There’s a reason why a track meet finishes with the 4x400m relay…it’s the best event. It is the best event for many reasons, the first of which is the distance each relay member runs. Anyone who has run track knows what it takes to run a 400. There’s going to be lactic acid. There’s going to be fatigue and discomfort. It’s almost as though when inventing track events, the creators asked, “What’s the longest anyone can sprint? 300m? Ok, let make a race 100m beyond that.” To run a good 400 means an athlete must have trained hard and also have the heart to not give up. They must be tough. But this isn’t just running one 400 by yourself. As with any relay, it’s great to see a team of 4 of these gritty runners come together and each give their all for the event and team.
Another reason the 4×4 is the best event is the fact that it brings athletes from different disciplines together. It’s often the team’s best athletes who get the call to represent the team in the 4×4. Distance runners come down from their longer events to sprint one lap as best they can. Sprinters who might be more accustomed to the 100 and 200 step up and try to make their speed last for an entire lap. Hurdlers and jumpers also bring their great form and strong legs into the mix. In HS, it is the perfect confluence of sprint speed and endurance. Seeing sprinters blast off after a hand-off and distance runners finish strong is all part of the 4×4. In the picture above, the 4 girls in the 4×4, each comes from a different background: sprints, hurdles, pole vault, and distance. In a sport where the team aspect is often lost in the myriad of event specialties, as a head coach I love nothing more than seeing a variety of athletes from different event disciplines come together as a team for one singular purpose.
Finally, the 4×4 is the last event of the meet. This means that the athletes in the 4×4 have likely competed in other events and are running on tired legs. No one runs the 4×4 fresh. Athletes may be able to run a good 400, but what about after doing 2 or 3 other events during the meet? This again brings me back to the toughness a 4×4 athlete must display to run not just a 400, but a 400 when tired. 4×4 members must be the truest competitors at heart and hate to lose. Also, being the last event means that the 4×4 often holds significance with the team outcome. So many team championships have been determined by the results of the 4×4. There is almost always something at stake and to run for. This is why the teams always line the curves of the track to spur on their teammates to run through the discomfort and on to greatness.
I’m looking forward to see what this track season brings and who steps into the role of a 4×4 relay team member.