The 800-meter run is not a sprint and it’s not a distance race. It’s a hybrid.
It takes speed, stamina, grit and a high threshold for pain to succeed in the 800, which is often referred to as a middle-distance race.
In short, the 800 — which is roughly half a mile — is tough, Colorado high school coaches and runners agree.
“The 800-meter run is absolutely brutal,” said Faith Christian coach Steve Urban, who was the distance coach last season for boys 5A state champion Pomona.
Kaden Lathrop, a senior at Highlands Ranch, was concise when asked what it takes to excel in the 800.
“The number one thing in running the 800 is guts,” he said. “Anyone can be in good enough shape and have the form and speed, but what it really takes to finish an 800 is some guts.”
Mountain Vista junior Caden Foster, a friend and rival of Lathrop, sometimes feels wiggly at the finish.
“It’s a weird race,” he said. “The first half, you feel good, but it hits you immediately after the first lap. You think, `What am I doing, this is really hard.’ By the time you run the last 100 your legs are Jell-O.”
Strategy becomes a big part of the 800, which while neither a sprint nor a distance race, combines elements of both.
“It is kind of its own category. It is more of a mental race,” said Vincent Workman, the Pomona High school 800-meter record holder and now a freshman at Colorado School of Mines. “You just can’t sit back and kick at the end like a distance race and you can’t just go all out all the time like a sprint race. It’s strategy based and mentally based.
“I broke the Pomona high school record for the 800 and that probably was the hardest race of my whole career and I’ve been running since I was 5-years-old. We started the first lap going real fast so I figured I was just going to die… We just kept going at the same speed the entire race and that’s just something that doesn’t happen in an 800 race.”
Madison Easton, a senior at Mountain Vista, usually likes to go out fast.
“Sometimes that’s not the best move,” Easton said. “I kind of like to go out fast and get my spot. The hardest part of an 800 is the third 200 (meters), so I push the most there and the last 200 is just give it all I’ve got.”
Like many runners, Thornton junior Stephanie Carrasco competes in multiple events. She has run the 3,200, 1,600 and 800 this season. She favors the longer races — by comparison, the 800 seems almost like a sprint event.
“I prefer the 3,200 because it’s a long-distance event,” she said. “The 800 is really tough because it’s basically sprinting for 800 meters without pace.”
Highlands Ranch coach John Padjen calls the 800 a “grueling race” that demands endurance and speed.
“And most importantly, a willingness to fight through a high level of pain,” he said.
For Douglas County junior Lina Corrales, desire plays a part in meeting the demands of the 800, no matter what race tactic is used.
“If you want to race well, you just kind of have to love it and just make sure you have your heart in it 100 percent,” Corrales said. “You just have to deal with the pain and then at the end just hope you make it the best.”
Littleton sophomore Christian Sapakoff agrees with those runners who have a love-hate relationship with the 800 meters.
“I hate it when I’m doing it but afterward I like it,” he said. “The toughest thing is just hanging in there mentally. You end up hitting kind of a wall at some point and you don’t want to run anymore, but you have to keep going.”