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Sub 1:50 800m Training 9/11/2008 5:54PM Reply | Return to Index | Report Post
Hello all, I just got finished with the book "Train hard Win easy" by Toby Tanser. In it, it had several biographies citing several methods of training, in particular about the 800/1500m. I'd like to, if it is possible, to start up a "serious" thread about what you would do to break 1:50 as well as training for elite times (1:41-1:46) including periodization, training weeks etc. etc. . Hopefully some of the more distinguished posters and coaches here will chime in. But i'd like to get a feel as to what the general consensus is in terms of training, types of training and so on, for the 800m. That being said, it is perhaps one of the hardest distances to train for, and one of the hardest to race!
RE: Sub 1:50 800m Training 9/11/2008 7:44PM - in reply to Reply | Return to Index | Report Post
Yeah, I remember that class, it was right between recess and lunch.
RE: Sub 1:50 800m Training 9/11/2008 8:14PM - in reply to gwh Reply | Return to Index | Report Post
Very interested in this also. There's been talk on here recently about how fast the prerequisite 200/400 ability is, but little talk of how to get there.

I'm especially interested in seeing if/how people do lactate threshold work in the off season, ie: during XC.
RE: Sub 1:50 800m Training 9/11/2008 8:39PM - in reply to markeroon Reply | Return to Index | Report Post
There has been a lot talk in previous threads. The brief summary
1) do some quality aerobic work (3/5k intervals, tempo workouts).
2) do strength/basic speed workouts (plyometrics, weights, short sprints, hills,...)
3) Work on race pace (200-400 with long rests)
4) When racing season comes around do some really hard anaerobic sessions (200-600 with shorter rests)

How you mix these depends on your age and if you are a 400m guy or an 1500m guy. If your a 1500m guy you focus on a lot more aerobic work. If your a sprinter it is more of the strength stuff.

markeroon wrote:

Very interested in this also. There's been talk on here recently about how fast the prerequisite 200/400 ability is, but little talk of how to get there.

I'm especially interested in seeing if/how people do lactate threshold work in the off season, ie: during XC.
RE: Sub 1:50 800m Training 9/11/2008 8:45PM - in reply to Anbessa Reply | Return to Index | Report Post
I am by no means one of the distinguished posters here, but I did run the 800m from 10th grade through age 24 and finished up at 1:46. My training partners went 1:44, 1:44, and 1:43 so I was the poke of the group. I was lucky to be coached after college by the absolute best middle distance in the country in my opinion, who I will leave anonymous here. Some basic thoughts....

All of this is within the context that a basic regimin of strength training, with a mileage load (I worked up to 80 miles per week until the sharpening phase), working endurance muscle fibers with a long slow run per week (I topped out at 16 miles runs each Sunday), Aerobic threshold training including a 4-6 mile tempo run on a weekly basis, Lactate threshold training each week for 80% of the time until the sharpening phase -- 5-6x 800m or 1000m cutting down with 400m jog was the basics of what I did. In the endurance phase (fall) I might do 5x mile, by March 5x 800m finishing last interval at a pace to starts getting close to speed (ie if you are going to run 1:50 800m you might run 5x 800 in march in 2:16, 2:12, 2:08, 2:04, 2:00 running the 400m in less than 2min in between).

You must have enough power to get around the track fast...this is one muscle system that you have to focus on and carve out some energy/training time so that your schedule is specific unlike distance racers (anything above mile). Short fairly steep hills (18-30 seconds), run with significant rest in the fall on a weekly basis at max effort. This should not be a lactic acid workout but a fast twitch muscle fiber workout in the contexts of a dynamic effort. I also had some luck weightlifting with "cleans" -- you need some instruction on how to do these but they are a power lift for the legs that includes explosive power--I was not a fan of squats since it is done slower.

Seb Coe and El G (as well as Webb) were fanatical about circuit training and dynamic exercises (bounding, hops, standing vertical jumps, etc) that I think do the same thing. I really made a huge jump between 11th and 12th grade because I played Basketball in the winter and went from touching the rim to dunking in 3 800m fell 5 seconds that year to 1:51 which I attribute to that dynamic power training. I did not do these later in my career but looking back it probably would have helped.

Speed Drills
definately helped... more on this later--done religiously through the year. also including something fast throughout the year --200s or 300s once a week to work just the top end of speed. 150s doing sprint float sprint also....One of my training partners would get injured every year in the fall until he started adding in more pure speed in small doses each week -- it kept his calves loose and he was able to make it through the year healthy...

Sharpening Phase
Here is the key....speed endurance training for the 800m is the key to putting all the ingredience you worked on through the year together.

