Decathlon 2000 › News › Hey guys, please prepare properly for the 1500!
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Hey guys, please prepare properly for the 1500! (9)

John C. Sayre
May 25, 2011

I was a mediocre 1500 runner most of my Decathlon career until the last couple years.  In 1984 I broke my back in 6 places, and ruptured 3 discs.  When I won the US National Championships in 1985 (8381) the back was still broken, I had surgery in 1986 and the higher level training and performances pretty much came to an end.

During the period from 1986 – 1992 I still competed as best I could, but relished the lifestyle, training, and camaraderie.  I was fortunate enough to train with the greatest athletes in the world; Daley Thompson became a good friend and training partner.  It was through Daley that I finally figured out just what it was to prepare properly for the 1500.  Daley only trained ballistic-ally, and could pull out a 4:25 1500 at any moment he needed to win (but rarely ever needed it).  Daley and I would run a 1200 weekly, and would simply warm up and get it done.  What I found to be amazing was that the confidence it inspired was earth shattering for me.  The 1200 became nothing more than a glorified warm up, and I used it as such on occasion (only took 20min to recover for training).  I knew I could go sub 4:30 anytime, never once feared it again, and even offered to help others pace out a run once in a while.

In 1988, I had already qualified for the Olympic Trials and I helped a young guy qualify by pacing and prodding him through a lifetime best 1500 in a Santa Barbara, CA Decathlon, it was Dan O’Brien.  Dan’s qualifying was a key turning point in his life, and kept him in the event.  So many times I would watch incredibly gifted Decathletes wash away stunning performances because they seemingly fell apart, and ran embarrassing 1500’s.  Think of it, guys who could run sub 48, 400M.  They considered a 2:20 800M “easy”, but suddenly a 3:35 1200M became something to be afraid of.  They rolled out in 1:20, 2:40, and then 4:05 @ 1200M!  Never giving themselves the opportunity to ever run well.  Gone were the training “runs” of 5K that only deadened the legs, or the 400m repeats that hurt so much.  One effort, once a week (72, 72, 72), that felt a bit uncomfortable for only the last 30 seconds of a 3:36 effort, to ensure taking the weight off of the 1500!  So Easy...

BTW – Daley was a truly unique individual.  So much training and competing depends on mental toughness and being a competitor.  To this day I’ve never met anyone that had what he had/has.  Daley never even entered the possibility of a loss in his mind while he was healthy, it just was not possible…and it effected those that competed against him.  Kind of like Arnold Schwarzenegger at the Olympia, “I’m here now, we can start, who will get second?”

John C. Sayre

Comments (9)

Phil Vassallo wrote on May 25, 2011
Great insights, John! You wrote an engaging piece for decathlon fans about the 1,500 and the attitude needed to succeed not only in the 1,500 but in the decathlon. Thanks so much for your observations.
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Barkasz Roland wrote on May 25, 2011
so basicly i need to do all year round, once/ week an 1200m ( with 110% intensity) and my 1500m will be under 4:40... and what he meant when he says that he needed only 20 min to recover themselfs to training? this means that they did a general warm up, after that they did the 1200m, wait 20 minutes, and after the 20 minutes rest continuing the training? what if I do this 1200m, as a training, and after the 1200m , i do some throwings...
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Barkasz Roland wrote on May 25, 2011
so i should quit doing the weekly 5-6km running trainings?
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Björn Barrefors wrote on May 25, 2011
Thanks for sharing!
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Dale Harder wrote on May 26, 2011
Very valuable information for every decathlete. Thanks for the article.
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Thomas66 wrote on May 28, 2011
Very good point - which I have told so many athletes over the years. My PB in deca was a 4:06 with very little specific training (only 7700 in the deca though). I believe the key for a good 1500 is to be confident to run at a steady pace; (The weekly jogging session is definitely also important, not just for the 1500 but also for the cardio system, active recovery etc.)

For the specific training, the pacing is the most importent thing, you have to be able to click into your pace and continue this till the end. It will feel easy for the first round and than you should very gradually pick up the intensity (which means you are running at a steady pace). This way you also do not kill yourself as this is usually the result of starting too fast. Every second, you run to slow in any given round, you won`t catch up and any second you run too fast will cost you much more in the end.

Thomas Stewens
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gary bastien wrote on May 30, 2011
Hi John, great to see you here...I would hardly call you medicre though...John, I retired in 1985, I never knew until I read here you broke your back. Amazing. Did you miss the pit or what? Didn't know you trained with Daley. Great guy. I ran against him indoors in 84 at a Pentathlon, he was training with John Christ then. I was thrilled to meet him, treated me like we had been buddys for years. Very nice guy.

