How to Run the 400m

by dmh2430

Feel like you never have the stamina to finish the most enduring and physically demanding race on the track?

The 400 meters is the most challenging race on the track, but comes with many rewards when ran properly. It is exactly one full lap around the track and is also referred to as the quarter mile. It takes a strong combination of speed and endurance to master the distance. It can not be won on one of those alone. Although many consider it a full-out sprint, it takes strategy to hit the personal best. There are multiple strategies that can be used to run the race and it's to each person to find out what works best for themselves. What you will read about in this article is how to prepare for the race, how to run the race, and some tips to maximize performance.


It is very important to prepare yourself properly before the 400 as it is with any other race.  It starts with the day before the race.  It is critical to sleep well and eat a carb loaded meal the night before the race for peak performance.  Depending on what time the race is the next day, meals should be small and filled with protein for energy.  It is now time for warmup.  Leave 30-45 minutes before the race to get adequately warmed up and ready to race.  Start off with a 5 minute jog to wake up the muscles.  Continue with stretches of the main muscle groups (quads, hamstrings, calves, etc.). When you have finished stretching, perform drills for technique. It is essential to move at a fast "race pace" speed to simulate how you want to run your race.  Keep your warmup brisk and fast. Finish with striders and keep yourself warm all the way to the line. 


The 400 should be run with sprint spikes that allow the runner to be on their toes the entire race. Finding a pair of shoes that are comfortable and breathable are key to success.  Spikes should be placed on the bottom of the shoe for traction.  For optimal traction, needle spikes are the best.  Different tracks however only allow certain type of spikes and length so check on the meet info and be prepared. 

Nike Zoom Powercat 3 - Mens - Metallic Silver/Black/White

Designed and tested with the world's fastest 100-400 meter track athletes, the Nike Zoom Powercat 3 is a technical sprint spike for the sprinter looking for the most support und...

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UPPER: Lightweight, seamless synthetic over mesh upper provides a secure fit while maintaining breathability.MIDSOLE: Lightweight Phylon midsole with a carbon fiber midfoot shan...

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Race Strategy

As with anything, practice makes perfect.  There are many different race strategies for the 400, and it's for each person to decide which strategy works best for them and their fitness level.  The 400 is about using as little energy as possible while trying to run as fast as possible.  The 400 is broken up into 4 stages for each 100 meters.  The first 100 meters is about acceleration.  Be quick from the blocks and enter the drive phase.  Don't kill yourself trying to sprint out to 1st place, but get out fast enough to put yourself in good position.  Get yourself comfortable with the pace and ride the turn as you prepare yourself for the second 100 meters.  The second 100 meters is the easiest of the four stages.  Open up the stride and float down this 100.  This should be effortless if you are doing it correctly.  This should be your fastest 100, so don't let off. At this point, you are half way through the race and feeling good.  The third 100 meters is the one that will make or beak the race.  You must continue to lay down the hammer in this 100. Fight the turn and don't slow down.  You can catch your competitors on this turn.  Coming off the turn, It is time for the homestretch.  Think about slingshotting your self off the turn and opening up again to the finish.  You are feeling it all over, but so are your opponents. The last 100 meters is all you have left.  Mentally, you have to be there.  Tell yourself you can do it.  Put the blinders on and don't let your opponents break you down.  Keep your form and lift your knees to extend on each stride.  Your legs will have nothing left in them, so pump the arms as hard as you can, but stay relaxed and loose.  If you tense up, you will cut off your breathing and break down.  Don't slow down until you are 5 meters past the line.  When you come to the line of the 400 or any race, have a strategy. Execute the plan and you will be happy with your performance.

Most importantly, enjoy yourself. 


Trying to get the right balance of speed and endurance can be difficult.  When preparing for the 400m, maybe try some other races out.  Try running shorter races like the 100 and 200 to improve your speed and trying longer races like the 800 to improve your endurance.  

Updated: 08/08/2012, dmh2430
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Mira on 08/07/2012

It was fun reading this article. Look forward to more sports articles!

katiem2 on 08/04/2012

It's good to know how to run the most challenging of races, I always wondered how an athlete would approach succeeding at such an intense race. I'm loving the Olympics.

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