Middle Distance Olympic HopefulPublished March 13, 2000 in The Post-Standard.
By Dr Kamal Jabbour, Contributing Writer
Earlier this month, former Section 3 runner Lubert Lewis took fourth place in a close finish in the 800 meters at the finals of the USATF indoor track and field championship. Lewis' performance enlivens hopes that he will qualify for July's Olympic trials, and that he will have a real chance of representing the USA at the Sydney Olympics.
At a recent training run through the hills of Pompey, I convened of panel of renowned back-of-pack runners to discuss Lewis' training and establish a road map to Sydney. Guided by the track record of running greats, the experts agreed on some guiding principles to train middle-distance runners at all levels.
With the July track and field trials in Sacramento just seventeen weeks away, the training plan requires specificity and focus. Since the selection process of qualifying heats and finals advance runners based primarily on finishing place rather than time, training should favor tactical rather than strategic preparation.
In addition to talent and good genes, a successful middle-distance program requires strength, speed and endurance. While the impact of strength and speed are evident in affecting the outcome of a race, endurance is the most neglected component in today's training.
Throughout his successful running career, which included two Olympic gold medals and numerous world records at the middle distances, Sebastian Coe included a long 10-mile weekend run in his training. Mindful of the stressful impact of downhill running, Coe ran 10 miles uphill in one direction, in about one hour. His father and coach, Peter Coe, followed him in a car to give him splits and a ride back home.
The most prolific sub-four-minute miler in history, Steve Scott regularly ran 20-mile long runs at a tempo pace. His long run capped a weekly schedule that included five days of double workouts, and exceeded 100 miles per week.
At the other end of the sprint spectrum, Wilma Rudolph regularly competed in cross-country races, and ran 4-6-mile runs several times a week.
Having established the importance of endurance and distance training, we turn our attention to strength training. It is evident to the casual observer that distance runners embody the thin ectomorph body type more than the participants in any other sport. In fact, upper-body strength can make the difference between and good performance and a bad memory.
Runners at all distances should include strength training in their program. At the very least, they should strive to strength their abdomens with sit-ups, their pectorals with push-ups, their biceps with curls and their quadriceps with leg lifts.
Speed workouts remain the essential component of speed training. To run fast requires training fast. Two speed sessions per week provide the body optimum stress and adequate recovery. One speed session features a large number of short sprint repetitions of 100 and 200 meters, while the second session focuses on a few paced longer intervals of 400 and 600 meters.
If Lewis' recent races are indicative of 800-meter competition, they point to the last 200 meters to determine the outcome. Jim Ruyn used to prepare for the mile by running 20 and 30 repeats of 200 meters at race speed to simulate the end of a race. Emil Zatopek once ran sixty repetitions of 400 meters in 60 seconds each in preparation for the Olympics.
Lest we neglect an integral component of training, recovery from intense workouts requires rest, sleep, hydration and good nutrition. These permit the body to restore spent reserves and repair stressed components, making it stronger and faster.
Success in running requires hard work, patience, and a lot more hard work. Evidently, Lubert Lewis has demonstrated that he has the talent and hard work ethic to succeed. We wish him godspeed in his journey to Sydney.
Kamal Jabbour runs and writes on the hills of Pompey, New York. His RUNNING Column appears in The Post-Standard on Mondays. He maintains TrackMeets.com, the world leader in live track webcasting, and receives email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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