Every specialism of middle distance is a compromise among the fast and the resistant type of runner, not only 800m.
When you have an out of class champion, like Michael Johnson, able to be the best in two or more distances, probably he could be the best also in an hypothetical distance in the middle of the two officials (for ex., 300m). It's clear that, if you are the best in 200 and 400, normally you are the best also in 300m. But, when you are the best in only one distance, may be that you could not be the best in an intermediate distance, like for example 600m or 1000m.
So, normally there is a "potential" record holder of 600m that has not the best distance for him, and the compromise is running 800. At the same time, may be that there is a "potential" record holder of 1000m that is not the same of 800, distance that he has to run.
In the first case, we say that the runner is a "fast" specialist, not at the top like specific endurance, but very good in speed ; in the second case, we say that the runner is "resistant".
The history of 800m always presented specialists of these two different typologies. Already in 1912 Ted Meredith was able running in 1:51.9 (WR) and in 1916 was record holder of 440y with 47.4 (like 47.0 on 400m). Other record holders in both 400-800 were Ben Eastman (46.4y in 1932 and 1:49.8y in 1934), Rudolf Harbig (46.0 and 1:46.6 in 1939), and Alberto Juantorena (44.26 at sea-level and 1:43.44).
About Olympic Games, only Juantorena was able to win both, mwanwhile winners in 800/1500 were Edwin Flack in 1896, James Lightbody in 1904, Mel Sheppard in 1908, Albert Hill in 1920, Peter Snell in 1964, and many others were able to conquire a medal of different colour, like Phil Edwards in 1932, Ivo van Damme in 1976, Sebastian Coe in 1980-1984, Steve Ovett in 1980. We can also find some particular champion, like Said Aouita, bronze in 800 in OG '88, after winning gold in 5000 in OG '84
If we see the "all-time" lists of top 30, we don't find any athlete in 400/800 (the first, Alberto Juantorena, is n. 18 in 400 and n. 42 in 800.
Instead, in 800/1500 we find Coe (n. 2 in 800, n. 23 in 1500), Cram (n. 16 in 800, n. 11 in 1500), Baala (n. 24 in 800, n. 6 in 1500), and other like Aouita, William Tanui, William Chirchir are in top 50.
So, we cannot speak about a system of training good for 800m.
TRAINING FOR AN EVENT DOESN'T EXIST. EXIST ONLY TRAINING FOR EVERY ATHLETE, that can run his best event possible.
The talent of runners begins from speed. It's very difficult to increase your speed in significant way, but is possible to increase your speed endurance in significant way. So,
SPEED IS NOT A SUBJECTIVE OPINION, IS A FACT.
Who is a fast athlete ?
Of course, Juantorena was a fast athlete. Fast athletes were Billy Konchellah (45.1 the first race in his life), Susanj, Marcello Fiasconaro that I followed in Italy (using schedules from his South African coach, Stewart Banner), that was silver in 400m in European Ch. '71 in 45.49 and in 1973 broke WR with 1:43.7. Fast were Tom Courtney (winning 800 in OG '56 and able running 45.7), the Jamaican Arthur Wint (gold in 400 and silver in 800 in OG '48 and Mal Whitfield (bronze in 400 in OG '48 and gold in 800 in '48 and '52), and Paul Ereng (45.6 and gold in OG '88).
But athletes like Snell, Ovett, Tanui, Rodhal, Schumann, Kipketer, Coe, Bucher, cannot be considered in the "family" of fast runners, also if able running under 46.0 in relay at the top of their career.
I think that there is some confusion about the idea of long run, and of basic work. Many of you look at training in the specific period of a season, and when the career is already well definied. Instead, the problem is to look at the beginning of their activity.
Like Kenyans run very much when very young, also Coe and Ovett and Cram ran very much when very young (and what Bazza wrote can confirm this). Some year ago, a normal activity for Britain students (correct me if it's wrong) was to run long run on road or cross during winter (some time also 10 miles) in meetings among colleges.
