Workout of the Day

"Big Ben" AKA "The Legend," (green vest) who stands nearly 6'5," is shown competing at the Oregon Relays in 2015.

"Big Ben" AKA "The Legend," (green vest) who stands nearly 6'5," is shown competing at the Oregon Relays in 2015.

800m Time Trial + 4 x 400m @ 4K + 4 x 120m Sprints 


800m — 60.93 + 56.75 = 1:57.68
4 x 400m — 73.21 / 73.78 / 77.70 74.86
4 x 120m — 15.32 / 14.93 / 14.73 / 15.28

Recovery: 10 minutes jogging after 800m, 100m in 22" between 400m reps, 600m jogging before 120m sprints, full recovery between each 120m sprint

Ben Richardson — June 7th, 2015


Context & Details 

Ben Richardson is a special talent. His college teammates called him "The Legend" —  for reasons I do not know. I recruited Ben to Portland State University. He matriculated in the Fall of 2013 and I guided his athletic development for two years. I then left PSU in the summer of 2015. He stayed and thrived, winning several Big Sky Conference medals in the 800m after my departure. Seeing him blossom from afar filled me with joy, but not being there to share his successes broke my heart. 

Neither of us knew it at the time, but this was the final workout Ben ran with me as his coach. He was at the end of his sophomore year and had chosen to continue training for a month on his own after the conference championships. He was targeting a hot time and personal best in the 1500m at the ultra-competitive Portland Track Festival. He wanted to break 3:54 and compete for the win in his section. Since he hadn't raced in nearly 25 days by this point, I deemed it wise to subject him to an 800m time trial. 

I run time trials slow to fast. Meaning, I place a certain target pace, or as I communicate it "speed limit," on the first 1/2 of time trials which is taxing enough for the athlete but not overwhelming. I'd rather it be too slow than too fast in the beginning. Then the aim of the 2nd half is to "see how fast you can go" with special emphasis on the last lap. Since every race on the track from 400m on up is won on the final lap, it makes sense to prepare the athlete to give all they have at the very end. 

This method of time trialing irks some physiologist friends I have, they see it as highly inefficient. And they're right. It is. But races are inefficient activities. And what I ready athletes to do is race other human beings, not the clock, so I think it wise to be prepared for the messy reality of competing against others. Make no mistake, the time matters, but I'll site my modified version of the famous Churchill quote, "Time should be on tap, not on top," as my guiding ethos. 

As you can see, Ben negative split the time trial big time, running 61 and then 56. I was impressed. It indicated to me he was ready to get after it at PTF. 

The 4 x 400m with 100m roll-on at 22" (6:00/mile pace) is not easy. This design is another favorite of mine, but I will unpack it in a WOTD in the future. Ben handled it well, staying honest to the paces asked of him. 

Finally, the 120m sprints are run at full speed with full recovery, usually with 3 - 6 minutes of walking. I typically have athletes sprint when tired at the end of sessions. It is something I learned from Alberto Salazar. The logic is sound: an athlete needs to practice running as fast as they can when tired, as that is what asked of them at the end of a footrace. However, the frequency this is done and the distance of the reps assigned is where one must tread lightly. If an athlete is very tired, then I think it is best not to sprint at all or do 30m - 60m sprints and no more than 3 - 4 reps maximum. This element deserves a deeper treatment, one I will offer sometime in 2018. 

That day Ben performed and responded well to the 120m sprints. It was a successful session as it left him excited and eager to race. 

A week later at PTF, in our final race together as athlete and coach, Ben ran boldly, leading his section before fading in the final 40m. His efforts awarded him a personal best of 3:53.22, which still stands to this day. I am forever thankful we were able to celebrate that lifetime achievement of his before we parted ways. 

Any questions? I'm happy to answer. You can send me a Direct Message on Twitter or email me at
Thx //  jm

Jonathan Marcus