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Middle Distance Running

Middle distance covers the 800 metres and 1500 metres track events. Comparing past and present world record holders it would appear that 800 metres and 1500 metres male athletes are most likely to peak around the age of 25 and female athletes at 27 years of age.

Middle Distance Running Technique

Guidance on the running technique of the middle distance runner is provided in the form of a series of pictures and associated notes that highlight the main technical points.

Running Technique
The foot strikes the ground below the centre of gravity (which is around the central area of the hips) The strike is slightly on the outside of the foot and from the ball of the foot to the mid-foot. There is then a role across and a dropping of the heel. The leg's role is supporting and driving.
Running Technique
As the foot strikes the ground there is also some flexion in the knee. This should not be too excessive, so leg strength must be developed to ensure stability in and around the knee. There is also some movement around the hip girdle. This can be excessive, so strength exercises for the whole region, especially abdominal and lower back, are required. It is very important that this region is kept stable, thus giving a strong platform from which to drive.
Running Technique
As the torso moves ahead of the foot, the drive is initiated and the achilles and calf are placed under great stress. It is therefore important that stretching and strengthening of this area be incorporated into training. Muscle fibres in the calf respond to a reflex action as they are placed in near full stretch and contract quickly, thus apparently straightening the foot, forcing the athlete back up higher on their fore-foot. (This makes the foot a further lever, often forgotten by many runners). The foot "grips" the ground as the torso moves ahead, forcing the leg into full extension. Once again, strength and flexibility of the hamstrings are important.
Running Technique
After the athlete has reached almost full stretch, a reflex action occurs in the muscle fibres of the hamstring, quickly shortening it and pulling the foot up off the ground. This allows the whole of the limb to swing back a bit further. Hip mobility and the ability to stretch the quads at the front of the leg are also vitally important.
Running Technique
The upper part of the leg is drawn forward by the action of the quads and hip flexors beginning to shorten. The foot continues on an upward curve, with the help of the contracting hamstring and the hinge effect of the knee joint. It swings into the gluteus maximus (backside), so shortening the lever and making it easier to bring forwards.
Running Technique
The thigh continues forward and the swings upwards, the head of the foot drops from its high point and accelerates downwards and forwards. The knee reaches its high point, which is not quite as high as that of a sprinter (i.e. at an angle of around 90 degrees to the rear leg).
Running Technique
The foot ends its swing through at a point just ahead of the knee. The leg maintains a slight angle at the knee (the leg is not straight). Having reached its high point the thigh starts a downward swing; this initiates an acceleration of the foot backwards.
Running Technique
The foot once again strikes the floor in a backward motion, adding to the athlete's forward motion.

General Notes

  • There is a very slight "rolling" of the shoulders as the arms keep the body balanced with a pumping action
  • The shoulder joint should be very supple so that as the arm swings through it do not pull them up too much
  • The shoulder girdle and the hip girdle twist slightly in opposite directions, counter balancing each other
  • The arms do not work to hard and work with the diagonally opposite leg
  • The arm should swing loosely by the side and should be bent at around 90 degrees. As the arm swings back, there is little or no straightening
  • Hands are held in a very relaxed "fist" with the thumb resting on the forefinger
  • The thumb should be uppermost and the elbows hang close but comfortably into the side of the body
  • The body is held upright with the back relaxed but straight with minimal forward lean

Coaches

Note the physical requirements (bold text) identified in the Running Action section above and plan appropriate training sessions into the athlete's training program to develop them.

As you monitor the athlete's technique, look primarily for a Smooth and Relaxed action.

Training Programs

A training program has to be developed to meet the individual needs of the athlete and take into consideration many factors: gender, age, strengths, weaknesses, objectives, training facilities etc. As all athletes have different needs a single program suitable for all athletes is not possible.

Training Pathway

Pryamid

Athletes in the Event Group stage

The following is a basic annual training program suitable for athletes in the Event Group development stages for the sprint and hurdle events.

Athletes in the Event stage

The following are event specific annual training programs suitable for athletes in the Event development stage:

Developing the Energy Systems

The training program must develop all the energy pathways, muscular system and technique. The different sessions and their objectives are listed below:

Session Objective
30 to 60 minute easy running aerobic capacity
20 minute run just above steady state aerobic power (AT)
3 to 10 minute repetition runs
1 to 3 minutes recovery
aerobic power & lactic capacity
1 to 2 minute repetition runs
2 to 4 minutes recovery
aerobic power & lactic capacity
45 to 90 second repetition runs
10 to 15 minutes recovery
lactic capacity & lactic power
30 to 45 second repetition runs
10 to 15 minutes recovery
lactic power
30 to 45 second repetition runs
reducing recover
lactic capacity
15 to 30 second repetition runs
10 to 15 minutes recovery
CP capacity
6 to 15 second repetition runs
1 to 3 minutes recovery
CP power
Weight training - 1 to 3 RM muscular strength
Weight training - 12 to 20 RM muscular power
Circuit training muscular endurance
Hill runs of 5 to 10 seconds CP power & muscular endurance
Hill runs of 15 to 30 seconds lactic power & muscular endurance
Hill runs of 30 to 60 seconds lactic capacity & muscular endurance
Technique economy and effectiveness of effort
Rest allows adaptation

Evaluation Tests

The following evaluation tests can be used to monitor the Middle Distance athlete's development:

Middle Distance Time Predictors

Based on test results it is possible to predict potential times for a Middle Distance event. The available Middle Distance time predictors are:

  • The 1500 metres test provides a method to predict an athlete's 1500 metres time
  • The Kosmin test provides a method to predict an athlete's 800 metres and/or 1500 metres time

Free Calculator

Free Microsoft Excel spreadsheet that you can download and use on your computer.

Rules of Competition

The competition rules for this event can be obtained from:

Page Reference

The reference for this page is:

  • MACKENZIE, B. (2001) Middle Distance Running [WWW] Available from: http://www.brianmac.co.uk/middist/index.htm [Accessed

Associated Pages

The following Sports Coach pages should be read in conjunction with this page:

Associated Books

The following books provide more information related to this topic:

  • How to Teach Track Events, M. Arnold