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August 7, 2018

Starting Speed Work: When Courtney Frerichs Broke 60 Seconds For The 400 Meters

The following is steeplechase American record holder Courtney Frerichs’ re-telling of the story of how she broke 60 seconds for the 400 meters for the first time in her life. Courtney was a guest on the CITIUS MAG Podcast, which you can find on iTunes, Soundcloud, Stitcher, Google Play or wherever you get your podcast fix today. The drawings were done by me! You can follow me on Instagram as @theorangerunner.

When I got to Jerry in 2016, most of the fall was mostly just base work and then we transitioned into the spring of 2017. He really started to notice how much I was struggling with speed work. Part of that was that when I came into college, I never trained as a distance runner. I had done one cross country season of about 15 miles in a week. I was literally a clean slate. My coach realized that we didn’t have time to learn everything so he picked a couple things. Speed work was not one of those things. So, I never did speed work. Literally, until I got to Jerry, the fastest 400 that I had run in my life was like 66 or 65 seconds. I didn’t know how to push myself in that area. I didn’t know what it meant to do speed.

In February of 2017, he was having me do a speed workout by myself. He goes, ‘OK, we’re going to do a 400. Hard.”I want you to run it really hard.””

I ran 69 seconds. (Laughs) Which is not speed work! I think he didn’t know what to do.

He thought I was, in his words, ‘Turbo Slow.’ We slowly just worked on things. For me, my worst enemy is my watch because I start looking at it too much.

They took away my watch and so last summer, I worked my way down to 61 seconds. These were in workouts and not time trials. He has mentioned that maybe Shalane had never broken 60. Something along those lines. I was like, ‘I want to break 60 seconds.’ I just really want to. I told him that I have two goals for 2018: Break nine and then break 60 seconds in the 400.”

We were down in Chiavenna (Italy) for a speed workout. It had been going very well. We were doing 6-4-2 x 2. The first set was pretty controlled. In the second set, we went 1:33 for the 600. I had run 61 on the season but had not run 60 yet. I told Jerry that I really felt like I could break 60. He said, “I know you can do it. I just don’t know if you’ll just be able to do it now because you just ran a 1:33 600 just three minutes ago.’ I told him that I was going to try but he wanted a 60 to 61.”

They had me lead the first 200. It was with Marielle Hall and Kate Grace. I said to Kate, if you can go around, because Kate is obviously super fast, go around me and we’re going to run this as fast as we can. I remember I got to 200 and I checked the split. We were at 30 seconds. I was like ‘Oh man! I need to kick it in.’ When I got across the line, for some reason I thought we had run 60 but Jerry had the official time and it was 59.85.

It was a big day in my book. Especially having the 1:33 already in my legs.

As silly and as crazy as that all seems, it was really an important step for me mentally as an athlete to be like ‘Wow. I really worked hard on developing my speed and getting confidence with it.’ It really has come a long way since my 69-second 400.

Catch the full episode of the podcast below:

If you enjoy this podcast, check out the other shows on the CITIUS MAG Podcast Network including the 1609 Podcast, Price of a Mile, Running Things Considered and more.

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