400m Runners do you agree or disagree?

Our ace sprinter, Dr. Stephen Peters, has asked us to put forward a Proposal to World Masters Athletics General Assembly in Malaga in September that athletes aged 60+ run 300m instead of 400m. He writes:

 “At the British and European Championships several athletes approached me to ask if there would be a change in the distance run by older athletes covering the 400 metres distance. I had not considered the implications of age and the 400 metres. It is also not really in my interests, since I have been winning by a good margin! However, here are the key scientific and medical facts as I now perceive them after several discussions with Medics and Scientists in the know.


Human beings are capable of running up to approximately 35 to 40 seconds anaerobically. This means a younger person will need to run with very high lactic levels in the blood for around anywhere between five and ten seconds. This is clearly a very stressful condition for the body to take and I guess is why the 400 metres is known as the man killer. 800 metre runners would not suffer this effect because they run sub maximally and also have to run aerobically for most of the race.


Masters athletes from around 60 plus will not be physically able to complete the 400m in less than 60 seconds with a few exceptions. This means that the Masters athlete will be running with very high levels of lactic in their body for between fifteen and twenty seconds. Clearly from a medical point of view this is not a desirable situation. Many of the athletes are seen to be distressed by this and it does raise some serious concerns. It is also noticeable that some 800 metre runners move down to the 400 metre distance because the event is changing from a sprint to a distance run.


The hurdles distance was altered because of safety issues for the very same reason of lactic build up with power loss and so creating a high risk of injury. I cannot say other than anecdotal how everyone feels but that all of the athletes I spoke with were unanimous in asking for the distance to be dropped down to 300m for the individual event and for the relays. Practically this would make sense scientifically because there will still be the relatively tough ending to the 300m with high levels of lactic appearing but only for around five to ten seconds, which correlates with the younger age groups. The relays would be already marked and would become 4 x 300 metres. This makes them start and end at the same point with three laps in total covered. The relays are for me the biggest concern as I have witnessed two collapses of older men who attempt the 400m distance without the proper training. On a practical point it would also shorten the times of meetings if the distances were dropped down, especially the relays for older age groups.”


Steve goes on to say: I see the sense and logic coupled with the science for a change to be made. I also would recommend this medically. However, as you can imagine I have mixed feelings because this is my event and I am doing fine with it! Nevertheless I whole heartedly support a change for the given reasons. I find it hard to justify continuing with the current distance having researched the evidence.  


The BMAF Executive discussed Steve’s Proposal but not all are in agreement as athletes should ensure that they train appropriately for the event. The current M60 World Record is 53.88 owned by the outstanding Ralph Romain since 1995 and two M70-ies have run sub 60sec Indoor, Caroline Powell currently holds the W60 World Record 64.31sec, and 64.76 Indoor.  


Opened up for discussion, let’s have your views now. Contact: Email: bmaf@riddys.co.uk


Bridget Cushen

By admin