The 800 meters race occupies a uniquely punishing niche in track and field. At just two laps around the standard 400 meter track, athletes toe the line between sprinting and distance running. Raw speed is essential, but must be tempered with tactical restraint. Aerobic endurance provides the foundation, yet the ability to tolerate searing acidosis ultimately decides the victor.
It‘s a true test of physical talent, training dedication, and mental fortitude.
For high school runners with ambitions of excelling in this demanding event, a key question looms: What performance benchmarks should I be aiming for?
In this comprehensive guide, we‘ll break down what makes for an excellent, good, average or poor 800 meter time based on age and gender. We‘ll also provide science-backed training insights and race strategy tips to help maximize your potential.
The 800 Meters: A Brief History
Before analyzing time standards, let‘s briefly review the origins of the 800 meter event.
While races of similar distances have existed since ancient times, the standardized 800 meters first appeared in British and American track competitions in the 1860‘s. The event gained popularity for requiring both sprinting speed and moderate endurance.
The 800 meters debuted as an Olympic event at the first modern games in 1896. It has remained a staple for both men and women ever since, with athletes from the US, UK, Kenya and Morocco dominating the record books.
David Rudisha‘s blistering world record of 1:40.91 has stood since the 2012 London Olympics. On the women‘s side, 19-year-old Athing Mu recently lowered the American record to 1:55.04 at the 2022 World Championships.
Now let‘s analyze what makes for an excellent high school time in this storied event.
What Constitutes a Strong 800m Time for High School Boys?
For male high school athletes, the general 800 meter time standards are:
|World Class||1:46 or faster|
|Elite||1:47 – 1:50|
|Excellent||1:51 – 2:00|
|Good||2:00 – 2:05|
|Average||2:05 – 2:10|
|Poor||2:10 or slower|
Let‘s break these down into more detail:
Excellent – Sub-2:00
A sub-2 minute clocking represents an excellent level of fitness for a male high school 800 meter runner. It signals the athlete possesses the rare blend of speed, stamina and racing acumen needed to thrive in the event long-term.
While gaining popularity in recent decades, sub-2:00 remains an impressive benchmark. Numerous collegiate programs don‘t have athletes who‘ve broken the barrier.
Some talented male runners do achieve the mark in high school. For example, Nathaniel Epic ran 1:49.97 as a 17-year-old in 2016. Michael Saruni also turned heads with multiple 1:47 clockings in New Jersey.
But chasing specific times too aggressively can backfire. Getting caught up in records and rankings is unnecessary. Consistency, competitiveness and continual improvement are what matter most.
Good – 2:00-2:05
This range indicates strong competitive fitness. Running 2:00-2:05 requires excellent speed off the start along with the strength to close hard. Athletes at this level are top contenders at district or state meets.
A time like 2:03 shows the talent and training base to potentially go sub-2:00 with further development. It‘s certainly fast enough to make an impact at the collegiate level.
Average – 2:05-2:10
Times from 2:05-2:10 reflect respectable 800 meter fitness for male high school runners. You possess decent foot speed and endurance, though your finishing kick may need work.
While not lightning quick, you can still score team points in Junior Varsity or B-level varsity races. With wise training, you have potential to progress into the Good bracket.
Poor – Over 2:10
Surpassing 2:10 starts to indicate diminished 800 meter conditioning for a male high school athlete. At this stage, difficulties with endurance, efficient running form, or race strategy execution are likely holding you back.
The "poor" classification is subjective though, and you may be making significant gains off an even slower starting point. With maturity and focused training, major time drops are possible. Don‘t lose hope!
The key point is that you should focus on your own continual improvement rather than rigid time standards. Every athlete progresses at their own pace.
Next, let‘s examine 800m time benchmarks for high school girls.
What Makes a Strong 800m Time for High School Girls?
For female high school runners, the general 800 meter time standards are:
|World Class||1:55 or faster|
|Elite||1:56 – 2:02|
|Excellent||2:03 – 2:18|
|Good||2:18 – 2:25|
|Average||2:25 – 2:30|
|Poor||2:30 or slower|
Again, let‘s dig into the details:
Excellent – Sub-2:20
Similar to the elusive sub-2 minute standard for boys, female runners who break 2:20 in the 800 demonstrate exceptional talent. Colleges view it as a sign of All-American potential.
To reach this benchmark requires advanced physiological development across the aerobic and anaerobic spectrums. It also reflects masterful tactics and race positioning.
While training can close the gap, ultimately sub-2:20 runners possess an innate gift for the event. They often rank among their state‘s elite, with opportunities to qualify for prestigious national meets.
Good – 2:20-2:25
Running 2:20-2:25 in the 800 meters is a sign of strong all-around fitness for a female high school athlete. You likely have good speed, efficient running mechanics and strategic racing sense.
At this level you should be one of the top runners in your region. If you can hit this range consistently, college coaches will take notice of your abilities.
Average – 2:25-2:30
Times of 2:25-2:30 reflect respectable middle distance conditioning for a female 800 meter runner. Gains in speed endurance training and sharper tactics can help you progress into the Good bracket.
