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Before I discuss the topic of speed reserve, I want to talk about the different types of 400 meter sprinters.
Types of 400 meter runners
100/200 sprinters moving up to the 400m: In the past, short sprinters moving up the distance were rare. Remember Eric Liddell in Chariots of Fire? Today, we’ve seen some successful 100-200 sprinters move up like Quincy Watts because his short speed workouts and competitions caused him too many injuries.
200/400 combo: Other than Herb McKenley, Tommie Smith or Michael Johnson, 200/400 sprinters that dominated both events are extremely rare. 400 meter specialists like today’s Jeremy Wariner and Lashawn Merritt are superior in the 400m but not a factor to win a 200 meter races. Thus Michael Johnson was truly an exception, and probably saved the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.
400 meter specialist: 400 meter sprinters specialists exists in past and present day athletes. Why? Because popular Track and Field combos are 100/200, 800/1500, or 5000/10000. Most 400 meter sprinters fall under this category.
With the 100 meters and the Mile being the marquee events in the old days, the 400 meters was the event in the past for the second strings sprinters. Today, try to get on the Baylor 400 meter squad. You’ll probably end up moving to the 200 or 800 meters!
400m/400 meter hurdle combo: Angelo Taylor (PB’s of 400mH 47.25 and 400m 44.05) and Kerron Clement (2005 400 meter Indoor World Record at the NCAA indoor championships with a time of 44.57) are the most recent success of this type of rare combo.
400/800 combo: In the pre-modern era, 400 meter sprinters were also 800 meters runners. A resurgence of 400/800 combos was Cuba’s Alberto Juantorena in 1976.
Speaking of Alberto Juantorena, his 800 meters at the Montreal Olympics was a World Record in 1:43.50 followed by his sea-level World Record of 44.26 for the 400 meters 3 days later. That’s quite a range.
One thing is certain: to run a good 800 meters, you need 400 meter speed in the 46 point category like Gary Reed or Sebastian Coe. Gary could easily make the finals at our National Championships if he entered the 400 meters (though that doesn’t say much about Canada’s 400 meters depth, Tyler Christopher excluded. Heck, we haven’t sent a 4×400 meter relay team since the 1992 Olympics!).
Didn’t Russia’s Yuri Borzakovski take a “year off” and focused on the 400m?
When your PB is 46 seconds (or faster) for 400 meters, going through the bell lap at 50 or 51 will be relatively easier than an athlete with a 48 personal best.
This brings up the concept of speed reserve, which I’ll cover in tomorrow’s post.
(Click here for What is Speed Reserve? Part 2 – Training Methods)
Let’s not Forget the Ladies
The women’s side of 400 meters is slightly different, with speed always being the key to a good 400m. “Slow” strong women like a “female Butch Reynolds” who can run even splits or negative splits just don’t exist, at least not on the World stage.
200/400 combo sprinters like Cathy Freeman and Marie-Jose Perec had good 200 meter speed. And lets not forget Valerie Brisco-Hooks, the first person ever to win a 200 and 400 in the same Olympics.
A good 400/800 example is the recent success of Pamela Jelimo, who was a good 400 meter runner and now an untouchable 800 meter runner. I would love to see her break the existing 800 meter record which the whole world thinks it’s tainted with drugs anyways.
Thus speed reserve is even more important for the women’s 400 meters which can lead to a successful 800 meters.