Last Updated on November 17, 2012 by Jimson Lee
By now, everyone is talking about Robby Andrews come-from-behind victory at the 2011 NCAA outdoor Championships (see video below).
At first, you can say he was lucky, or that he always had the faith to win (again, see his post race interview)
When it comes to a Championship race, I don’t care much for splits, or the winning time for that matter. Without rabbits, the goal is simply winning whether it’s 1:43 or 1:50! It doesn’t matter if you lead from gun to tape, or do a negative split come-from-behind Dave Wottle at the 1972 Olympics. Winning is the ultimate goal, and points for the school.
Like the 400m, there is a smart way to run the 800 meters to optimize your energy stores. You don’t want to run out of gas at 700m, nor do you want a bit left at the finish line either.
Based on the past few world records and world leads, it appears 2.5 to 3.0 seconds may be the sweet spot for the 800 meters (though the chart does show a 4+ sec differential and they still run 1:41/1:42!)
The runner-up of the NCAA 2011 NCAA Championships was UC Irvine’s Charles Jock with splits of 49.85 and 54.90, which is a huge 5 second differential. (most importantly, it was 8 points for his school)
Virginia’s Robby Andrews first lap was 51.1, with a second lap around 53.4 seconds. Like sprinting, he is decelerating the least.
So while it may seem Robby ran a lucky race, he really knew what he was doing in terms of pacing. But most of all, he had faith and confidence in himself. And that is the most important element of all.
Here is the video on YouTube.
UPDATE: Sorry, the video is no longer on YouTube.
In my opinion, not enough coaches understand the advantages of even splitting. Often, it is seen as a mentally tough runner who goes out fast in an 800m, but I tell my runners the opposite. A runner has to be mentally strong to hold back in the very often too fast first 150m, then be mentally confident enough to come back over the last 400m.
It is very under-reported how often this happens in big races. In 1972, Whottle was in last place at 200m then won gold, 1980 Ovett was behind but the pace was very slow 25.8?. In 1988 Paul Ereng was in last place and gapped 200m into the race, in 1992 Tanui was out slow for the first 200m and came back in the last 100m. Yuriy Borzakovskiy won many World Champs and an Olympic games always being in last at 200m, and Nick Symmonds has made a habit of winning the US champs over the past 4 years doing this.
It doesn’t always work, and Kaki and David Rudisha do not use this strategy. I wonder though is Rudisha started slowing up over his first 150m if he would not dip under 1:40 sooner. The problem is that once they start having success one way, everyone copies and they won’t change. Certainly, those runners with slower max speed, like Symmonds must use this strategy, but I believe more 800m runners should use this.
I coached a 17 yr old runner last year who finally learned to do this after 2 years working on this strategy. It took a couple of years to get it so he would even out his splits and it worked well. At Can Junior champs last summer he ran splits of 27.1, 28.3, 26.7, 27.5 for 400m hand time splits of 55.4 then 54.2. This was the most even splits he had run all year and it resulted in his second fastest time of the year – even on a windy day and after a fairly fast heat the night before. This isn’t the typical way Juniors run an 800m, but once they develop the patience and confidence to run this way, it can be deadly.