Workout of the Day

The infamous Diriba Degefa competes in one of the many road races he has ran since matriculating to the United States.

The infamous Diriba Degefa competes in one of the many road races he has ran since matriculating to the United States.

2 x (8 x 400m @ 2K w. 100m rec.)  


Set #1 — 61.3 / 64.2 / 62.9 / 62.4 / 61.4 / 60.6 / 62.5 / 61.3
Set #2 —  60.2 / 60.6 / 62.8 / 60.9 / 62.6 / 60.5 / 60.8 / 60.3

Recovery: 100m jog in <35", 400m jog in 3' - 4' between sets

Diriba Degefa — July 9th, 2013


Context & Details

This session is the cousin of a WOTD I shared a few weeks ago. However, even though they are related, they are distant versions of the other. Make no mistake, this rendering of the workout is much more difficult and is only for a senior, near-world class athlete, which Diribia was. 

Diriba was the first runner I coached to a sub-4 minute mile, albeit it was on the roads and he already had a 3:57 mile personal best on the track before we worked together. He is Ethiopian and migrated to the US in 2013 seeking to make it on the competitive track and road racing circuits. He landed in Portland and sought me out to be his coach. 

From Day 1, I could tell he was very good. A week after I started coaching him, he ran 7:49 at low key 3,000m at Hayward field and almost beating Rupp and Ritz. I knew I was working with someone special. I hoped not to screw him up, and maybe help him get a little faster. 

I will never forget this session — it was epic. 

The goal was to run the 400m reps in 63.0 and take 100m recovery in less than 35 seconds. This would make the work to rest ratio 2:1 with each set of work. Essentially, because the recovery is so short and incomplete, it simulates running a 3,000m race, but with mini breaks every lap. The idea is to get two sustained 3,000m type efforts in, thus subjecting him to stimuli that could increase his tolerance and specific stamina at critical speeds (note: I shy away from the terms V02 Max or vV02 Max, instead I use specific stamina at critical speeds, which is any speed between 3,000m race pace to 800m race pace. Sometimes I simply say, "good and fast" so the athletes know what I am requesting of them). 

This is a tough session, but Diriba exceeded the ask. His second set is breathtaking, with 6 out of the 8 reps at 60-point. Most importantly, he looked smooth and powerful with every step while in motion around the track. 

Yes, on the final 4 reps he was laboring, but he held it together like a true professional. Composure in difficult circumstances is what separates champions from also-rans, and I believe some practices should subject athletes to these truths to fortify their grit. This was that type of session for Dirbia and it magnificently strengthened his resolve. Mission accomplished.

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

Jonathan Marcus