Face it, Jeremy Wariner is the man at 400 meters. Every year, someone new comes along, and some agent or coach tells me that Wariner's days are numbered. Au contraire, mes amis. Wariner is talented, yes, perhaps the most talented 400 meter runner we have seen in many years, but the real key to his success is......
that, in his early development, he found a coach, Clyde Hart who knew how to develop him, and keep him from getting injured. Hart's speed endurance based program is Lydiard for the 400 meters and 200 meter runners. By developing endurance and long speed, Hart has developed such fine athletes as Michael Johnson and Jeremy Wariner.
It is not that Hart is doing something new. Clyde Hart is a coach who combines the anecdotal with the scientific. It is also called horse sense. In an interview a decade ago, Clyde found out that I knew the late Bud Winter, the godfather of 400 meter coaching, as well Jim Bush. When I was asking him about how he planned his training for his athletes, he smiled and said, " Well, I took Jim Bush's Thursday and made in my Tuesday and ..." smiling all the way. Hart knows that there is no secret method, no matter what people say. But Clyde Hart has been savvy enough to observe his athletes and listen to them as well. He noticed that MJ was hurt every time he did short sprints or raced at that distance. That MJ ran 19.32 with his hamstrings, as naturally unrulely as they are and as prone to injury as they are, is an example of consistent training, goal setting and finding that perfect moment, perfect track and perfect competition. All were lined up that day, even the stumbling at the start of the race, which focused MJ on those 19 plus seconds.
What Hart and Wariner have developed is a program that helps build the athlete up gradually over the season so that, even with six or seven months of racing, the athlete can peak at the right times. The number of 200 meter repeats, the speed of those repeats, the break between, all change with the time of the season and the goals at hand.
Clyde Hart knows how to develop 400 meter runners, and his 4 x 400 meter relay NCAA wins can attest to that. Jeremy Wariner, Darrold Williamson, both can attest to the importance great coaching and confidence in their training can help in an athletes' development.
In a story on the IAAF site, linked to here:
Wariner announced that he is racing and training in Australia in
February 2008. Wariner will run 200 meters and then follow up with a 400 meter race
in Melbourne. It is his first visit to Australia and he noted that he is quite excited. Wariner noted that this month is focused on his training for Beijing.
Track & Field is not only a global sport, but also a year long sport. For athletes to compete that long is tough, as they can only go into the endurance pool so many times during a year. An elite athlete's lifespan used to be about three years, but athletes now are lasting ten, twelve years in the elite part of the sport. This is due to better coaching, better nutrition, better training and better focus. But I can not help but worry that we re loosing some of our best performances in the very crowded track schedule.
Picking and choosing your races is key to the modern elite athlete's success. Jeremy Wariner wants to race and train in warm weather, and perhaps, get used to the time changes and heat. Australia will be a good start for the third best performer of all times at 400 meters.
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