Have to run now, I will put more on this later but shoot me some questions so I can fill in the blanks
the advocate
RE: Sub 1:50 800m Training 9/11/2008 8:59PM - in reply to OldSub4 Reply | Return to Index | Report Post
OldSub4, distinguished you are. Great post. Thanks for sharing.
RE: Sub 1:50 800m Training 9/11/2008 10:49PM - in reply to the advocate Reply | Return to Index | Report Post
Kind words, advocate...thanks

Sharpening phase:

You have to do longer (ie 300-600m) speed endurance intervals at some point to get into 800m racing way else around it. We would start transitioning once per week to 5x300 cutting down to 800m race pace -- not a stand alone workout but something you just fit into an AM or after the tempo run when your legs are feeling numb. Eventually you do a specific workout...600-500-400-300-200-100 was a Seb Coe favorite and we copied him. for a 1:50 half miler you might do 1:25, 1:10, 55, 40, 25. jog what you just ran for recovery. very hard workouts were 95% effort 600m full recovery, 95% effort 400m, full recovery, then 5x200m. When we were ready to go (these are 144-146 half milers) we ran 1:15-1:17, 49, 20,28,26,24,22. None of us except for one had better than 47 relay leg 400m speed.


The two things that I look back at where the research seems irrefutable was that 1) we were in the sharpening phase too long, you really only need 4-6 weeks if you are working off the type of base we built; and 2) Tapering works probably once a season for a boost that lasts 10 days or so. Tapering should begin no more than 10 days before the day you want to peek and just involves stepping off the mileage 20% and reducing the volume of the quality work by 20%. I would cut out the tempo runs about 3-5 weeks before nationals, but that may have even been too long. Keep running the long run on Sunday -- its restorative. Good evidence to show that tapering actually works to give you a performance boost if you just reduce workload for 72 hours before a competition to fully heal up and to have your muscle energy stores fill and your blood volume surge a bit.


I think that the year should look something like 4 months of Base, 4 months of "Strength" -- power endurance, 2 months of Pace to Sharpening, 1 month -6 weeks peek competition, and 1 month active rest. Doesnt mean you cant race more but you are shooting for one main peek at the end of the season....
RE: Sub 1:50 800m Training 9/11/2008 10:58PM - in reply to OldSub4 Reply | Return to Index | Report Post
This is brilliant stuff, thanks so much. It also gives me even more confidence in what our group is doing.
RE: Sub 1:50 800m Training 9/11/2008 11:00PM - in reply to OldSub4 Reply | Return to Index | Report Post
1:44, 1:44, and 1:43 training partners? Who were they?
great stuff
RE: Sub 1:50 800m Training 9/11/2008 11:13PM - in reply to OldSub4 Reply | Return to Index | Report Post
This is almost the exact same training- if not THE exact same training- that Renato Canova recommends for 800m runners, especially the variation of training year round and the hills. I'm curious as to whether you did workouts at around mile pace or so especially during the strenth and sharpening phases- would those be the 200s and 300s you mentioned? Or were those faster? I love the emphasis on muscle fiber developement though, do you have anything else for us?
master tactician
RE: Sub 1:50 800m Training 9/11/2008 11:28PM - in reply to YoungSub4 Reply | Return to Index | Report Post
I suggest you get a copy of 'Winning Running' by Peter Coe.

"The following are two suggested under-distance standards to be met by first-class 800m and 1500m athletes before major competition commences:
- 200m in 22 to 22.5 seconds (ideally 21.5)
- 400m in 46 to 47 seconds."

I quoted that straight from the book.

Coe often did workouts of what is known simply as multi-pace training:
- 4x1500m or 3x2000m @ 5000m pace
- 8x800m @ 3k pace
- 16x200m @ 1500m/mile pace
- 4-6x400m @ 800m pace
- 2x300, 4x200, 4x100 all @ 400m pace
- 1000m + 800m + 600m + 400m @ 1500m pace

Peter Coe's table for calculating equivalent race times.

Distance Formula
5000m 3X + 159sec
3000m 2X + 36sec
800m (1/2)X - 2sec
400m (1/4)x - 6.5sec

Where X = 3:40 for 1500m.

According to Coe, "this is the minimum acceptable range for a well-trained runner. Said Aouita, Steve Ovett, Steve Cram, and Seb Coe could all do it...this 1500m time of 3:40 is chosen as a reminder to a young but improving male athlete that any significant progess that he hopes to make will depend on meeting at least the 800m and 3000m times, and that anything better will require even better 400m speed."
RE: Sub 1:50 800m Training 9/11/2008 11:50PM - in reply to great stuff Reply | Return to Index | Report Post
I am just now reading the Canova regimen, and it is scary how close it is since we were doing this in '91-'97 as it was a basic blend of the Oregon system with a bit of Peter Coe thrown in but perhaps my coach was a bit before his time.