When they were juniors, they began their activity from longer distances , not from sprint. Sebastian Coe was in European Junior Ch. in 1500m in 1975, and Steve Cram won European Title in 3000 (Bydgoszcz 1979). And, if we go to African runners, Aouita was in cross and 5000m when junior, and the same many others.
The common denominator is TO IMPROVE SPECIFIC ENDURANCE.
But, if Konchellah was able running 2x300 in 34.0 with 8 min of rest at his beginning, for him a good improvement is running 5x300 in 36.0 with 5min, and then 3x300 in 34.0 with 7min., because HE WAS A SPRINTER.
Instead, if you are COE, WITH A GREAT AEROBIC PREPARATION WHEN VERY YOUNG, you can run 6 x 800 in 1:51 with 1:30 recovery, or, if you are CRAM, 10x300 in 39.0/40.0 with 45 secs of recovery. THESE ARE WORKOUTS POSSIBLE NOT BECAUSE YOU HAVE SPEED, BUT BECAUSE YOU HAVE SPECIFIC ENDURANCE. But the problem is : how we can prepare our body for working so hard in that direction ?
Under this point of view, an aerobic base is indispensable.
How is the best way for improving your aerobic base is another type of problem.
We made some experiment with our best runners (Benvenuti 1:43.92, D'Urso 1:43.95, Longo 1:43.74). Nobody was really fast, as their value was about 46.7 (Benvenuti), 47.5 (D'Urso), and 48.0 (Longo).
D'Urso was able running 5k in 14:03 at 2000m of altitude (Sestriere), Benvenuti 8:20 3k, Longo 8:40 at his beginning.
Taking lactate, we could see that Longo, after 6k at 3:20, had a value of 9-10 mmol, so this work was not completely aerobic, and the pace was very far from the speed of the race (20.0 every 100m against 13.0 about, only 66,5 %), so there was no relation under the biomechanical point of view.
But, running 4 sets of 10x150m in 22.0 with 20/25 sec. of recovery, the final level was, after every set, no higher than 6 mmol (so this work was more aerobic than running 6k not very fast). But the most important difference was that, after 6k, cortisol was very high, after one set of 10x150 very low.
Cortisol prevents the possibility of producing lactate, so is a limiting factor for lactic activities. I continue later.
Joe, you explained what every runner has to understand :
a) DOESN'T EXIST ANY TYPE OF TRAINING LIMITING QUALITIES.
You lose some quality, or are not able to increase it, ONLY WHEN YOU DON'T TRAIN THAT QUALITY. It means that you lose speed not because you run long distance, BUT BECAUSE YOU DON'T TRAIN SPEED. At the same time, you become less resistant not because you do speed workouts, BUT BECAUSE YOU FORGET ENDURANCE.
b) The elements of training are always present in a good training-schedule. What must change is their percentage and their frequency. So, during the FUNDAMENTAL PERIOD you must work for increasing your qualities : general resistance, strenght, rapidity, flexibility, cohordination.
You must not use SPEED, but you have to prepare your speed. For example, you use circuit with weights or special works uphill, having clear in your mind what the goal is. If I go climbing 400m, making, without interruption, 60m sprint at max. speed + 40m bounding + 60m sprint + 40m skipping + 60m sprint + 40m heels to buttocks very fast + 100m sprint, and at the top 10 times squat-jumps pushing harder is possible,
I use a work for increasing strenght endurance, reaching a very high level of lactate, improving "stamina". THIS IS A BASIC TRAINING, but is of very high intensity. When I put speed in my training (f.e., 15x100m with 30/40 sec of recovery), I have more BASIC QUALITIES for improving this specificism.
About running, every speed slower than 80% of the speed of the race is NOT SPECIFIC. So, about 800m training, if we want to refer to 100m speed, these are the parameters :
PURE SPEED (over 110 %)
SPECIFIC SPEED (110 - 90 %)
SPECIAL SPEED (90 - 80 %)
BASIC SPEED (80 - 65 %)
GENERAL SPEED (65 - 50 %)
REGENERATION (under 50 %)
For an athlete able running 1:44 (13.0 every 100m), it means :
Faster then 11.7 = SPEED
11.7 >< 26.0 = GENERAL SPEED
Slower than 26.0 = REGENERATION
Of course, for evey speed we can use different distances :
SPEED : 60-200m (global volume 1500/2000m)
SPECIFIC SPEED : 200-1000m (global volume 2000/4000m)
SPECIAL SPEED : 400-2000m (global volume 3000/6000m)
BASIC SPEED : 800-6000m (global volume 5000/10000m)
GENERAL SPEED : 5000-12000m (global volume 7-12 km)
REGENERATION : What you feel better for you.