While not yet lightning quick, you can still impact your team‘s success in the right events. Consistency and good coaching will help drop significant time.
Poor – Over 2:30
Surpassing 2:30 starts to reflect diminished 800 conditioning for high school females. At this stage, focusing on aerobic development, speed mechanics, strength training, and race strategy education can help shave huge chunks of time.
As with boys though, the "poor" designation is subjective, and should not discourage you. Dedication to training and allowing your body to mature can lead to remarkable improvements.
The key again is keeping perspective. Slower runners can make overwhelmingly positive progress within just one season. Stay patient and keep believing in your long-term potential.
Now let‘s overview key training principles and strategies to help you maximize your 800 meter performance.
How to Structure Your 800 Meter Training for Peak Performance
Bringing your 800 time down requires a carefully structured training regimen that balances endurance, speed and race-specific work. Here are some guidelines:
Build an Aerobic Base
A strong aerobic foundation provides the endurance necessary to maintain pace for an entire 800 meters. For high schoolers, running 3-5 days per week while gradually increasing weekly mileage into the mid-30s is an excellent starting point.
Long slow runs, tempo runs at 15k-10k pace, and aerobic intervals of 2-4 minutes duration are all excellent for metabolic conditioning.
This base phase should last through the offseason and beginning of track season. Be patient and focus on high volume at lower intensities.
Add Speed Work
Once an aerobic foundation is built, begin incorporating speed work like hill sprints, 200 meter intervals at mile pace, and pure speed days. These boost neuromuscular power and running economy.
They also help prepare the body and mind for 800 meter intensity levels. Continue easy and long running while strategically adding speed sessions.
A typical progression may be 1 speed session per week in base phase, building up to 2-3 sessions during peak racing season. Allow proper recovery between intense bouts.
Train Specifically for 800 Fitness
As championship season approaches, shift workouts to mimic the specific demands of an 800. Here are some excellent 800 meter specific sessions:
- 6-8x600m @ 800m Goal Pace with 90 sec rest
- 3x400m @ 800-1600m Goal Pace with 3-4 min rest
- 8x300m Descending Intervals (get faster each rep)
- 4x200m All-Out Sprints
These workouts combine speed, endurance, and race pace practice to give you 800-tuned strength. They also help establish your optimal pacing strategy.
Practice Race Tactics
No matter how fit you are, the 800 meters demands strategic racing. Work on your positioning, response to surges, and final kick timing.
Push yourself outside your comfort zone in workouts to rehearse running hard when severely fatigued. Then execute it with confidence when it matters most.
Rest and Recovery
Lastly, listen to your body and allow adequate rest between intense training sessions. Proper recovery enables your body to adapt and come back stronger.
Monitor your resting heart rate, sleep quality, appetite and mental state. Be willing to take an easy week when showing signs of burnout.
Stay patient, train smart, and your fitness will reach new heights at the perfect time. Now let‘s look at key 800 meter race strategies.
Race Day 800 Meter Strategies for Peak Performance
Even with excellent fitness, the 800 meter race demands focus and tactical wisdom. Here are some tips for optimizing performance on race day:
Start Fast But Relaxed
The gun goes off…what do you do?
Flying out of the blocks and spiking your heart rate too early is a recipe for blowing up. But you still want to assert yourself and get into good early position.
Focus on quick acceleration and holding your top speed for 50-100 meters before settling into race pace rhythm. Stay relaxed through the torso and avoid overstriding.
Find Your Groove in the Middle
The middle 400 meters is about relaxation and rhythm. Focus on smooth form and sticking to race plan.
Don‘t panic if you get jostled around or pinned in. Stay mentally calm and be patient. With 300 meters remaining, start preparing for your big final kick.
Kick Hard for Home
When you hit the last 200 meters, it‘s time to empty the tank! Stay focused, pump your arms powerfully, and drive your knees. Give every ounce of energy to the finish line.
Maintain good posture and leg mechanics despite the searing pain. This ability to close fast even when exhausted makes great 800 meter runners.
Indoor vs. Outdoor Strategy
The indoor 800 features tighter corners and no wind advantages. Positioning is even more crucial. Stick tight to the inside lane when making moves to save ground.
Outdoors, focus on controlling the tangents of your lane and being aware of wind direction. With no walls, surges require more self-discipline to cover.
Conclusion – Consistency, Patience and Race Strategy are Key
The 800 meters is one of the most thrilling and demanding events in all of track and field. The ultimate test of speed, stamina and determination.
While natural talent provides a foundation, improvement depends largely on consistent training, smart periodization, and tactical racing skills.
If you‘re a high school runner striving to unlock your potential in the 800, have patience and stick with the process. Build your aerobic base, add speed work at the right times, then train specifically for your goal race pace and strategy.
With passion and consistency, you can achieve times that may seem out of reach today. Beyond any single result, cherish the thrill of racing and continual progress.
Stay focused on growth, believe fully in your long-term development, and the future will be filled with exciting possibilities!