Frank Horwill



  • These articles were first published many year's ago and whilst some are as relevant today as they were when new, many are now mostly of historical interest as modern research and coaching methods have superseded them.

The final 800m push - 6 weeks

by Frank Horwill

The statistical evidence is that the fifth to seventh 800 metres race in a six month period is most likely to be your best. However, this has to be supported by about three under-distance races (400m) and three over-distance races (1,500m). But, we do not all fit into this statistical forecast. Some runners may achieve their target in the fourth 800m raced, while for others it may be the twelfth. We must get to know ourselves.

The further statistical data is that the world record for 800m has fallen into the hands of predominantly 800/1,500 types. That is, they race at 1,500 metres as much as they do 800m, often they race twice as much at the longer distance. But, the 800m world record has been held by mainly 400/800 types; about a third of the total. Such runners concentrate on two-thirds anaerobic training to one-third aerobic.

Anaerobic training involves all the sprints (100-400m) at 800m pace. It may be that this type of running will get better results for some. On the other hand, those who have classed themselves as 400/800 runners and who have fought shy of aerobic work and 1,500m training and racing, may surprise themselves by taking a more diligent approach to this routine. Here is a specimen schedule of each kind:-

Anaerobic – two thirds. Aerobic – one third

Day 1 – Anaerobic – 8 x 100m full out, walk back recovery (WBR).

Day 2 – Anaerobic – 4 x 200m full out, WBR.

Day 3 – Aerobic – Run 10 miles in 1 hour.

Day 4 – Anaerobic – 6 x 267m (one-third of 800m) with 2 minutes rest. Target times – 35-40 seconds.

Day 5 – Anaerobic – 1 x 350, 1 x 300, 1 x 250, 1 x 200, 1 x 150. All full-out with 400m walk recovery after each.

Day 6 – Rest

Day 7 – Aerobic – 16 x 4oo with 45 secs rest (from 64-72 secs per 400m). 3K pace.

Aerobic – 50 per cent. Anaerobic – 50 per cent

Day 1 Aerobic – Run 10 miles in 1 hour.

Day 2 – Anaerobic – 6 x 500m in 75-80 secs with 2 mins rest (1,500m speed).

Day 3 – Aerobic – Run 8 miles in 47 mins.

Day 4 – Anaerobic – 3 x 534m (two-thirds of 800m) in 70-80 secs with 4 mins rest.

Day 5 – Aerobic – Run 6 miles in 35 mins.

Day 6 – Rest

Day 7 - Anaerobic – 1 x 350, 1 x 300, 1 x 250, 1 x 200, 1 x 150. All full-out with 400m walk recovery after each.

While it is the practice of 800m runners on TV to go through the first lap of an 800m race at suicidal speeds, this is always followed by a much slower lap, if this were not the case, the world record at present would have been shattered long ago. Viz., 48 secs first 400, 56 secs second 400 = 1:44; 50 secs first 400, 54 secs second 400 = 1:44.The facts are that such running is physiologically unsound (uneconomical). The safe margin is to cover the first lap not faster than four seconds off your best 400m time. e.g. Best 400m time/55 secs, first lap 59 secs. Then, the third 200m segment should see increased effort, this will not necessarily be an increase in speed, in reality it will be a maintenance of speed. The first man to break 1:50/800, in 1932, ran 54.7 and 54.8. The world indoor 800m record was achieved with a 52 secs first lap and a 52.3 sec lap. Level pace running is not level effort running, it is increased effort running. It must be learned. One way to learn it is to run to a time-signalled schedule in training for as long as possible. If the target is 1 min 52 sec, this will be 14 sec per 100m (14-28-42-56-70-84-98-112 sec). If this rehearsal is 13 sec per 100m at any point in the first lap, the target will not be achieved. An oxygen debt is incurred too soon. Many runners have the ability to race a better 800m. Its execution is often the major hindrance.

Frank Horwill