This fact can happen along all the season. We must modulate speed, lenght of intervals, global volume, duration of recovery, that can change according to different period of preparation.
One good principle is that MORE QUALITY THERE IS (f.e., 3-4 competitions very close), MORE REGENERATION WE NEED.
You must learn running very slow for running very fast.
The system for increasing SPECIFIC ENDURANCE is not only to increase the speed, but essentially to reduce recovery. So, we can adapt the membranes of our cells to increase their permeability, in order to eliminate lactate in shorter time.
I want to remember a type of work of Juantorena, that really never ran many km :
3 times 1200m with 6x150 in 18.5 recovery 50m in 13.0, with final time of 3:09 about (6 min recovery).
This one was a typical example of Anaerobic Work, that was good for increasing Aerobic Capacity, and not speed.
After this type of work, Juantorena was able to improve also in 400m, without never using speed so high like in the past (when he was only a 400m runner).
I'm not the coach of Longo, that is called Fabio Scapin. But, as I was responsable of Italian Federation for Methodolgical Research and Experimentation, I know very well what Longo used in his training, beeing connected with all the Italian coaches for discussing training programs and analyzing results of training.
I want also to explain my idea about speed. What is possible to do with 52-53 on 400m ? Of sure, is possible running till about 1:50, depending on personal specific endurance. See the situation of women (and the fact that many used not permitted substances many years ago doesn't change the situation) : in the top position we can find Kratochvilova (1:53.28 and 47.99), Olizarenko (1:53.43 and 52.4, but also 3:56.8), Quirot (1:54.44 and 49.61), Mineyeva (1:54.81 and 51.8), Kazankina (1:54.94 and 53.4, but also 3:52.47 and 8:22.62, and 5th position in 15 km road WCH '87 at 36 years of age), Melinte (1:55.05 and 53.8, but also 3:56.7), Mutola (1:55.19 and 51.53, but also 4:01). Italian record holder Gabriella Dorio, winner in OG '84 in 1500m, has the Italian record with 1:57.66, with a PB of 54.9 on 400.
So, you can understand that, if an athlete like Kemboi (not able running under 50) goes to 800m, of sure can run 1:48 or something less. About Cram, 49.7 is not his PB, but is 48.5, and in any case he never was able running faster than 47.5 in relay.
But not always a big endurance is important for running 800m. We can have athletes very fast in short distances (for ex., 100m in 11.2) and very resistant in long, slow run (able running a marathon in 2:20), that always lose competitions of 800-1500m against athletes less fast (12.0) and less resistant (not longer than 10k in 31:00). So, the difference between the two athletes is their SPECIFIC ENDURANCE. Specific endurance is the percentage of speed that you can use in relation to your max. speed.
If you run 12.0 in 100m, and 52.0 in 400m, your specific endurance (for 400m) is : 12 (100 %) : 13 (pace of 400) = 92,3 %. So, if you run 52.0 (13.0) and 1:52 (14.0), your specific endurance (related to 400m) is 92,9 %.
In relation to the distances 400/800, athletes having a coefficient between 95 and 90 % can be considered "resistant", under 90 % "fast" if are really fast, in other case simply weak....
If you have 95% of coefficient, if you run 52.0, you can run under 1:50. Of course, is something possible to strong athletes of long distances.
If you have 90%, if you run 48 you can run 1:45.2 (and there are many specialists in top lists having this typology).
If you are a long sprinter, having 85% of coefficient, running 46 you run only 1:45.8.
So, your absolute speed is not so important. You must individuate which is the quality that you can increase more. It's a nonsense to spend the most part of your time in training for improve a quality of 1%, forgetting the direction where you can improve of 10%.