How to run an outdoor 400m

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Out of the blocks: Photo by André Zehetbauer at  There is no easy way to tackle the one lap sprint, either way, the process will be gruelling.

You can, however, make life much easier for yourself by following a sensible strategy.

Across all distances, athletes can ruin their race by exerting too much energy, too soon, an unforgiving mistake made all to often in the 400m.

Compromising the start, or end, of the one lap event can easily hinder your performance, which is why perfecting the right tactics can be so crucial. 

As with any sprint event, getting out of your blocks well is essential, and from there, a dominant opening 70m will put you in good stead.

You want an explosive start, so that you can accelerate into a comfortable pace, but not too fast, otherwise you will run out of gas in the latter stages.

To set your stance for the rest of the race, you need to focus on getting your knees and hips high throughout this first bend, too.

From 70m, up to the 250m point, your main focus should be to hold form. 

Roughly, you should aim to hit the 200m mark about one to two seconds behind your fastest 200m time, this ensures you are able to maintain speed for the second half of the race.

With a personal best of 47.17seconds, Dan Putnam is a well established UK 400m runner, in his U23 category.

Inevitably, Putnam has perfected his tactics over the years, to work his way up to the level he is now at.

Finishing straight: Photo by William Warby at  The Blackheath & Bromley athlete commented: “The hardest thing in a 400m is to keep composure. Having decent 200m speed, I am sometimes tempted to hit the first half of the race fast, but this results in a weak finish. 

“It is important to be patient and relaxed whilst still moving fast.”

After a maintained back straight, and start to the bend, it’s time to push again with 150m to go, to gather momentum before heading into the final straight.

At this point of the race, equilibrium can be easily lost, but it is important to keep up straight, and stop yourself from leaning forward, to optomise your strides and conserve as much energy as you possibly can.

Putnam added: “In the 400m, a strong finish is always important. Throughout history, no one who has ever made it to the top has been dying at the end of the race. 

“I would say that if you can stay in touch with the field for the first 300m by using the least amount of energy possible, you are onto a fast time.”

Once you have concluded the second bend, and are stuck into the final 100m of the race, your legs will naturally want to buckle, and this is where composure can make or break your finish.

At this point, it’s all in the hips and arms. The finishing line will be fast approaching, so your main focus is to drive yourself across the line.

Every athlete will have there own approach to the discipline, but once you have found the one that works best for you, stick to it.

“I don ‘t really consider other competitors in the race, as essentially no one can effect your performance accept you,” Putnam said.

“My race plan is fairly fixed, therefore I prefer to have an outside lane so I can execute my own race.”