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I’ll get to the point.
400 meter supremacy is cyclical, and it’s a very exclusive club.
Forget about the first white man to run 100 meters under 10.00.
When will see the first non-American to break 44 seconds for the 400 meters?
Will it be Kirani James? Luguelin Santos?
Heck, when will we see the next sub 44.00 sec 400m of any nationality?
Sub 10.00 second 100 meters is common place now, and to some degree, a sub 20.00 200 meters. Top speeds are getting faster, but why aren’t we seeing better speed endurance with faster tracks and lighter spikes? Is speed endurance that hard to develop? And why is Jamaica so rich in 100m sprinters, but not 400 meters? (I’ll save that editorial for another post)
Success in the 400 meters comes from 2 factors: speed reserve and lactate tolerance (which is really a combination of speed endurance and special endurance). Speed reserve, which by definition is the differential between your top running speed vs. actual running speed, has improved at the world elite level. So the limiting factor must be lactate tolerance… or the undesirability of those workouts!
If you look at the graph above, we had 2 sub 44s in 1968, then nothing for 20 years, then 5 in 1988.
This was followed by a few years of nothing (1989-1991), then another explosion of sub-44’s in 1992. Let’s call that the Michael Johnson era.
Then another few years of quietness (2001-2003) followed by another boom from 2004-2008 thanks to Lashawn Merritt and Jeremy Wariner.
Success breeds success, and once we see a sub 44 400 meters performance, we will see a rise in 400 meter supremacy once again.