You Coach Some ‘Half Fast’ Sprinters

Posted by Marc Mangiacotti

I saw the “Half Fast” commercial by Verizon the other day. The innuendo had me in stitches. As I thought about the phrase I realized that I have encountered some “half fast” athletes in my career. What is a half fast athlete? In short, one who simply does not put the pedal to the metal. And this applies whether you’re implementing a 100 meter training plan or 400 meter training plan.

During my early years of coaching I learned that maximum velocity can only be executed with 100 percent effort—though it was evident that some of my athletes were not reaching their fastest running speed. I estimated that some athletes were giving between 90 and 98 percent instead of 100 percent effort.

How did I figure out these athletes were half fast? I did not use a high-end timing device or any special formulas. I used 4x100m handoffs to observe their max velocity. Many complained of soreness the days that followed, so it was easy for me to determine which athletes had not been going full speed during workouts. If these athletes complaining of soreness were accelerating and hitting max velocity segments at 100 percent then doing full speed handoffs should have been painless.

During the fall I try to spice things up by using 4x100m relay handoffs coupled with acceleration segments. In the photo below you can see that the incoming runner uses a 4-point start while the outgoing runner uses a 3-point start. The athletes both react to my voice yelling, “GO.”

How to Build the Perfect 100 Meter Sprinter...And Dominate the 4x100 Meter Relay

How to Build the Perfect 100 Meter Sprinter…And Dominate the 4×100 Meter Relay


This activity also introduces other elements about running on the 4x100m relay. You can take the opportunity to teach the athletes that one runner is on the inside of the lane (turn runner) while the other runner is on the outside of the lane (straight away runner) to make sure the athletes don’t get tangled up. This is also a great opportunity to teach athletes that the runner on the inside carries the baton in the right hand and the runner on the outside takes and carries the baton in the left hand, to ensure the baton stays in the center of the lane.

COACHING RESOURCE: How to Build the Perfect 100 Meter Sprinter…From Start to Finish

After the athletes hear “GO” they accelerate at 100 percent. I instruct the incoming runner to run down the person in front of them while I tell the outgoing runner that it is his/her responsibility to run away from the incoming runner. If they both leave at the same time and give 100 percent effort the incoming runner can usually make the hand off when both of the athletes are up and running. The segment is usually somewhere between 15-25 meters in distance.

This workout also allows the incoming runner to adjust to saying “go or stick” with the proper spacing. Most athletes wait too long or yell their secret code word too late. It takes time to adjust to the proper depth perception and timing to say the code word at the right moment. This activity works more than just acceleration. It adds another level of focus and execution to exchanges and max velocity.

Both the incoming runner and outgoing runner benefit from this workout. The outgoing runner has to execute proper acceleration at 100 percent effort while focusing on their teammate’s voice, so they know when to throw their hand back behind them. It is also good practice to make sure the outgoing runner knows how to properly receive the baton (i.e. making sure that the outgoing runner does not “fish” around for the baton). It is hard to hit a moving target at a high velocity.

This workout can be used all year long after proper acceleration mechanics have been taught. This activity allows you to teach sprinting mechanics while getting the necessary training effect you look for in acceleration and maximum velocity workouts. Why not kill multiple birds with one stone?

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Marc Mangiacotti - Marc Mangiacotti enters his seventh season as an assistant coach with the Crimson for the 2018-19 school year. He oversees the men’s sprinters and hurdles for Harvard University. He is a USA Track & Field Level I and II certified coach in sprints, hurdles, relays, jumps and combined events. Mangiacotti came to Harvard after a two-year tenure at Brown University. During his time in Providence, R.I., he made a big impact on the Bears’ sprinters, coaching five Ivy League champions that combined for nine league titles. He also coached 15 athletes that earned All-Ivy League credentials and saw his group break four school records.

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