Hima Das, the 18-year old Indian sprinter from Assam has captured the imagination of the nation with her sensational performance in the 400m track event at the UAAF World U20 Championships 2018. Aided by a powerful late surge in the home straight, she raced past her American competitor to break the tape in a a time of 51:47 and became the first Indian to win a Gold medal in a track event.
Hima Das during her 400m race at Tampere, Finland
Lets analyze her performance and try to see what we can learn from it and apply to our own training and racing. Here are statistics compiled by one Mr. Veeramani from video footage of the race:
You will notice that her second 100m segment was her fastest. Despite her powerful surge in the last 100m in the home straight, that segment was actually her slowest one!
The 400m race is a tricky one because the competitors do not start side-by-side and so it is not possible for a runner to know where he or she stands with respect to their competition until they approach the home straight. In such conditions, it is critical to pace yourself well so that you have some reserve firepower towards the end of the race. In that respect, you can see that Hima Das did very well by starting conservatively. She sped up in the second 100m segment – whether this was part of her strategy or not is anybody’s guess.
Doing the first 100m conservatively would definitely have helped her to make that superb breakaway from the competition in the home straight. This is however a risky strategy because some days you just cannot switch to that higher gear, or you may find that your competitors have that higher gear too, or you leave a little too much to do in the last part of the race and the higher gear is just not enough.
She finished 400m in 51:47, which comes to a mind blowing pace of 2:09 per K (~27.9 km per hour).
As reference, the marathon world record of 2:02:57 run by Dennis Kimetto of Kenya was run at a pace of around 2:54 (~ 20.6 km per hour) per K. At the other end of the spectrum, the 100m world record of 9:58 set by Usain Bolt was run at a pace of 1:35 per K (~38 km per hour).
Cadence and Stride Length
You can see that she started out at a step frequency of around 4.05 per second which gives a cadence of ~240. As the race progressed, her step frequency dropped to ~3.76 (cadence of 225) which is natural because of the fatigue towards the later stage of the race.
Compared to amateur endurance runners who have a cadence of anywhere from 160-190, and pros who have a cadence anywhere from 180-210, this seems like a phenomenal cadence, but is actually par for the course for sprint events.
Her stride length started out at 1.87m and went as high as 2.25 in the second 100m of the race before settling around 2.00m. This means each of her stride covered the entirety of a 6 foot 6 inch tall person! While this stride length again sounds mind-blowing, its actually par for the course for sprint events.
Despite her gold medal winning performance, this was not her personal best! Her personal best is 51:13 in Guwahati earlier in 2018.
How does she stand with respect to others in the 400m event? Lets see:
Indian Mens: 44:31
Indian Womens: 51:05
Hima Das is just a fraction of a second away from breaking the Indian Open record, but almost 4 seconds away from breaking the women’s world record. While 4 seconds does not sound like much in the normal scheme of things, at the 400m race, its a big big amount. Hima will need to take her training to the next level and also wait for a few year to fully mature as an athlete both physically and mentally, if she is to have any shot at the world record.
Here’s wishing Hima all the best for her future goals.