I think the difference between the 800/1500 guys and the 5k and up group was just that we tried to maintain some short top end speed through the year so that you didnt completely lose it. The other difference was cutting down on intervals so that you were getting in the LT work (5*800m) but you were also "finishing" well with a half in the 1:56-2min range so I guess we did work down to mile speed. The 5k guys would appropriately just try to hold repeat pace through their intervals.

The 200s and 300s would end up near goal 800 pace, but average something slower.

Drills were your legs moving fast, and through the range of motion that you just wouldnt get running the mileage. high knees, butt-kicks, kickouts, bounding, skipping, and running backwards 4*50m worth of would really feel it in your hips, core muscles, etc and all done on your toes--HIGH on your toes. In the fall your legs would wobble when you did them and by mid year your form started to hold together. Do on the grass or infield, not on the track. I saw where Jeremy Wariner does the drills for 400m continuously at a time!

We would occassionally cross over during the strength phase and do 2 sets of mile work like 400-600-400-200 at a constant pace which would be challenging, but no more than once every 2 weeks.

My last year running full time I moved up to the 1500m, and the sharpening phase changed to be more specific -- I can remember a session of 3 * 800m with 800 jog recovery in 2:00, 1:56, 1:52 that really hurt.

One thing that I think would have been interesting that Peter Coe engineered was the 6 * 800m on a slight downhill. Seb's famous "6 * 800m in 1:50" workout, as seen on his video "Born to Run" --what you can't tell is that he is running a bit downhill. It is an interesting switch since you are running at fast pace, and instead of having the resistence of an uphill, you feel like your turnover isnt fast enough which trains you to stay "fast" through a long interval sessions. I never tried it but I think it may have been one of the "special sauce" ingredients in his regime that was counter-intuitive. Just ranting now of course....

My older boys are now 14 and 12 and getting interested in running so I am geeking out on training methods to help coach them and their friends...its a blast.
RE: Sub 1:50 800m Training 9/12/2008 12:16AM - in reply to master tactician Reply | Return to Index | Report Post
Good Stuff thus far..I'd like to point out as well, if you look at coach's such as Harry Wilson(Ovett Coach) and Jimmy Hedley(cramm coach), you'll notice that both spend what I would consider an extended period of time building there base. 20-24 weeks of basebuilding, with smooth transitions into vo2 max/LT training. However, Wilson believed never to neglect speed, and had his athletes do some sort of short speed work after Long runs, other "medium-effort" runs.
Now on the other hand, You have the kenyans who spend about 3-5 months worth doing base training, but at a considerably faster pace. Though, from what I read, they don't focus so much on "hammering" track intervals, yet they seem to put more emphasis on Lactate threshold. For example, Noah Ngeny during his off peak season had a schedule of:

Monday: Am 90 min. Pm 40 min easy
Tuesday: Fartlek 3 min hard, 1 min easy for 40 min (10 min buildup)
Wednesday: 40 min building to almost 10k race pace PM 50-60 easy
Thursday: 1 hr "steady" run
Friday: 30 min. at "high speed" Pm. 45 min easy
Saturday: Long "tempo" run through hilly route.
Sunday: off

Note though, this is only one portion of the whole picture. Here I think for 800m/1500m runners that running XC is important because it not only toughens the mind mentally, it gives you that extra bit of strength and endurance. So perhaps, in the base training phase, you could begin with 2 months of building a solid base, nothing out of the norm, just your basic doubles and 1x tempo. Then once you start progressing into the 12-20 week period, you start integrating 4-5 tempo runs per week (3-4 if your tired etc. etc.) along with 1 hill session. My thoughts are, Americans are hammering away sessions, but don't have the building blocks to support them a whole season. Notice, if you re-read, most of these runners have had a 3-5 month base. As of late the typical base period lasts maybe 2-3 months. I think Americans have it backwards in that they feel they need to hammer sessions first, and put the aerobic capacity aside. Perhaps bite the bullet, and put in a good 3/4 month base so you enable yourself to run "fast" for extended periods of time (tempo/LT), then as mentioned previous, work on what takes the shortest time to develop: SPEED!
RE: Sub 1:50 800m Training 9/12/2008 5:40AM - in reply to Anbessa Reply | Return to Index | Report Post
so just to make sure I get the terminology right (English is certainly not my first or second language). Lactate tresshold training for 800m runners is the same as VO2max? The training regime describes seems to imply this. If there is a difference, is there someone willing to explain?

RE: Sub 1:50 800m Training 9/12/2008 6:06AM - in reply to KD Reply | Return to Index | Report Post

could you provide us with a weekly outline of what your training would look like. Like generally what you would do on a Mon/Tue/Wed etc.

Thanks this thread is great!
RE: Sub 1:50 800m Training 9/12/2008 7:22AM - in reply to loki Reply | Return to Index | Report Post
I've gone 1.49 and like the other poster was the slowest in the 'group' I trained with (it was a rough group - we were all advised by the same coach and would meet up from time to time if any of use wered oing similar sessions).

