Peter Coe, as almost all of the readers know, the coach and father of Seb Coe, has written an analysis of 800m race as follows:
“For a better understanding of the 800m event, consider a race in which the winner has a best 400m time of 48 sec. and it is run in 1:43:50; the opening lap is only 50 sec., and to make matters worse the first 200m takes only 24 sec…The first 200m is off a standing start and as he will not achieve his VO2Max immediately it will be…run all-out by our winner…The anaerobic percentage will not reach 90% but it is obvious that so far he will be running substantially anaerobically and incurring a marked oxygen debt…Totalling 50 sec., this unevenly run first lap will average an overall 96% of this runner’s maximum pace for 400m. Again this is not reach another often quoted anaerobic content of 70 to 75% but will certainly increase the oxygen debt and the accumulation of unmetabolized lactates. Against this background he is committed to another hard 400m. The second and final lap is run in 53 sec. His average pace for the next 400m will drop to 90% of maximum but the effort will become so close to 100% that he will struggle to continue at this pace until the finish…”
My dear Skuj; what this story reveals is, yes, you’re right, the modern world class level 800m race is run with the first lap being run several seconds faster than the second; but look what’s happening in your body. If you start out too fast, which you most likely will be forced to do anyways, you will accumulate so much lactic acid in your system in the first half of the race so quickly that, unless you are very well-trained, you will ruin your chance of running a good 800m race. It is nice to say that 800m is a long sprint and so exciting to see gutsy performance of someone taking off fast and hanging on, struggling to maintain his form and barely staggers to the tape. Often the race can be won this way in the US more or less because many people feel the same way as you do in this country and, luckily this country does not lack talents in 400m. If you want to run your 800m race this way, go ahead and do it. All I’m saying is that it’s not the smartest way to improve your 800m performance. Such mentality, same as “No pain, no gain” philosophy or “Gimme 50 push-ups” mentality, has destroyed more young potential in this country than anything else. Lydiard often talked about his experience of watching a bunch of high school kids running 1:50 880 yd way back in the 50s. “This country will become the leading force in the world with 800m,” he thought. What happened? Nothing happened. With so much talent, so many young kids with great 400m speed; we just don’t produce very many good 800m runners at all. The US absolutely DOMINATES 400m in the world scene! If 800 is just around the corner, a long sprint, why we don’t dominate that event as well?
Another quote from Peter Coe: “…we see the…situation in which 400m runners who are not good enough for the top spot at their original distance move up to 800m without the requisite endurance background…Although sometimes called an extended sprint, modern 800m racing is too long and far too fast at the top level for this move to be successful.”
In terms of pacing, I don’t have broken-down splits of Wottle and Borzakowski’s races and if you have it, I’d love to take a look at. I’m sure, in a practical sense, they both run the first lap maybe a second or a second and a half faster than the last lap. That, whether they like it or not, happens. But then again, when you look at what’s happening inside their body, and compared that with what’s happening inside their competitors’ bodies, you’ll notice that they are the ones who were “least anaerobic” or “slowed down the least.” Peter Coe goes on and comments: “…It can never be a sharp finishing kick when the pace is well under 1:45—nearly always the victory will go to the runner who slows the least. Often what looks like the victor speeding up is the others slowing down more.”