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800 metres Training

As all athletes have different needs, a single program suitable for all athletes is not possible. A training program has to be developed to meet the athlete's individual needs and consider many factors: gender, age, strengths, weaknesses, objectives, training facilities etc. The program supplied here is just an example and will require updates to meet your specific aims and objectives.

Before starting any training, you must have a medical examination to ensure it is safe for you to do so.

Overview of the Training Program

The season's training plan is based on six phases, each comprising a repeated four-week program. The workload in the first three weeks of the four-week program increases each week (easy, medium, hard), and the fourth week comprises active recovery and tests to monitor training progress. The four-week cycles aim to:

  • Build you up to a level of fitness (3 weeks)
  • Test, recovery and adjustment of the training program (1 week)
  • Build you up to a higher level of fitness (3 weeks)
  • Test, recovery and adjustment of the training program (1 week)
  • Build you up to an even higher level of fitness (3 weeks)
  • and so on

Remember, a training program is athlete specific, and the results of the tests in the fourth week can be used to adjust the training in the next four-week cycle to address any limitations.

The content and quantity of training each week and phase will depend on many factors. The Planning page provides an insight into tdata gathering and preparing training programs.

Example Training Plan & Programs

The objective of each phase, with links to examples of a season's training plan and four-week training programs for phases 1, 2 and 3, are as follows:

  • Training Plan - General overview of the season by phases
  • Phase 1 - General development of strength, mobility, endurance and basic technique
  • Phase 2 - Development of specific fitness and advanced technical skills
  • Phase 3 - Competition experience - the achievement of qualification times for the main competition
  • Phase 4 - Adjustment of the technical model, preparation for the main competition
  • Phase 5 - Competition experience and achievement of outdoor objectives
  • Phase 6 - Active recovery - planning preparation for next season

The content of the four-week programs in phases four and five depends very much on the athlete's progress and competitive races. Your aim in these phases is to address any limitations the athlete may have to bring them to peak performance for the major competition in phase five.

Specific Training

In the specific training phases, you will see that you run at three different paces - race pace, 5% faster than race pace and 5% slower than race pace. To do this, you must decide on a realistic target time for your 800 metres in phase five. Using appropriate tests in week four of the training plan can determine if your target time needs adjustment and the session times on your training plan.

What are the objectives of running at these three different paces?

  • 5% faster than 800 metres pace (approx. 400m pace) - to improve leg speed and the ability to pick 'it up' in a race-specific endurance session would involve maximum distances of 300 metres in a single repetition with 5 to 10-minute recoveries
  • 800 metres race pace - to improve VO2 max and resistance to fatigue and train the body to operate at the required 800 metres pace- specific endurance sessions would involve maximum distances of 600 metres in a single repetition with 2 to 3-minute recovery
  • 5% slower than race pace (approx. 1500m pace) - to improve lactic threshold and teach you to function for longer periods - helps when there are several heats before the final - specific endurance sessions would involve maximum distances of 1200 metres in a single repetition with 30 to 90-second recoveries

Training Activities

The following are links to the appropriate page for the activities identified in the training programs.

Training Pace

The pace indicated for the sessions is in terms of the percentage of a distance pb. e.g. 3 x 500 metres in 800 metres tpb+5%. If the athlete has a target personal best (TPB) of 110 seconds for the 800 metres, then running at tpb+5% pace would require the athlete to complete the 800 metres in 115.8 seconds (110 x 100 ÷ 95), so the 500 metres should be completed in 72.38 seconds (115.8 ÷ 800 × 500).

Training Pace Calculator

Enter the Event Distance, the Target Personal Best Time for the event distance, the Training Session Distance, and the Training Session Effort and then select the "Calculate Training Session Time" button.

Event Distance metres   Target Personal Best Time mins secs
Training Session Distance metres   Training Session Effort
  Training Session Time mins secs

Pace Distribution

Using scientific reasoning and historical evidence, Prendergast (2002)[1] establishes an optimum pace distribution for the 800m that will result in an athlete's fastest time. A model in terms of the average speed for the 800m goal time is:

  • 1st 200m - 104.50%
  • 2nd 200m - 99.25%
  • 3rd 200m - 98.50%
  • 4th 200m - 97.75%


For an athlete aiming to run the 800m in 1 min 46 secs, then the 200m splits would be:

  • 1 min 46 secs = 106 secs
  • Average pace per 200m is: 106 ÷ 800 x 200 = 26.5 secs
  • 1st 200m at 104.5% - 26.5 ÷ 0.1045 = 25.3 secs
  • 2nd 200m at 99.25% - 26.5 ÷ 0.9925 = 26.7 secs
  • 3rd 200m at 98.5% - 26.5 ÷ 0.985 = 26.9 secs
  • 4th 200m at 97.75% - 26.5 ÷ 0.9775 = 27.1 secs

Pace Distribution Calculator

To obtain your 200m split times, enter your target 800m time and select the "Calculate" button.

Target 800m Time mins secs  
0-200m secs   200-400m secs
400-600m secs   600-800m secs
To achieve your target 800m time will
require a personal best time for 200m of:

Evaluation Tests

The following evaluation tests can be used to monitor the middle-distance athlete's development:

Middle Distance Time Predictors

Test results make it possible to predict potential times for a middle-distance event. The available middle-distance time predictors are:

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

Prediction based on 800 metres time

It is possible to predict your 400 metres, 1500 metres, 3 km, 5 km, 10 km, ½ Marathon and Marathon times from your current 800 metres time using Frank Horwill's four-second rule for males and Frank Horwill's five-second rule for female athletes.

A model for 800-metre success

The following articles by Dr Matt Long and Geoff James present a model for 800m success and then apply their model to the all-time greats:

Rules of Competition

The competition rules for this event are available from:


  1. PRENDERGAST, K. (2002) Optimum Speed Distribution in 800m and Training Implications. BMC News, 3(14), p. 1-4

Page Reference

If you quote information from this page in your work, then the reference for this page is:

  • MACKENZIE, B. (2001) 800 metres Training [WWW] Available from: [Accessed