I have mentioned the various types you will find running the roads in New Zealand and, I have little doubt, elsewhere in the world. Now let’s break the most important of those types, the competitive athlete, into his divisions. You can look at a young man, pinch his muscles, consider his height and weight, but there is only one way in which you, as a coach, can decide what he is going to be good at. It is a test any coach can use on any athlete and any athlete can use on himself, the basic speed test.
Arthur Lydiard, 1962
Lydiard uses this chapter to discuss the different types of athletes and what events those athletes should go into. The basic speed test here is a trial run over 200 meters.
His standard is 26 seconds. “Now, the man who can’t run the furlong faster than 26 seconds can forget all about half-miling. That 26 seconds or worst represents his basic speed and all the training in the world won’t add enough to it to make him a worthwhile half miler.”
He then goes on to say that the man that can run 22.5 seconds or faster for the 200 meters “is fast enough basically to be an Olympic champion at 800 meters.”
Now, he goes on to say that even if you cannot run faster than 26 seconds for the 200 meters that you should NOT stay away from shorter races…after all, “There is a psychological and physical value in letting a potential three-miler get down first to his best-possible half-mile.”
One of the things that he says, and something that I heard Alberto Salazar say very recently was this, “You must have the requisite basic speed for the distance at which you intend to compete, otherwise you are not going to climb very far up the ladder of achievement.”