How to Run a 600- or 800-Meter Race 

Written by:  Austin Braddock

As a track athlete, competing in the mid-distance running events, the 600- and 800-meter runs are by far true tests of endurance, guts, and perseverance. These two events are extremely tricky to gauge because-distance run. Imagine sprinting at full speed for half a mile, and that’s what the 800 basically is. How do athletes do this? Let me take you down the running path.

Typically, athletes that run the 600 and 800 meters warm up around an hour before the race with a 10–15 minute warm up. This is a slow jog, enough to get blood flowing. After that, I get loosened up so that the muscles can stretch when I run, making it easier and faster. Some of the stretches are toe touches, which happens when one bends over and touches their toes. Another one is sitting on the ground and reaching your hands to your feet, first the feet together, then one spreads their feet and touches one foot with both hands, and then does the other foot. These stretches loosen the quadriceps and hamstring muscles. By then, it’s about thirty minutes until the race starts. Then they do dynamic stretches, which includes stretching with a wide range of motion. This takes about 10-15 minutes. Within the stretches, I generally do a hard 30 to 50-meter sprint. This allows for the most flexibility possible.

The final race preparations usually happen five to ten minutes before the race starts. These preparations might include getting a final drink of water, receiving a final good luck from coach (including specific times and instructions that he wants the athlete to hit per lap), and putting shoes on.

Right before a race, I mentally plan how I need to run the race.  The plan that coach and I have is usually to run the first half of the 800 at a hard pace. At the start, and for the first half of the race, it is a hard, fast pace, which should be uncomfortable and should push me to perform at a high level yet save enough for the remaining 400 meters. Ideally, I should have enough in my body’s “gas tank” for a last 200-meter sprint to the finish. The last 200 meters are an all-out, leave everything on the field that I have, type of performance. At the end of the race, I usually can’t breathe well. It should almost feel like I am breathing at elevation or in a very dusty barn. Some people, when they are pushed hard enough, get blood in their mouths from their lungs. This is the moment the athlete is tested to his or her limits, when it’s an athlete’s willpower to persevere through pain and endurance through the last few steps of the race. Completing the race fully exhausted is the athlete’s inward sign that he has done his best.