forgetaboutit.
I will probably get a lot of flame mail or comments, but I find the 400 meter hurdles easier compared to the 400 meters flat because you have to count steps, thus you can divide the race into 11 parts as opposed to 4 in a flat 400 meters.
Some guys count every step, some count alternate steps (i.e. for 15 steps between hurdles, 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, KICK!), and some guys just don’t worry about it. You will need to have good spatial judgment and be able to lead with alternate legs if you choose the latter.
400m time + 5 seconds
My rule of thumb for calculating potential is take your best 400 meter flat time and add 5 seconds. A 50 sec 400m open sprinter can run 55 seconds for the 400mH after 2 years of hurdle training.
The biggest technical problem with newbie hurdlers is they spend too much time in the air over the hurdles. You have to get that lead leg back down after you clear the hurdle! The second problem is they give too much clearance over the hurdles, which adds to flight time.
For elite athletes, it’s a whole different ball game. Take a look at the chart below and you can see 1.50 to 3.00 seconds the norm for elite male athletes.