We begin with Dwayne Miller, coach of the Norfolk Real Deal Track Club, as he coaches a strong group of 400 meter runners including 2X Olympic Gold Medalist LaShawn Merritt. As the season approaches, long sprinters and middle distances runners become a key to championship teams. Many coaches face a dilemma with their 400 runners in terms of “how hard should I go out” and “how should I pace a 400.” Since we know that the start of a 400 race can be key, we offer a drill and commentary from Coach Miller and LaShawn Merritt regarding the start of the 400 meter race.
Coach Miller breaks his 400 meter race into fifty meter segments. The first fifty meter concentrates on rhythm, tempo and remaining close to the inside of the lane. To do this, Coach Merritt uses the demonstrated stick drill to ensure proper foot placement at the start. The use of the sticks ensures a proper rhythm and speed as the athlete starts the race, and gets out in a fast, but controlled manner. Stressing the drive of the arms, and using a low foot recovery at the start, Coach Miller’s athletes will enter the backstretch ready to execute the rest of his race plan.
Young runners often have trouble in terms of rhythm, positioning and strength, especially when starting a race. Dwayne Miller is a former Nike Coach of the Year, by USA Track & Field, and along with 2x Olympic Gold Medalist, LaShawn Merritt, will show you exercises using an Acceleration Ladder Stick Drill.
Sticks are placed on the track, starting with 3 feet between the first two sticks, then adding about 3 inches for each added stick (3’3 to 3’6 to 3’9 and so on). Coach Miller recommends the use of about 14 sticks. The purpose of the drill is to keep the runner low coming out of the start, and to develop rhythm and power coming out of the blocks. Concentrate on the use of the arms and create this strong rhythm.