The 300-Meter Dash: Sprinting's Odd Stepchild

Red ShannonFeatured ColumnistMay 11, 2010

Just beyond turn two, hidden in obscurity on most track and field ovals, lie the staggered starting marks for a seldom-contested race: the 300-meter dash.

Unrecognized as an official distance (for world record purposes) by the IAAF, and relegated to "training distance" status by most elite athletes, the 300 meters is about to have its moment in the sun.

It is possible that Usain Bolt himself could anoint the rarely-run race with his Midas touch.

On May 27, Bolt will attempt to break Michael Johnson's 300m record time of 30.85 at the Czech Golden Spike meet in Ostrava.

If successful, the honor would make a nice addition to Bolt's already-crowded trophy case. He owns the world records in the 100m, 150m, 200m and 4x100m relay.

Getting the record, however, may not be the piece of cake some might imagine. Johnson's mark is quite impressive, considering the 300m is run over two straights and a full curve.

Depending on the lane assignment, entering the turn at top speed and full stride could be tricky. It is a unique challenge (particularly for taller sprinters) not seen in any other race distance.

In addition, Johnson was primarily a 200m/400m runner, putting the 300m right in his wheelhouse. Bolt, on the other hand, is a 100m/200m specialist and may...MAY... not have the aerobic conditioning necessary for a world record 300m run.

Bolt's best 400m time is 45.28, well-short of Johnson's 43.18 world record.

The 300m has long been a common training distance, emphasizing endurance for the short sprints and speed for the 400m and 800m. It is also the designated distance for the high school intermediate hurdles race.

Except at the highest levels of competition, it is almost impossible to run the entire distance at a full sprint and still retain enough reserve for a strong finish.

Bolt trains at 300 meters and apparently has the confidence he can give an honest effort at the record. He has a scheduled 100m race on May 19 in Daegu, South Korea, and a 200m race in Shanghai on May 23.

It appears to be a perfect build-up to the 300m challenge in Ostrava on the 27th.