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How to run 400m as fast as possible

07th September 2016

Fancy yourself giving Wayde van Niekerk a run for his money? Follow our foolproof guide to get those legs moving so fast, we won’t see you for dust!

The 400 metres is in many ways the most difficult distance to run at elite level. Devilishly poised in between the typical human being’s aerobic and anaerobic capabilities, it’s the ultimate foot race, and is respected by coaches around the world as one of the most difficult to master.

Training for it is difficult enough, and it is a fact that in doing so, lactic acid is going to become a familiar foe. Prepare for the hurts, people, this is a battle against both body and mind.

So how to go about achieving your best 400 metre time?

Psssst.. One way to nudge yourself ahead of the competition is simple - strategy.

The Prep
There are a million things to factor into the strategy behind a record breaking 400m run, and that’s why the coaches get the big bucks. The most simple strategy, however, cuts the run down into four evenly measured chunks, 100 metres apiece. A good 400 metre sprint will be over in a hazy, breathless flash, but if you can split it into four slices of strategic gold, you’ll be a nose ahead of the competition already.

0-100 metres
You can’t win a 400 metres foot race in the first 100, but you can definitely lose it there. The trick here is, shock horror, to get yourself up to sprint speed as quickly as possible, but also to set yourself up in a comfortable rhythm to see you through the rest of the race. Whilst your body needs to be pushing itself to the limit, keep a cool, calm head and remember - strategy.

100-200 metres
The second section of the race is widely regarded as the ‘golden stretch’, or the ‘backstretch’. If it’s possible to enjoy a section of a 400 metre sprint, then this is the time to do so, as you reach top speed and a controlled rhythm without lactic acid crippling your every move. Try to focus on a strong, positive, repeatable ‘push off’ of each stride, and at around 120 metres, try to relax your arms a little - you’re going to need them later.

200-300 metres
This is where things start to get a little painful. As the hurt creeps in, focus on maintaining a strong, positive form, fighting your body’s natural instinct to seek rest. Keep your shoulders up, your arms relaxed and your legs pumping, and do your best to accelerate - you won’t, but at this stage, maintaining a speed actually means slowing down. Challenge yourself.

300-400 metres
Ouch. Get ready to go all out. Remember your arms? Unrelax them. Your legs are in tatters and your arms need to help them out. Your legs are starting to push off a little weaker and your body is fighting your rhythm - fight back. This is a battle between body and mind, between you and the other guys. Don’t leave anything out of the treadmill.