What with the BIG (i.e. small) 800m DEATH MATCH (i.e. time trial) going down tonight at Robillard, I thought I would share some thoughts on race strategy for the 800m.
Pour notre groupe, ce soir va marquer un retour sur la piste, alors c’est un bon moment pour se rappeler les stratégies et tactiques de base de course, ainsi que celles spécifiques au 800m.
First, always have a plan. Figure out what the goal is for the race, then figure out how you are going to achieve that goal. Sometimes the goal is to win, sometimes it is to run a PB, sometimes it is to execute a particular tactic as a training measure (e.g. go out hard and hold on or start conservative and finish hard). Tonight, everyone’s going to have the same strategy: run fast.
In a race like this one, where everyone is out to run fast, there’s little to fear with jumping on the train, and going for a ride. So with that in mind, remember that the best place to be is on the rail. You lose about 3-4m per lap on a 200m track from the rail to the outside of lane two, if you run the full curve on the outside of the pack. Just get to the inside and stay there.
If you need to pass someone, the best place to do it is coming out of a turn. As you exit the turn, use your momentum to carry you out to lane two, and surge to get by the other runner. Make sure to get by and back into lane one by the end of the straightaway. If your opponent surges to go with you (and it’s not the final straightaway), either get by him or her before the curve, or tuck back in and try again on the next straight. If you run out in lane two, you are basically giving up a meter or two. Better to conserve energy and save it for the next or final stretch, since the two of you are probably fairly evenly matched.
Specific 800m strategy is different from longer races. Usually, in a distance race, an even pace or a negative split is the best plan. Depending on how fast you are going, an 800m race is likely best executed with a positive split: you start faster than you finish. The most common strategy is to get out fast in the first 200, cruise the middle 400, and then give it all you’ve got for the last 200. In order to properly execute that plan, you need to know what your estimated performance is going to be. For example, to run sub-2:00, you are probably going to want to split something like 27-29-30-32.
Why is this the case? I will do my best to explain the sciencey-stuff. Your ability to run a good 800m is based on two things: 1) your ability to generate lactate, and 2) your ability to use it as a fuel. When you run fast (800m fast) you are generating a lot of energy. This requires a lot of lactate, which is what burns the legs (actually, it’s the hydrogen ions that cause that feeling, but everyone calls it lactate, so we’ll go with that…). 400-800m runners usually have a great ability to generate lactate. 800-1500m runners are probably less able to generate as high levels of it (which generation corresponds to high speeds). So a more distance-inclined athlete might be better off with a more even-paced run (a slight positive split is probably still desirable). A more distance-inclined athlete’s 2:00 splits might be 29-29-31-31. In order to generate enough energy to go fast enough to run a good 800m, you have to go fast early on. Going a couple seconds faster in the first part of the race is not going to change how your legs feel at the end, though, so the more of a speedster you are, the quicker you should go out at the beginning.
Feel free to speculate, add, subtract in the comments. Check our twitter feed @mtlendurance for up to the minute results from the time trial. The mini-meet gets underway at 6:30, and the order of events is: 60m, 800m, 60m final, 3000m, 200m.