I was focussed more on the 1500, but the training we did was very similar to that already described. In the winter,lots of tempo stuff (20 mins continuos or 2x10 mins etc) as well as some extensive intervals (20x200 at 1500-3k pace, sometimes on a hill), and always one session of pure speed per week (drills followed by 2x3x60m with long rests).

Pre-season the track work got far more specific. I was not blinding fast (couldnt break 50 for 400) so emphasis was on short recovery reps at around race pace.
eg. 6x2x200(30s + 3 mins) progressing to 3x4x200 progressing to 2x6x200 (this was an absolute pig of a session)
Others - 7x300@41 (3,2,1,3,2,1 mins recovery)
- 6x300@41+200@27 (90s throughout)
- 6x400+200@ 59+28 (75s) this was my standard 1500m session really
Closer to comp we did some longer reps with longer rests:
- 2x500+300+200@ 68+40+25 (4 mins + 10 between sets)
- 2-3x400@51 (10 mins)
- 3x500@ 68 (7-8 mins) (when I could do this I knew I was ready to run well at 800 or 1500)

I would add that I found the circuits and weights to be absolutely crucial for 800m performance. The stronger I got the faster I ran (and recovered from sessions more quickly). At a bodyweight of 66kg I could do 3 sets of 6 half squats at 110kg and had a 1RM power clean of 75kg. Even more important than the weights in my opinion were the very long circuit sessions I did - these eventually progressed to a stage circuit where I was able to do 150xhalf squats, 150 x step ups on each leg, hopping (100 contacts on each leg), 150 x alternate lunges, and then finishing off with another 150xstep ups on each leg. More than anything else these circuits seemed to give the strength endurance to maintain form in the final stages of the race (I also did a similar volume of ab/back work)
RE: Sub 1:50 800m Training 9/12/2008 8:03AM - in reply to PL Reply | Return to Index | Report Post
so for a hs runner if XC ended in Nov. and 1st indoor meets were in late Jan. to beginning of Feb. base would begin in Dec. and then strength in Jan.?
RE: Sub 1:50 800m Training 9/12/2008 8:19AM - in reply to vano Reply | Return to Index | Report Post
No, you shouldn't be training to peak indoors. That just isn't enough time
RE: Sub 1:50 800m Training 9/12/2008 11:44AM - in reply to KD Reply | Return to Index | Report Post
KD, no vo2 max to put it simply is the maximum capacity to transport and utilize oxygen while also being known as "aerobic capacity" which may reflect the physcial fitness of the person. So, some percentages that are roughly used among athletes are as follows:

3k pace: 100% vo2max
5k pace: 95% vo2max
10k pace: 90% vo2max
Half-Marathon: 80% vo2max

Now on the other hand, Lactate threshold is simply the running speed above which large amounts of lactate begin to accumulate in the blood. I believe that you don't want to actually run at your given "lactate threshold" but rather just above it, for the reason that when you run faster than LT you switch from focusing on aerobic development of the Fast twitch fibers and increasing threshold -- to developing buffers for the build up of acid. For one to achieve this, I would suggest something around 10mile pace, to 10k pace as being sufficient for LT. Everyone is different, though once you get the idea for pace, you should then not worry so much about actual pace, but run by feel ( Where you get the sensation of a comfortable/hard run)

So to answer your question without readin all my jargon. v02max isnt always a "training" term/workout, but a percentage. For this case, Lactate threshold is somewhere around 88-90% vo2max.
great stuff
RE: Sub 1:50 800m Training 9/12/2008 1:13PM - in reply to OldSub4 Reply | Return to Index | Report Post
Another coach who's system is fairly similar to this is Warhurst at Michigan. Basically, strides 2-3 days per week throughout the year, as well as hill sprints, hurdle drills, core work, and lifting throughout the year. Sprints in the fall to maintain speed, and good year round volume. Cross country in the fall with long hill repeats, tempo runs, and mile repeats, in the winter shorter tempo runs with some fast running afterwords, short hills (300m) followed by short intervals (400s usually) every week, and long repeats or long hill repeats. In outdoor, they start doing more pace work, for 800 a lot of 600m hard runs (like 200, 600, 4X300), for the 1500m a lot of 1200m time trials, reduce the amount of tempo running sharply, and lower the amount of hills and increase the amount of trackworkt in hill sessions (so instead of 8X300m hill, 4X400m track, something like 4X300m hill, 4X(400, 300) track(. I think in this system the year round strides and hill sprints are the key as they maintain speed in the off season, and the constant hills and weight lifting improce the fast twitch muscle capabilities. Usually 2-3 quality days a week as well as a long run of 20% of weekly mileage. This is the system that brought Willis to bronze in Beijing, and it is very effective for 800/1500m runners as well as being fairly similar to the system you described.
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