The 200m is an event that combines the skills of power and speed endurance.
It demands precision, development of neuromuscular patterns, a tactical plan, and strong sprinting form throughout.
When I was younger I used to view the 200m as a more tiresome version of the 100m.
I thought that I needed to drastically improve my fitness because, for some reason, I would feel like death after 110m and as I came off the bend, everyone seemingly sped up as I started to slow down.
The issue was that I was attempting to run as fast as I could for the entire distance.
NOTE: I had no coach when I started out in track, so please don't judge...!
Obviously you can’t run the 200m flat out as if it were a 100m race. The events are completely different.
In fact it's impossible to do this even in the 100m as you still begin to decelerate from around 60-80m.
The 200m uses different energy systems from the 100m and requires a lot more speed endurance work in your training to be successful.
You need a tactical plan for how to run the 200m and you may even change this depending on which lane you are in.
In short, it takes time and practice to be able to execute the 200m efficiently.
I learnt this the hard way and struggled with the event for a while. Later, as I got older, I was taught how to run the 200m and it actually became my best event.
In this article I will explain how to run 200m effectively, in the way that I was taught, and the way that I now teach my athletes.
Just as in the 100m event, you need to prepare for the 200m. Having the same routine before each race will make you more consistent.
Keeping more variables the same gives you the best opportunity to perform at your best each race.
Here are some pre-race guidelines before we get into how to execute the 200m.
Blocks: Be sure to set up your starting blocks the same way in competition as you would during training. Don't try implementing any changes during a competition as this could ruin your start. Anything new should be tried and tested during your training sessions.
Routine: You should have a routine that you go through before the start of every race. A lot of athletes take deep breaths in and out, do a few explosive jumps, slap their thighs etc.
With my athletes, I don’t really mind what they do. As long as it makes them feel relaxed and focused on the task at hand then I’m happy.
I do always get them to do a few short accelerations before they take their marks, just to get a feel for the blocks (and that there's no problem with them) and to make sure they are sharp.
Get in position: When the official tells you to take your marks, you should work yourself backwards into the blocks. I tell my athletes to imagine themselves as a coiled spring ready to pop.
Get into a position that is comfortable, make sure your hands are behind the starting line, and that the pressure remains on your feet and not on heavily on your hands.
The main issue I find with athletes who struggle running the 200m is either that they have not been taught how to run the race or they have very little experience in the event.
This inexperience can be a huge disadvantage during a competition against more experienced runners.
You should be practising 200m distances at race speed during your training but ultimately you can't rush experience. It will come.
You’ll often find that a good 200m runner can either drop down to 100m or even go up to 400m and still compete.
It is rare for an athlete to compete seriously in all three sprint events (100m/200m/400m).
I believe which way an athlete goes depends largely on their running style.
For example, an athlete who has a more powerful running style will be better suited for the 100m and would probably struggle to compete in the 400m.
I like to break the 200m down into phases so that my athletes can get a better understanding of how I want them to run each part of the race.
Here i will explain the different phases of the race and how yous should run them.
Once you have taken your marks, listen out for the officials.
During the set position, raise your hips and keep the pressure on your feet and not on your hands. This way, you'll be able to explode from the starting blocks more forcefully.
Once the gun goes, push hard off of both feet, swing your arms to build momentum, and drive out of the blocks.
You want to attack the first 40m!
During this phase your energy stores come from the ATP-PC energy system. This energy system is short lived, so focus on being powerful to fire the muscle fibres into action during the acceleration.
To do this successfully, explode from the blocks, driving your feet hard into the ground.
This is not the same as the acceleration phase of the 100m, and you'll find that you your drive is shorter as you come into your running stride as you take on the bend.
I believe running a successful bend can be the difference between winning and losing the 200m race.
After accelerating hard for the first 40m, you need to find your stride and ‘float/glide’ the bend.
This can be difficult for an athlete to achieve as it can be difficult to understand.
Gliding does not mean to slow down or exert less effort.
You want to take the momentum built up from your drive and use it to maintain your speed as you sprint the bend.
This will allow you to run with a long and comfortable stride. 150m from the 200m start are a good way to practice this in training.
Eventually you will get a feel for it and know how much energy you have left in the tank once you come off the turn.
Remember that everyone is decelerating. Your job is to decelerate slower than your competition.
So even if you see athletes flying past you on the bend or way out in front, try not to react.
Make sure you run your own race and stick with your plan! When you obsess over what others are doing then you have already lost. The race is short, you don't have time to focus on anyone else.
Unless you're competing against an athlete that's in a league of their own (in which case you definitely shouldn't focus on them) you'll likely find that the ones who sped off will decelerate a lot quicker in the final 60m and you will catch them.
Again, I stress that you must run your own race!
Another thing to note, to run a successful bend, you do not, need to lean your body into the curve. I see a lot of athletes do this but it just disrupts your running patter.
What you want to do is to try and ‘hug the line’.
This means getting as tight to the inside of your lane without stepping over the line (may result in a DQ).
Focus your sight on the point at which you want to run and your body will naturally follow around the bend. You don't need to make a big conscious effort to lean into it.
During this phase you want to re-accelerate.
Before you say this is impossible, I realise that this is not what is actually happening here, but it’s a good way to explain it for visual purposes.
Let me explain.
As you come of the bend you want to kick start that rapid arm and leg motion that you produced during the first 40m.
You should feel a shift in your efforts (the re-acceleration) as you use that reserve that you saved from gliding the bend, and continue for the next 30m.
It's important from here on out that you focus on maintaining your speed and technique for as long as possible to avoid a large breakdown in sprinting form.
Once you hit the home straight with about 60m to go you will be able to feel your efforts diminishing.
Specific anaerobic training will help you improve in this phase of the race, with series focusing on maximising the potential of the glycolytic energy system.
At this point it's essential that focus your efforts on good sprinting form, keeping a tight core, and a comfortable stride.
This will help reduce any energy wastage from unnecessary movements.
So keep focused, maintain your technique and let this carry you across the finish line!
As I mentioned before, 200m runners can often be good 100m runners or 400m runners.
This is because 200m sprinters need to apply aspects from both training principles. They need power as well as speed endurance.
My 200m athletes will usually train with my 100m athletes, but it's important that they also run longer distances at higher intensities to build up theri speed endurance and strength.
This is easily achieved by implementing longer running series, more sets, or less recovery time during training.
A good warm up for the 200m will facilitate faster muscle contractions and prepare you for the race.
You need to make sure you get a lot of blood flowing so that oxygen is transported to the active muscles contracting.
200m warm up key points:
Sprint Training Session 1: 4 x 7 x 60m back-to-backs with 15 seconds/4 minutes recovery (acceleration)
Sprint Training Session 2: 120/100/80/60m x 2 with walk back and 8 minutes recovery (maximum velocity)
Sprint Training Session 3: 3 x 2 x 300m with slow walk around and 8 minutes recovery (speed endurance)