400 Metre Pace
Success in the 400 metres depends on speed and wise use of the energy pathways. The aerobic and anaerobic systems are triggered at different speeds (anaerobic systems are triggered at around 75% of 100 metres pace - aerobic threshold), and the aim should be to utilise the anaerobic alactic system for as long as possible. We do not know the precise relationship between running speed and the rate of use of Creatine & Phosphate, but we can make some intelligent guesses. So how do we approach the 400 metres race?
Take it easy
You could save yourself as much as possible and then accelerate home in the last 100 metres. You do this by keeping the anaerobic alactic system until the last 100 metres. If you run 100 metres in 11 seconds, you will cover first 300 metres in 41.3 seconds at best (75% of 100 metres pace), and if you achieve 11 seconds in the last 100 metres, you will finish in 52.3 seconds.
Should you decide to go with a fast first 200 metres, close to flat out in 22.5 seconds, then this will deplete your Creatine & Phosphate stores. The fastest you could run after that would be at the rate of 13.75 seconds per 100 metres (aerobic threshold), i.e. 27.5 seconds for the last 200 metres, which would give you 50 seconds for the 400 metres. To run the first 200 metres in 22.5 seconds, you would have been using your lactic system and at the 200 metres mark the lactic acid would already be accumulating. By the time you reached the finish, you would be down to your aerobic system. Assuming a linear deceleration, you would run 30.4 seconds for the last 200 metres, giving you a 400 metres time of 52.9 seconds.
A first estimate could be that the optimal speed is 90% of 100 metres speed, i.e. 12.22 seconds per 100 metres for the first part of the race. This speed is using about 50% of the alactic systems maximum output. We do not know whether this could be maintained for the entire race (no top 400 metres run has ever run 400 metres at a constant speed), but it would result in a time of 48.9 seconds. If the first 200 metres is run at 90%, the second 200 metres is likely to slip to about 85%, i.e. 25.9 seconds, giving a 400 metres time of 50.3 seconds.
A second estimate could be that the optimal speed is 95% of 100 metres speed, i.e. 11.6 seconds per 100 metres for the first part of the race. This would give a first 200 metres of 23.1 seconds, which would not be demanding of the alactic system. The Creatine & Phosphate source would be diminishing, and the lactic system would be contributing more and more, with a build-up of lactic acid and the inevitable deceleration. Good 400 metres runners are at about 80% of their 100 metres speed at the end of the race. The slowdown from 95% to 80% indicates a second 200 metres of approximately 87.5% of the 100 metres speed, i.e. 24.8 seconds. This would give a 400 metres time of 47.9 seconds.
The differential between the first and second 200 meters is 1.7 seconds (24.8 - 23.1), which is within the 1.5 to the 2.0-second range seen in all good 400 metres performances.
If we examine the times of elite athletes there are, in general, the following common factors:
Mike Smith, who coached Roger Black, believes a well-conditioned athlete can predict their 400 metres time based on their current 200 metres time by doubling their 200 metres time and adding 10%. Based on the above factors ,it may be possible to predict an athlete's potential time for the 400 metres, and their 100 metres split times.
Examination of the 100 metres split times for the athletes in the 1988 Olympics 400 metres final, indicate that the 1st 100 metres are 25.4% of the total time, the 2nd 100 metres 23.3%, the 3rd 100 metres 24.4% and the final 100 metres 26.9%. Further examination of Michael Johnson and Butch Reynolds times in the World Championships 1993 400 metres final indicates similar values for every 100 metres. (Smith 1994)
To obtain a predicted 400 metres time and the split time for every 100 metres enter the athlete's current 200 metres time and then select the "Calculate" button.
Run like a champion
Jared Deacon has produced a spreadsheet which allows you to determine your 400 metres split times based on similarly performing the event to the top international 400 metre athletes, e.g. Johnson, Reynolds, Wariner, Watts, Lewis for the men and Freeman, Clark for the ladies. Select this link to view the spreadsheet and check your times.
Jared was a member of the 400 metres relay squad who in 2002 won gold at the European Championships and Commonwealth Games. He was also a member of the UK 400 metre relay squad at the 2000 Olympics.
100m split times from a 400m race result
If the athlete is running in lane one, then it is simple to determine their 100m split times, but how do you assess their 100m split times when they are not in lane one? Based on the times taken at 100m, 200m, 300m and 400m makings for lane one and the lane in which the athlete is running, it is possible to predict the athlete's 100m split times.
To obtain a predicted split time for every 100 metres and an assessment of their performance enter the athlete's times for 100m, 200m, 300m, 400m, the lane the athlete was running in and then select the "Calculate" button.
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