400 Meter Dash Strategies

The 400-meter dash is a difficult event because it combines sprinting with a mild distance run. No matter what strategy you choose to run during the race, stick with it. Changing a strategy in the middle of the race does not end well. Also, practice your strategy a few times in practice prior to bringing it to a track meet.

Giving It All and Hang On

This is perhaps the boldest strategy. An athlete will sprint out of the block and run the first 200 meters as if it were a 200-meter dash. Depending upon your level of training and your anaerobic capacity (ability to produce energy without oxygen), you will begin to become fatigued at different spots on the track. Most athletes will become fatigued in the second turn (between the 200- and 300-meter mark of the race). Once you become fatigued you must tell your body to keep going. Focus on driving your arms and legs and picking up your knees. This will help you finish the race and keep most of your running mechanics despite being fatigued. If you choose this strategy, be prepared for your system to shut down or a muscle to cramp toward the end of the race. The benefits of this strategy can give you an edge on your competitors because building a large early lead can cause them to mentally surrender.


This is perhaps the most used strategy in running the race. You will begin by accelerating to full speed out of the blocks for the first 50 meters. For the next 150 meters, you should be under a controlled deceleration. This means finding a rhythm by maintaining your leg speed. At the 200-meter mark (the start of the second turn), you should refocus on sprinting again. As in the strategy above, focus on driving your arms and legs and picking your knees up. Runners who are able to work the 200- to 300-meter turn will set themselves up for the sprint to the end and a chance to win.


This is a commonly used strategy for indoor track and field but can be used for outdoor track as well. Begin by running the first 200 meters slightly slower than you would for the 200-meter dash. At the 200-meter mark, change to a rhythmic deceleration in which you can relax for 50 meters. Halfway through the second turn, refocus and begin driving your arms and legs, sprinting to the finish. This strategy does not generally set up a strong finish.

Even Pace

The simplest of all the strategies is to run an even split or pace for each 100-meter segment throughout the race. However, this strategy allows for little adjustment during the race so knowing your competitors’ times is ideal before setting your pace. Simply maintain one pace throughout the race until the last 100 meters. If you paced the race correctly, by sprinting all out for the final 100 meters, the last segment should be equal to the first three as fatigue sets in.

Other Tips

Always use a block to start the race. It is a dash, so you need to have a fast start with any strategy. Do not clinch your hands into fists or let them flop around. Instead, find a comfortable middle point–hold your hand like you’re holding tea cups. And finally, do not let your competitors control your strategy. If you are going with “all out and hang on” and catch your competitors quickly, do not slow down to pace with them. Run your race. And the same goes if you are on the other side of the situation and you are running “even paces” and someone passes you quickly. Stay with your strategy. If paced properly, you will catch them.

About this Author

Chris DeMaria is a health and fitness writer and has written for various online publications. In addition to writing, he has also coached college football. DeMaria graduated with the highest honors from West Virginia University with a degree in exercise physiology.