Running a quarter-mile on a track is easy. But attacking it to win a race requires a game plan. “It’s one of the most difficult events to manage,” says Mike Ford, assistant track coach at Baylor University, the reigning two time NCAA men’s indoor/outdoor 4×400 relay champs. “Young quartermilers don’t understand the concept of race distribution. It’s a sprint, but you also need endurance.”
Below, Ford offers some advice on the quarter-mile and how to be the alpha of the pack.
Train for endurance. You need more than sprints to improve your 400. Work on speed endurance [600s, 450s and distance running] three times a week. This will keep your body in top running form during the final 100 meters of the race.
Know your opponent. Be aware of what type of runner you are competing against. Type-A runners have quick feet and a fast kick at the end of the race—they typically run the 200, as well. Type-B runners keep a quick pace early in the race but lack the ability to outrun a sprinter in the final 200—they’re usually strong in the 800, too.
Have a strategy. Before the gun goes off, have a plan. Start by making sure the blocks are set properly. Then focus on the start and having a quick first 50 meters. It’s important to keep good running form along the straightaway before reaching the final 200 meters. Depending on your position, be ready to make your move to sprint past your opponents while keeping your form through the finish.
Practice makes perfect. Work on your race strategy during practice. Don’t try anything during the meet that you haven’t worked on already—such as sprinting for the first 300. Run how you’ve practiced.
Be great in eight. When practicing, run in all eight lanes. This will help perfect your game plan and prepare you for winning in any lane on the day of the meet.
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