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What’s the best way to run the 400 meters?
Go hard for 300 meters and hang on; and if you die, you die? Or run even pace splits?
Both work depending on your conditioning and experience. Once you have a race plan, you stick with it. Of course, talk it over with your coach first!
In 1992, I was able to run back to back 400 meters with a 48.37 (semi-finals) and 48.36 (finals) 24 hours apart using both strategies. Hours before the gun went off, it was clear in my mind how I wanted to run my race.
However, your strategy may backfire.
Herb McKenley of Jamaica tried both tactics in the 1948 & 1952 Olympic finals, only to be beaten by his own teammates! (Arthur Wint ’48, George Rhoden ’52)
For instance, in 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, Korea, Butch Reynolds was the favorite and liked to run even splits. He won the US Olympic Trials in 43.93 and ran a WR of 43.29 in August with a superior last 150m. In the Olympic finals, he had drawn lane 3 inside of Danny Everett, who at the time was the only person under 44 sec (he ran 43.98 at the US Olympic Trials).
But he misjudged the efforts of Steve Lewis, who along with Danny, was coached by John Smith of HSI. I can’t blame Butch at all. Steve’s PB before 1988 was 45.76 and before the Games, he ran 44.61 (QF), 44.11 (SF), and 44.37 at the US Olympic Trials. In Seoul, he ran 45.31 (heats), 44.41 (QF), 44.35 (SF).
Lewis drew lane 6 and just ran his own race. The end result was Lewis winning in 43.87, Reynolds 43.93, and Everett 44.09, an American sweep. Butch ran a well executed race, but he didn’t count on Steve running 43.87!
Go hard for 300 meters and hang on for dear life
If fitness is not there, going hard will result in carrying a piano, elephant, and bear over the last 150m.
In 2005 Mt-SAC Relays, the showdown between Jana Pittman, the 2003 World Champion in the 400mH, never materialized. Here we see Marion Jones run a very good first 250 meters. She almost makes up the stagger on Jana in lane 5 and “tucks” or “drafts” behind her until 150m to go. Unfortunately, the race is 400 meters.
Have a race plan and stick with it!