is one of the more painful events that I have competed in. It requires sprinting at close to all-out effort, for a longer amount of time that the body can maintain. Studies have shown that the longest a human body has maintained its top speed, before showing signs of decelerating, is 290-meters. I always found that the most effective strategy to race the 800 is: Keep it close until the last 250-meters, then let it rip. This is easier said than done of course. I recall coaching at Hofstra when I started thinking about this strategy. We were at a spring track meet at Kings Point and had a number of runners racing the 800 that day. All of them being in different sections. That day, they all won their heats and expressed to me that they felt this strategy worked. I told them to break the 800 into 3-segments:
Segment 1 – The first 300 meters: The objective should be primarily to get in the inside of lane 1 (better to be in last place, yet in lane 1 than to be fighting for a better position in lanes 2 or 3). Many runners waste so much energy getting out in an ideal position that it takes away from them later in the race. Stay as relaxed as possible.
Segment 2 – The middle 200 meters: This is where you need to be aware mentally of what is going on. Coming off the turn, veer out to the outside of lane 1 (or lane 2 if need be) and make a slight move (if necessary) to move yourself up the pack closer to the leaders but do not take the lead just yet. Make sure you are back in lane 1 by the time you are going into the next turn so that you are not running more than you have to on a turn.
Segment 3 – The final 300 meters: This is what the race comes down to. Have you ever watched any of those Fast and Furious movies? Those cars have a “Turbo button” that once pressed, accesses the full throttle of the car…however, once pressed, that’s it until the car burns out. I like to use that analogy. You only have one chance to push your “turbo button” and, as explained above, since the human body has never maintained top speed for more than 290 meters…why test that theory during your race? Coming off the turn start going by people (pass them on the outside, never try to pass on the inside). As you are approaching the final 200-meters is the time to “press that button” and let it rip.
In High School I ran a personal best of 2:01 in the 800. By college, I was able to run 1:59 and I split a 1:57 on relays where I had a running start. It was maybe 4 or 5 years later that I had my best 800 meter race. This was at the “Coach OMeltchenko Invitational” at the Merchant Marine Academy in 2007. I made a friendly bet with my friend whom I was coaching at Hofstra with (James Sewell) and my goal was to break 2-minutes. I asked some of my athletes that I was coaching at the time to just stand at the 200, 400 and 600 meter marks and yell my time out to me as I got there. I never had great acceleration and that proved to be true as I was immediately in last place at that start of the race. I got through the first 200 in 30-seconds and felt comfortable in last place. Coming off the 300-meter mark, I went into lane 2, started passing some people, got back in lane 1 by the 400-mark where I heard 60 as my split. With 250 meters or so remaining I went for it. I have no idea what I split through 600-meters as everything was a blur. I finished in 4th place and ran my personal best time of 1:56.01 FAT.
The following are, what I believe to be, some of the best workouts to get ready to run a fast 800. Please note that these workouts are designed with experienced runners in mind. If you are new to the sport, I suggest reading my "Running For Newbies" page and try the workouts there before attempting these. These workouts should be spread out throughout the week. Only 1 or 2 of these per week is ideal (only 1 if you have an important race coming up that week). If your race is at the end of the week, I would recommend doing one of these workouts early in the week. The remaining days of the week should be easy recovery days where you do light cardio. A sample calendar is below.
Every workout should begin with 1-2 miles (or 10-15 minutes) of a warm-up. Depending on your fitness base, this could be easy jogging, or at a tempo pace for more experienced runners. I’ve had my team jog 10-minutes and throw in a 1:00 surge in the middle of that 10-minutes. I’ve also had them go for a 15-minute warm-up jog and throw in 30-second surges at the 5:00 mark and at the 10:00 mark. All of these have led to fast times so it’s a matter of figuring out what your fitness level is and also what your goal is before deciding which warm-up style will be ideal for you. For more warm-up ideas, refer to my "Warm-ups" page.
1) 1 set of 600-400-300-200-500 @ 800-meter goal race pace (take about 3-minutes recovery in between or a 400-meter jog)
2) 4 – 10 x 200 (Depending on your fitness and experience level). All at (or a little quicker than) 800-meter goal race pace. Recovery jog in between should be 200-meters.
3) 4 x 500-meters (jog a 400 after each) Goal pace = 800-meter goal race pace
4) 2 sets of 4 x 300 (walk 100-meters after each 300 during the set/Jog a 400 (or a little more if needed) after the 1st set. Goal pace should be right at 800 meter goal pace.
5) 1 x 600 @ 800-meter race pace (Take about 8-15 minutes of recovery – If you are opting for 15:00 of recovery, you should be jogging for 10 of those minutes!) Next so 8 x 200 @ 800-race pace with about 200-meter jog recovery in-between. Go for about a mile jog or 10-12 minutes and then run 1 x 400 @ 800-meter race pace yet again.
6) 3-4 x 1200 @ 1-mile race pace (Take an 800-meter recovery jog after each)
7) 6 x 800 @1-mile race pace (Take 3-minutes recovery time before the next)
8) 2 sets of 5 x 400 – Start at 1-mile race pace and gradually lower to 800-meter race pace (each one gets gradually quicker). Take 2 – 3 minutes of recovery after each. After the first set of 5, take a little longer – about 5-6 minutes before you begin the next set.
9) 1 set of 1200-800-400-1200 – The recovery should be jogging the distance of the next interval (Run the 1200 –jog 800 – run 800 –jog 400 – run 400 – jog 1200 – run 1200) Goal pace should be your 1-mile race pace for the 1200s and 800, but the 400 should be 800-meter race pace.
10)*For those that run higher mileage and are looking for an advanced version of that last workout: 1 set of: 2000-meters, 1600-meters, 1200-meters, 800-meters, 1200-meters. Same goal race pace and same rule to recovery – jog the next interval as your recovery (run 2000, jog 1600, run 1600, etc)
At the conclusion of every workout (within a few minutes, not an hour later) you should do a light jog of about 1-mile (or 8-10 minutes or so) so to help get out the lactic acid that you built up during the workout. Immediately following your cool-down jog, you should stretch out. I even recommend stretching out for an additional 20-minutes about 2-hours after your workout as well. I cannot stress enough the importance of stretching AFTER you run. So many runners neglect stretching afterwards. Stretching after runs will greatly reduce the chances of you getting injured.
Below is a recommended sample training week:
Monday – Workout: 3-4 x 1200-meters
Tuesday – Easy 1-hour of running
Wednesday –Speed Workout: 150-300-meter intervals x 4-6 reps (These can be done before or after a light run if you want more mileage)
Thursday – Easy 45-minutes of running
Friday – Easy 30-minutes of running
Saturday – Workout: 600-400-300-200-500
Sunday – Active Recovery (can be a light 20-30 minute jog, a bike ride, a swim, any kind of cardio really) or a day off if needed.
Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions or concerns!