My son, Steven is 17 and as you know I was a good 1500 guy, but like you said, had to run 35 miles a week in the fall and very fast 5k three days a week during the season to pull off my 4:20 something and paid a price in the throws for it. The other reason I ran so much was back then, we rarely had two pits at a meet. If you remember, only at the Olympic trials in 1984 did we have such a luxury. The two pit system today though has TOTALLY changed the event. Up until about 1984 with only one set of pits in the high jump, long jump and pole vault, we had second days that were typically 13 to 18 hours long. Today, with two pits, that day is as short as six hours. TOTALLY changing the event. My son is doing well at age 17 in the decathlon but is even smaller than you and I were (maybe not you your first two years in college...you were one skinny dude (but could still throw well) but I wanted to find a way to have him run less overdistance, so I am going to try this 1200 thing you mentioned.

I used to run the extra mileage because with a two day decathlon back then taking in excess of 30 hours, I felt I needed it just to "hang on" for the event. If I were running today with only a 12 hour decathlon over two days I would not do ANY of the overdistance I used to do.

One thing guys can try, and this helped me in 1985, my last year before I retired was this. If you remember, I was stuck in the 400 in the decathlon for my entire career at like 50.1. But I finally got out of that by doing this. I would run say, 5 x 300 full recovery. But at the end of practice two days per week I would form run 10 x200 meters in 30 seconds., with only a fast jog across the infield inbetween. Eventually those 30 seconds turned into 26 even 25 seconds with no effort. The thing was, I was no longer doing the long over distance but I finally would run 49.0 AND still manage a 4:24 or 25 1500. My javelin, discus and shot improved. I went from 177 to about 183. I was at the end of my career an and my jumping ability diminished, but I was actually running the best 400 times of my life.

Never forget when we roomed at Syracuse together., that was a hoot, same with Olympic training center. Wish I'd a held on and trained through 1988 with you, but I needed to go get a real job.

Great to see you here John. I still tell Bob Roggy stories and how he was the stud of all studs. What a speciman he was. We'll never forget Bob will we.

Gary Bastien
Decathlon, 78-85
Eastern Michigan University
Auburn University Grad.
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Robert Fournier wrote on June 02, 2011
Good advice John! A good 1200 a week could never hurt a decathlete’s 1500 time.

Although, I wasn’t a world-class decathlete, the 1500 is probably one event that I might also be able to give a couple of tips that helped me run a fast one.

I did about 40 decathlons when I was competing and noticed in almost every meet, that many decathletes didn't want to “waste” energy warming up for the 1500. As soon as the javelin was finished, a lot of the guys would sit down and rest and wait until the 5 minute warning to toss on their spikes and come strolling up to the starting line.

Instead of sitting down to “rest” after the javelin, I would find out exactly when we were starting the 1500. Then about 20 mins before the start, I would start doing strides 100-125 meters, with about a 100 walk in between. I’d run them at about my intended race pace 16-17 secs per 100 for me. I’d stop about 5 mins before the race started and would just lightly jog around after that.
When the gun went off, I went right out on pace comfortably, and usually hit the 400 mark within a second of what I was aiming for. Then I would concentrate on each lap individually, instead of thinking of it as 3 ¾ laps of PAIN! I think you might find it a tremendous psychological help!
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Robert Fournier wrote on June 02, 2011
Part 2:

You may think you’re too tired to expend the extra energy to warm-up after 2 days of competition, but if you put a good effort into warming up before the 1500, you might be surprised how much easier it feels, and how much better you may run if you do!

I never tried the 1200 training plan; I went with the 8x400 repeat workout once a week. It probably takes the same amount of time, because I’d always do it at the end of a workout, so I wouldn’t have to warm-up for it. Then I would do 8x400 with a 60 second recovery, usually taking about 20 mins. to complete. PLUS… Since you were already a little tired from the workout, it gave you a better simulation of how you might feel at the end of a decathlon.

If you run it right, usually only the last 2 might sting a bit! I would start out a little slower than 1500 race pace and always try to go a little faster on each one, finishing the last one the fastest. This is a real good 1500 confidence builder too; finishing this workout strong should help you finish strong in the actual 1500. Once you get a baseline average, you might want to try and chip away at your splits, which should also bring down your 1500 time.

Don’t have 9 good events and end up losing out on a PR or a medal because of a SLOOOWWW 1500!
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