Wayde van Niekerk ran 0.3 seconds off the 400m world record, set by Michael Johnson in 1999.
Where can he improve? How can he run his race differently to break the record?
And more specifically, what workouts can he do to prepare for this feat?
Here is a quick summary of both sprinter’s 100m splits en route to their personal bests:
The 400m race is a sprint to 60-100 meters, then it’s one long deceleration to 400m.
First, lets look at van Niekerk’s results, which are MY hand times:
- Note how he is ahead of MJ at 300m WR pace! (okay, that means nothing, the race is 400m! Races are won and lost at the last 100m)
- His 20.7 split may be 0.8 faster on paper, but if he ran a 200m time trial 2 weeks or 10 days before the heats, he probably could run 19.7, which makes it 1 full second from your 200m SB (and PB in this case)
- His 31.3 300m split is faster than his 300m PB! But we all know the 300m is not contested often
- And finally, a 43.4h is converted to 43.54 (adding 0.14, not 0.24), which is why we have FAT timing to end all arguments.
How did Michael Johnson do it?
Now, onto MJ:
First, when your PB is 19.32 from 3 years ago, 21.22 is jogging!
Second, in 1995, MJ ran 31.55 en route to 43.39 (vs 31.66 -> 43.18), showing his last 100 improvement in 1999 by running the first 300m 1/10 slower.
How did he do it?
To quote Clyde Hart, he said:
“In 1999, MJ decided he wanted to break the world record. But he got injured and didn’t run another race before Seville – so it shows you can race train and not race to run your best. He had run 43.39 at Gothenburg in his seventh race so he could have broken the world record. In Seville his splits were 21.2sec and 31.7sec. In the semi-final his splits were 21.0sec and 31.5sec and then he walked in. The way he ran on that could have been sub-43sec. But he’d decided that he wanted to do it in the final.
“So [in order to help break the WR] in 1999 we put in an additional drill. He’d run 37/38sec to 300m, then take 1 min and then have to run under 12sec [for 100m]. He’d take 5min rest and do three. He got down to 11.2/3sec. We had started it early in the year because your body learns and adapts.”
And that is how did it (among the other hundred training elements). You can be in front at 300m (as we see in van Niekerk), but it’s the coming home speed that really matters. See the 3 part series on How to Improve Your Last 100m in the 400m, Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 from 2013.
And that is how van Niekerk can break the world record. The 3/10 is there waiting to be trimmed.