12 x 400m

Last night I hit up the East River track for quite possibly one of my favorite speed workouts. I’ve been running 12 x 400m since high school and it always gives me a confidence boost – probably because it’s rhythmic, controlled, and plays to my strengths. The key to executing the intervals properly is 1) keeping the pace under control – we were instructed to run 5k pace – no faster! and 2) making sure the rest stayed short, about 200m jog, no more than 90 seconds. It was tempting to run the intervals faster than 5k pace, but luckily I had a good workout buddy to keep the numbers steady (Thanks J!). We ended up running 93-96 seconds per 400m, which is right around target 5k pace or ~6:12-6:24 per mile.

  • 1.5 mile warm-up
  • form drills and strides
  • 12 x 400m @ 5k pace with 200m jog recovery
  • 1 mile cool-down
  • 7 miles total for the night

True story – I carried a pen with me and wrote my splits on my forearm. I have a lap function on my watch, but I always end up forgetting to save the splits, so the old-fashioned pen method is a little easier for me.

Now that the weather is a little nicer and spring/summer racing season is upon us, more runners are heading to the track for workouts. If you’re new to the track, there’s a few things to keep in mind:

Track Etiquette 101

  • 1) Most outdoor tracks are 400m, so if you run in lane 1, 4 laps = (approximately) 1 mile. I say approximately because a true mile is 1609 meters and 4 laps is 1600 meters, but the difference is almost negligible.
  • 2) When running speed workouts, try to stay in lane 1. Running in the outer lanes will cause you to run longer – not a good idea if you’re trying to hit specific splits. For example, if you run in lane 4 instead of lane 1 – you’ll end up running more than 20 extra meters!
  • 3) If someone yells “TRACK!”, it’s runner lingo for “Hey, I’m running fast, get out of my way.” If I’m running in lane 1 when I hear this, I usually hop into the infield and let them pass me on the right.
  • 4) General etiquette rules – always always pass on the right. Never try to pass a runner on their left, it’s awkward and can cause a fall if they’re not prepared. To avoid getting run over, faster intervals should be done in lane 1, while cool-downs and recovery jogs are best run in the outer lanes.

After the workout, I stopped by Whole Foods to pick up a bottle of fresh-pressed juice by the folks at BluePrintCleanse. I don’t think I would ever want to do a juice cleanse (trying to run 45 miles a week without eating solid food sounds like a TERRIBLE idea), but I did want to see what it tasted like. Also, the body can absorb nutrients in liquid form easier and quicker after a tough workout. My juice contained beets, carrots, apples, lemon, and ginger and it did a good job holding me over until I was able to get home and eat dinner.

On nights when I’m looking for a quick dinner, I usually heat up a veggie burger and eat it with a big salad, but this week I got a little more creative. I boiled 1/2 box of whole wheat linguine and added 1/2 bag of frozen veggies and a bag of mung bean sprouts during the last 2-3 minutes of cooking. While the pasta and veggies were cooking, I whipped up an easy spicy peanut sauce: 2 heaping spoonfuls of peanut butter and generous splashes of rice vinegar, soy sauce, and sriracha. After I drained the pasta, I combined everything together in a bowl, and topped with a little more sriracha. This “recipe” makes enough for about two Megan-sized dinners. If I had tofu or shrimp, I probably would have added some, but I figured the whole wheat pasta, peanut butter, and bean sprouts provided a fair amount of protein on their own.

Plus ice cream for dessert!!!

What’s your go-to dinner on nights when you only want to spend 10 minutes in the kitchen?

Do you have any “track rules” to add to the list?

  • I have totally done the splits-on-the-arm thing! Hahaha. 12X400 is one of my favorites too!

  • Kristan

    You are a genius!! My Garmin is busted and I had no way to record splits. I should have borrowed your pen! Very good track etiquette tips as well.

  • Rinnie

    I ran a similar workout but with 10 laps instead of 12 and each time I completed a lap I would move down a lane so I could keep track of how many I’ve completed. I also started at the 400m starting point for each lane and would finish at the straight finish so there was minimal amount of over run. I had 3:00 to complete each lap with the extra time for rest. I am nowhere near as speedy as you though! Nice work on those splits!!

  • Rinnie

    I ran a similar workout but with 10 laps instead of 12 and each time I completed a lap I would move down a lane so I could keep track of how many I’ve completed. I also started at the 400m starting point for each lane and would finish at the straight finish so there was minimal amount of over run. I had 3:00 to complete each lap with the extra time for rest. I am nowhere near as speedy as you though! Nice work on those splits!!

  • Katekirk

    Can I add “soccer/lacrosse/whatever HS sport is in season parents stay the F off the track? ‘Cause they seem to think it’s a damn Starbucks in which to loiter.

