Tuesday, January 25, 2011

My 400m time trial

If you are new to running like I am, you might be tempted to think that a 400m time trial is easy because it's only one lap around a track. But as I learned tonight, you would be wrong. Turns out it's hard. Crazy hard.

Before I get to my time trial summary, here's a look at Michael Johnson setting the current 400m world record, which remains safe after my attempt tonight:

I ran my 400m time trial in the dark, so I don't have a video of myself for comparison. But to give you an idea, watch the video above once again, and imagine me at just past the half-way point as Johnson crosses the finish line. Either that, or watch the video above at just over half speed if there's a way to do that.

Before beginning my 400, I followed some advice I found in a running forum and did a warm up that included an easy 1/2 mile run, some dynamic stretching, and some strides.  Then I found the 400m starting line and got ready to go. I thought maybe I should try to pace myself. But I decided just to go all out. After all, it's just one lap, right?

So, off I went, full bore. Around the first 100m, feeling good. Thinking about my breathing and my form. Down the back straight-away to the 200m mark, feeling okay. Still thinking about my form, trying to keep my strides quick.

Somewhere around 250m-300m I remembered something else I read online in the same forum where I found the warm-up advice. It was basically something like "don't just go all out, or else you'll burn out at 300m."

Well, guess what.

As I approached the 300m mark, turning into the final straightaway, my thighs suddenly felt like they were burning. To say I was hurting doesn't begin to describe how deep I was in the hurt locker. I seriously thought I was not going to make it the whole 400m. But I was absolutely determined not to quit. I would finish that last 100, even if I had to vomit while I ran. I would finish.

Did I mention how insanely hard that last 100m was?

Well, I did finish. My time was 81 seconds. Only 38s off from the world record! Watch out, Michael Johnson.

But seriously, this was really a worthwhile exercise. It's fun to find out just what I can do, and to have another milestone to try to surpass. It also gives me a whole new perspective and appreciation for world-class runners like Michael Johnson, who can run the 400m almost twice as fast as me, and for elite marathoners who can run 26.2 miles at a pace that's faster than my pace was tonight.

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