Kirani James vs Lashawn Merritt – What Have We Learned?

In the battle for 400m supremacy, we have a great matchup this season with Kirani James and Lashawn Merritt.  The 400m is exciting again.  The 400m is sexy again.

At the Prefontaine Classic earlier this year, we saw Kirani James lose to Lashawn Merritt because “it appeared he went out too slow” for the first 200 meters.

Kirani James and Lashawn Merritt Paris Diamond League 2013

So, let me ask you this:

How do you lose a 400m race?

The Lyle McDonald answer would be, “when someone crosses the line before you”.

Thanks Lyle.

After watching, running, and coaching thousands of 400 meter races, I have come up with these theories.

You will not run your best 400 meters (i.e. you will lose) if you:

  1. Run the first 200m too slow
  2. Run the first 200m too fast
  3. Not running the 3rd 100m aggressive enough to gain position
  4. Collapsing over the final 100m
  5. other theories

Regarding point #4, I remember Sanya Richards 400m race in Beijing going from 1st to 3rd.  Or Amantle Montsho’s last 2 Diamond League races (Birmingham and Lausanne) losing by 0.01 in BOTH races.

I started a new series of articles that will help your last 100m. You can read my article here, and Mike Hurst has his input here.

But what is too fast or too slow for the first 200m?

I personally prefer within one full second of your 200m seasonal PB (don’t go on last year’s PB or PB from 5 years ago!)

Lashawn Merritt usually runs the first 200m 1.5 seconds slower, despite having sub 20.00 200m speed!

And finally, in rare cases, even splits or negative splits work for Men. (Women 400m sprinters should never attempt this)

I’ve written plenty of articles that discuss ratios or differentials.

Kirani James vs Lashawn Merritt Paris Diamond League

In contrast to the Prefontaine meet, Kirani James “takes it hard” with a 21.1 first 200m whereas Lashawn Merritt run 21.5In the YouTube video below, we see Kirani make up the stagger on Lashawn by 200 meters.

Lashawn does a tremendous job in the 3rd 100m, running aggressive, smooth and controlled.

But at the end, it’s Kirani with “gas left in the tank” to win the race in a sub 44!

It is refreshing to see these athletes not ducking each other.  Like Chip Jenkins said, 400 meter sprinters are the Marines of track and field.  Never quit. Never surrender.  Match up anytime, anywhere.

Jimson Lee

Jimson Lee

Coach & Founder at
I am a Masters Athlete and Coach currently based in London UK. My other projects include the Bud Winter Foundation, writer for the IAAF New Studies in Athletics Journal (NSA) and a member of the Track & Field Writers of America.
Jimson Lee
Jimson Lee
Jimson Lee