  • Meggie

    I think my watch has a lap function, but wouldn’t be able to figure it out for the life of me. I’ve been on the East River Track when CPTC is there and it makes me so nervous!!! Probably because I’m afraid of getting pummeled/in the way of you guys! So, I try to avoid Tues/Thurs!

  • Jacqui


  • I love making omlettes. Easy and you can add all sorts of ingredients My favorite has spinach, turkey bacon and onions. Usually I’ll put it in a wrap. A delish breakfast burrito! I’m one of those ketchup with egg people so yes I’ll dip it in ketchup 🙂

  • Anonymous

    haha, agreed! last night we had a few run ins with errant soccer balls….

  • This post came at the best time for me. I just started doing track workouts..I’ve done all of one to be exact…and I’m kind of trying to figure out what to do. I looked up a track workout from Runner’s World and it was just too difficult for me, so I’m excited to try your workout. Also I have to say that when I did my workout, there were a ton of kids standing all over the track, which was kind of annoying. I guess there’s no polite way to tell their guardians to teach their kids some track ettiquette, is there? 😉

  • Anonymous

    haha, i did eat pasta. if it’s covered in peanut sauce, i will eat anything

  • Anonymous

    i love ketchup and eggs! and ketchup and potatoes…and ketchup and mac and

  • Anonymous

    Ah, I wanted to make it to my 1st Tuesday CPTC track workout (since I won’t go to Thursday before the HK 10K this weekend) but I had a client in town and we had to have dinner. I also love 400s on the track, especially at a ‘not-too-fast’ pace!

    My roommate did the BP cleanse for 3 days and said it wasn’t too bad– didn’t get hungry, really, but didn’t feel the same energy as she usually did and tried to stay in bed/watch TV on the couch as to not expend any extra energy to get hungry 🙁 sounded miz. But, the juices do sound good as an addition to a normal diet!

  • mwc8internet

    Hey Megan, pasta with frozen vegetables is one of my go-to lazy dinners too! Also I feel very strongly about track etiquette. I will add, please never sit, stand, or walk in lane one or two if other people are around. If no one is around, I do like to run clockwise sometimes though. And as mentioned below, keep your kids out of the way! But I think it’s ok to say “watch the track” even to a kid. I still find it entertaining to remember once while doing a track workout with my dad amongst some little leaguers, he yelled “watch out junior!” at some oblivious and confused little boy. But track intervals wait for no one.

  • Anonymous

    megan wise!!! i am so excited that you commented on my blog and i am even
    more excited that your “username” references wc8 🙂

  • Dani

    I’m so sad I missed the workout last night, especially since you were there, but I was sick 🙁 Glad to hear it went well! I did the blueprint cleanse for 3 days. It wasn’t that bad. I found the juices filled me up and I wasn’t that hungry, but I was only able to do some easy running. I probably wasn’t supposed to even do that, but oh well!

  • I like to write my splits on my hand/arm too 🙂

    The pasta dish looks delicious. Dinners that can be thrown together in 15-20 min are right up my alley!

    Embarrassingly I don’t know much about track etiquette, except that if there are people running faster than me to stay out of the first lane.

  • I use the UCLA track for workouts. Unless I get there really early, right after the track practice (4:30ish), I have to run in lane 4 because they block lanes 1-3 with arms every 200m. I’m glad they post signs to stay in outer lanes if you’re slower, but unfortunately people don’t always listen. Most people are pretty respectful, much more than folks walking on the sidewalk.

  • I never had a recipe for peanut sauce and am super excited to try this one!

    I also love that you think running + not eating + only cleansing sounds like a terrible idea. I think it is, too. We need food to function! My friend who recently did a juice cleanse actually said that she “missed chewing” by the end of the ordeal. Yikes!

    I wish the East River track wasn’t so far away. This could just be my laziness talking, but I love tracks, and wish there was a more accessible one in Manhattan!

  • Haha great post. These are great “rules” – I think you covered them all!

    My go-to quickie weeknight meal is typically a veggie burger, steamed veggies (broccoli, carrots, edamame), chick peas, a heaping pile of hummus, and a handful of whole wheat crackers. I love this meal and am not ashamed of it! Oh, its also usually joined with a glass of chardonnay, and followed by some stonyfield organic fro yo 🙂

  • I love frozen vegetables, my husband hates them. BUUUUT he’s out of town all weekend so I’m going to eat frozen vegetables!! WOO! And also cheat on him!

    Kidding. kidding.

  • Anonymous

    Dani – I missed you last night! Feel better soon.

  • Anonymous

    If you have to do intervals in an outer lane, use the 400m race markings to
    determine where to start your interval. The more outside your lane, the
    farther up you can begin.

    I also found a calculator that can help you detrmine how many laps/mile
    depending on what lane you run in: http://www.eracewalk.com/CalcTrac.htm

  • Anonymous

    There’s a track at 218th and Broadway that you might be able to use (it
    belongs to Columbia U). There’s also a track in Riverside Park (W 130′ or
    140’s, I think), and a dirt track near 100th St and Central Park West (it’s
    short though – maybe 350m?).

