The 800 meters is the shortest of the middle-distance running events. You need a combination of endurance, power, speed and strength to be good at the event, notes Dame Kelly Holmes, winner of the 800 meter bronze medal at the Sydney Olympics in 2000 and gold medal winner in the 2004 Athens Olympics. Your training plan, race technique and pre-competition preparation are all critical aspects.
Aim to hit your top running pace within the first 20 to 30 meters, advises USA-track and field coach Scott Carhoun. Be aggressive, and don't waste time getting to your preferred position in the pack, even if it means overtaking competitors at an early stage. Some 800 meters races have a waterfall start, though a staggered start is more common. With this staggered start you can cut in from the first curve, adds David Tiefenthaler of Tips4Running.com, so use the start as an opportunity to make good headway.
As you hit the line at the end of lap one, you're at the halfway mark. Ideally the first 400 meters should take you a little longer than what you'd run for a maximum effort 400 meters, notes Carhoun. If you can run a 49-second 400, your first 400 should be around 52 to 53 seconds. Stay strong into the finish, but remember, you will fatigue. A good 800-meter runner shouldn't have more than a five-second differential between the first and second laps in a race, according to Steve Gardiner, head cross country and track & Field coach at New Bedford High School in Massachusetts. If it's looking like you've gone off too fast, ease back between the 400- and 700-meter mark to leave yourself some energy for the home straight.
Knowing your racing tactics is one thing, but technique is a whole different matter. Aim to strike with the ball of the foot and a small degree of flexion in your knee, advises coach Brian Mackenzie. Initiate the push-off forcefully with your calf muscles and bring your foot up powerfully as your leg reaches full extension. Keep your shoulders rolling and your hips rotating slightly to generate momentum.
The Training Template
Your training schedule will change year-round, depending on how far out you are from competition, so your best option is to work with a coach or join an athletics club. However, as a basic guideline, William Wuyke of the North America, Central America and Caribbean Track & Field Coaches Association recommends training six days per week. Monday's workout combines a 40-minute light run, 800-meter drills, stretching and stride practice, plus a second session of intervals, drills and more strides. On Tuesday, complete five 1-mile jogs, six sets of 80 strides and circuit training. A 40-minute run, 30 minutes of cross country drills and 1,000 total strides are on the agenda for Wednesday, while Thursday entails 40 minutes of drills, 1,600 total strides and circuits. Friday is a short run, drills, strides and runs of 1 mile, 1,200, 1,000, 800, 600 and 400 meters. Complete a 40-minute run, 1,000 strides and circuits on Saturday, with Sunday as rest.