800m running

How to get Faster in the 800m?

Last Updated on August 20, 2023 by Andrew Pirie

800m Running

In 800m running, credit always goes to those athletes who can manage race pace variations.
In setting a race distribution model, the objective for the athlete is to run the first 400m first half as close to 90% of the maximum 400m speed velocity as possible and the second half as close to 85% maximum effort with the last 200m being a home run that works for well-trained ones who also possess a great deal of speed.
800m running is a power event, unlike 1500m, which is more of a rhythm, and a strong endurance base is vital in the early season to allow the speed repetitions during the late season to be effective on the athlete s body.
800m running
Photo: World 800m running junior record holder (1:41.73) Nijel Amos leading the 800m running pack and ended up winning, clocking a (1:44.38 mark) during the Nanjing Continental Tour 2019 (IAAF World Challenge).

What can I do to improve my 800m running time drastically?

One of the fastest ways to improve your 800 times is to improve your 400 times. My biggest breakthroughs in the 800 happen after running the 400 more and improving on my time.

My #1 recommendation would be to start running the 4×4 more. It doesn’t matter if you start on the JV team or B relay team; you will probably work your way to the A-team. 

Based on your current 800 times, you are underperforming in the 400; simply running more 400s will improve your time.

A rule of thumb that Jack Daniels (running coach) taught me is that your 800 time is usually about 6 secs per lap slower than your 400. This assumes that you’re more of a distance-oriented runner than a sprinter-type 800 runner. 

For example, my 400m PR is 48.5, which means that my 800 times should be 1:49-1:50, 2X(49+6)=1:50, which is pretty much spot on since my fastest 800 is 1:50.

With 1:09, your projected time should be 2:30, but you are significantly outperforming that. If you run the 400 more, you will see a drastic improvement, and that confidence you build running faster will directly translate into a faster 800 time. I am quite confident in this assessment.


Is it even possible to run 800m running in a minute?

I’ve been working on that for about a decade. The short answer is “not with the current technique.”

To run a 60 sec half a mile, you’d have to run 3 mph faster than the top speed of any human being and sustain it for a full minute. Take away some time lost during acceleration, and you’d have to run 4–5mph faster than the fastest person’s top speed.

So to make that happen, we’d need to develop a new running technique that is at least 30% more efficient. And given the laws of physics, the only way to do that would be to use a technique that does not work on a pendulum-like motion in the legs.

The inertia of the leg moving backward at those speeds requires incredible stopping force to get it moving forward to recover the stride.

That stopping force burns phosphagen energy which generally lasts only about 6 seconds in a human being before it is depleted. Glycogen can last almost a minute but not at those intensities.

So to get a runner to go 30mph for a minute, we’d have to use a technique so efficient that glycogen stores would be sufficient.

So until someone figures out how to move the legs in circular motions like the hindquarters of a cheetah or a greyhound, we’re out of luck.

How to Run 800m?

I will have to go with a positive split. Let’s consider the other options first.

Attempt to negative split:

A negative split is to run the second lap faster than the first. While it is possible, it is usually not done because of the fatigue from the first lap. When you get to the second lap, you are 400 m into the race, and although you may put more effort into your second lap, you will often maintain pace if you are not slowing down. Thus, this scenario tends to only occur when the first lap is slow, which often leads to a slower race overall. As such, this is usually not the best approach for getting a good time.

Even split:

Even splitting consists of running very similar times for the first and second lap, to the point that you are going at the same speed for the whole race. This is where things get interesting because even splitting might work in some cases and not in others. For example, if you are running in a race and the rest of the field is slow (say it’s a school meet in a small town where there are not many 800 m runners), then you can expect to be able to lead the race without anyone contesting your lead. In this case, you are in charge of the pace and approaching the race as an even split situation might work if you are good at setting paces. However, in races where the field is competitive or if you are not the greatest at setting honest paces (i.e. like me), then this will not work out great. The competitive field could drop you in the first lap, and the mental effect of this might throw you off the pace. If you are bad at pacing, you might run too fast/slow for the first lap and then run a positive/negative split race instead. Even splitting is possible; it’s just not always reliable or may not be a good choice in a competitive race.

Positive split:

A positive split is when you run the first lap faster than the second lap. This is sometimes a very good way to get fast times, especially if you can hang on for the second lap. An example of this would be my teammate, Alex [name changed]. Alex was a pretty good runner, yet he had trouble with consistency. He had difficulty getting under 2 minutes (note: he was pretty young at the time), and when he did get under, it would not be by much. He eventually tried to split positive and ran the first lap in 56 seconds. After running the second lap in ~1 minute, he managed to run a 1:56. Thus, this technique does work. Based on my experience, this method works especially well when you have others to run with. If there is competition, it is sometimes easy to run a fast first lap. After this, it is up to you to hang on, which is also made easier when others are in the same boat. I have seen many teammates run fast times by positive splitting.

Thus, I would recommend positive splitting if possible, especially if there is a competition to help you stay mentally strong. However, you do need to be adaptable to whatever is going on around you.



In conclusion, 800m training requires a comprehensive approach that encompasses various aspects of physical and mental preparation. Throughout this training journey, athletes must focus on developing both speed and endurance while refining their race tactics to excel in this demanding event.

To begin with, speed training plays a crucial role in improving performance over the 800m distance. Short sprints, interval training, and explosive exercises help athletes develop the necessary burst of speed required to make decisive moves during the race. Additionally, incorporating speed endurance workouts, such as tempo runs and longer intervals, helps build the ability to maintain a fast pace throughout the entire race.

Endurance training is equally important as it enables athletes to sustain a strong pace throughout the 800m distance. Incorporating long runs, aerobic workouts, and steady-state runs into the training regimen helps enhance aerobic capacity, allowing athletes to delay fatigue and maintain speed in the latter stages of the race.

Furthermore, mastering race tactics is vital in the 800m event. Athletes must understand how to effectively pace themselves, strategically position themselves on the track, and execute tactical moves to conserve energy and make decisive surges when needed. Developing a keen sense of race awareness and the ability to adapt to different race situations is crucial for success in the 800m.

Lastly, mental strength and discipline are essential components of 800m training. Athletes must embrace a positive mindset, overcome challenges, and stay focused during both training sessions and competitions. Mental training techniques such as visualization, goal-setting, and positive self-talk can enhance performance and enable athletes to push through physical and mental barriers.

In summary, excelling in the 800m event requires a well-rounded training approach that combines speed, endurance, race tactics, and mental preparation. By embracing a structured training plan, staying disciplined, and consistently pushing limits, athletes can unlock their true potential and achieve their goals on track.



Lentswe Charles from Track and Field Revolution
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