  • Anonymous

    yesssss! no meal is complete with wine and dessert 🙂

  • those are excellent tips for a track virgin like myself. I need to muster up the balls to try a track workout one of these days…

    I love hummus wraps with veggies for a quick dinner. mmm. good seeing you this morning, friend!

  • My go to meal for a quick kitchen fix is a grilled cheese with veggies and/or meat. My favorites is a grilled cheese with mushrooms, avocado, smoked turkey and a little cheese. Yum!

  • interesting about track etiquette! i knew the lanes weren’t equal but didn’t know by how much. if you run a 200m cooldown but the track is 400m round, do you start the next 400 in the middle or back where you began? How do you know exactly where you start, is there a line?

  • Grace

    Another track rule: If you’re an old person from the suburbs around my college, I think that it’s great that you’re working out and all, but please please don’t walk around the track in the wrong direction! I know that it doesn’t really matter all too much, but every time I see somebody walking toward me, I freak out and think that I’m doing it wrong.

  • I’m all about the peanut butter rice vinegar say sauce and sriracha mix. Good stuff!

  • I like it when someone who is going to run slower than you jumps out in front of you one the first 100 meters of the interval!

    I’d like to hang out with you on day three of your hypothetical cleanse. That would be horrifying for you and maybe kind of amusing for me.

  • 400s will always be my favorite workout too because it reminds me of hs track!!! I love that your wrote your spilts on your arm I would have done the same thing! Your ules sound pretty spot on. I mis the track- I end up doing a lot of my speed workouts on the treadmill : (

  • Anonymous

    Sarah- your comments brighten my life. And I’m not just saying that because I’ve had 2 glasses of wine!

  • Anonymous

    Lizzy- sometimes I do my speed work on the treadmill. It’s a little less exciting but I’m more in control of the workout!

  • Anonymous

    Marci- I usually start my cooldown at the finish line and run to the 100m mark. Then I turn around and run back – you could also start your next interval in the middle of the track – whatever is easier!

  • I’ve perfected the 10-minute omelet and will heat up/throw anything in a wrap. It’s how I roll… 🙂

  • Taylor

    Other track rules:

    Run the hard intervals counterclockwise on the inside and the rest periods clockwise on the outside.

    No iPods when you are sharing the track.

    Wear a watch and get your own splits–don’t rely on your training partner.

  • yummm peanut sauce. my go-to meal is definitely a hunk of protein, steamed veggies and stacy’s chips for carbage if i don’t have cooked beans/ grains/ pasta/ whatever. love that you tried the blueprint cleanse drink as a post-workout snack. those juice fast people are insaaaane.

  • i’ve only done 400m repeats once and afterwards an old man came up to me and toldm me that he enjoyed watching me run. ew. hahahha

  • My go-to dinner is chocolate. Oops…. okay fine, I like making a brown rice vermicelli stir fry – all you do is soak the vermicelli in warm or hot water. Then chop up whatever veg you want (in a pinch, I’ll use frozen vegetables) and then stir fry it with salt, pepper, soya sauce, and sriracha, adding in the noodles at the last minute. Mmmm I do love the idea of adding peanut butter into the mix though.

    ps. I love 400m repeats too! I’ve done the 800mx10 repeats workout and it’s not nearly as gratifying.

    pps. I often jog the opposite way around the track on the outside edge to cool down and not be in anybody’s way. I just assumed that was the etiquette until I read someone’s comment below about hating when people do that! eep!

  • Anonymous

    i sometimes run around the track in the opposite direction (in the outside
    lanes) because always running the same way can put stress on the knees/hips.
    i think as long as your paying attention to your fellow runners it’s okay

  • Thanks for the track tips! Though I don’t often run on tracks, it’s good to know (just in case). I love making quick peanut sauces for pasta, too- it makes it so much easier that you don’t really have to cook them.

  • J (morning runner)

    I LOVOOOVE 400m repeats! They are the best and it has been so long since I have done them! Hopefully they will be on my training schedule soon! Great job on your workout!

  • I like the juice which you brought for check it taste. Juice absolutely look nutritious due to ingredients which its consider. As per you sounds, I think that you must eat those foods which are nutritious.
    Complete kitchen

  •  i just learned so much from your post! track etiquette – who knew? not that i’ve ever run on a track, but if and when i do, i’ll feel prepared now. thanks! 🙂 

  • I love how your quick dinners involve peanut sauces – someday I will be as talented as you! Mine usually include Annie’s mac ‘n cheese! And seriously – what runner could ever survive on a cleanse?!

  • Ada

     Yum, that spaghetti looks awesome, the perfect post-run dinner! let me know if you ever want to go for a run or grab dinner sometime:)