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By J.N. Zhubryakov

Theaut horpresentstheSovi etUni onsconcept of the preparation of 4 x l00m

ayt eamsi nay ear
st raini
ngpr ogram,showi nghowt horoughl yar elayt eam
can approach the task to meet the challenge of international competitions. The
icleisasl ight
lycondens edex t
ractfrom theaut hor
saddr esst otheXVt h
Congress of European Athletics Coaches Association in Bad Blankenburg,
German Democratic Republic in 1989. Re-printed with permission from Modern
Athlete and Coach.

Themen sandwomen s4xl 00m relays are an integral part of the track and field
program in all competitions, including the Olympic Games and World
Championships. From all the relays the 4 x l00m is the most complex, due to
many factors. The main one of these is to obtain high level stable results from
athletes, who must not only have excellent speed capacities but also must be
capable of passing the baton at high speed.

It is well known that teams consisting of sprinters with excellent individual

performances over the l00m can be responsible for worse results than quartets
with lower individual times. Consequently, the final result in a 4 x l00m relay
depends not only on the speed potential of the sprinters, but to a large extent on
the technique of interaction between the runners in passing the baton within the
20rn changeover zone.

The principal work in this direction must be executed in the pre-season

preparation period. A cycle of 5 to 6 weeks is sufficient here to establish stable
motor habits for the changeover. The interaction and speed capacities are
improved in the main part of a training session, consisting of not less than 420m
(120m for receiving and 300m for passing) of high intensity (97 to 100%) running
in a single workout. The number of baton exchanges takes place 8 to 10 times.

The starting and running techniques in the relay are basically the same as in
normal 100 and 200m sprints. The distinguishing feature is that the first runner
holds the baton in the right hand and runs on the inside of the lane, the second
runner takes the baton in the left hand and runs close to the outside of the lane,
the third runner takes the baton in the right hand and runs close to the inside of
the lane before passing it to the final runner. The last three legs have the right to
start l0m outside the changeover zone and the actual transfer must take place in
the second half of the changeover zone (usually 2 to 3 strides before the end
line). This means that the outgoing runner has 25 to 26m to accelerate.

In order to select athletes for the different relay legs it is sensible to find out their
capacities for a particular section (the second and third runner cover longer
distances). In the aim to produce best relay results it also is advisable to
establisheac hat hletesf ullpot enti
al f
orrunni ngsect i
onsont hes traightand
around the bend.

These individual abilities must be taken into account in deciding the running
order of a relay team, considering the following:

First leg priority goes to an athlete who has a good start, can run the
bend and pass the baton well.

Second leg the choice goes to an athlete who is confident in receiving

and passing the baton, runs well in the straight and possesses sufficient
speed endurance.

Third leg the selection goes to the sprinter who is confident and reliable
in receiving and passing the baton, can run the bend well and possesses
sufficient speed endurance.

Fourth leg here we normally select a runner who receives the baton
well, is efficient in running the straight and has a high degree of
competitive spirit.

There are several methods of baton passing. The Soviet national team uses the
alternate hand upsweep method. In this method the athlete receives the baton
with the arm fully extended, or slightly bent in the elbow. The hand is not inverted
but is taken back with the wrist held down. In this open downward position the
thumb forms an angle with the fingers into which the baton is inserted by an
upward swing of the incoming runner. At the moment of the transfer of the baton
the incoming and outgoing runners are separated by 1 to 1.3m (distance of the
arms length). There should be no forward or backward lean.

Many specialists believe in their analysis that the alternate upward sweep baton
changing technique is the most effective and widely used method because it
deviates less from the natural movement structure of sprinting than other
changeover methods.

One of the most critical moments in the 4 x l00m relay is the changing of the
baton. It requires a strict co-ordination of the speeds between the incoming and
outgoing runners within the changeover zone. An optimum correlation of speeds
is achieved by means of precisely calculated check marks, a vital aspect of relay
running technique.

The method of deciding the position of the check mark begins with the
establishment of the exact spot for the baton passing (25 to 26m). !t is suggested
to mark this spot with a cross. Next we determine the time the outgoing runner
takes to cover 25m from a standing or modified crouch start (low start with the
support of one hand and the head turned towards the incoming runner (t1 =
3. 24 ).Thet i
meit takes for the incoming runner to cover the last 25m in the 75m
sect i
on( 2.25)
, in t
he105m sec t
ion(2.33)andi nt he125m s ection( 2.43
- i.e. V = 10.
20 )alsoar eest ablished.

Further, we calculate the differences between the 25m times of the incoming and
outgoing runners (t1 t2 = t3) (
3.24- 2.25=0. 99)andt heav er agev elocity (V)
oftheinc omi ngrunnerov ert hel ast25m (25m ov er2.25=11.11m/sec). Finally,
having determined the distance run by the incoming runner, an objective margin
forthe star
tisobt ained:

(t3 X Vav = S of the start) (

11m/sec = 10.99m)

Consideration must be given here to the reaction time to moving objects. To this
is added a selection reaction, as 6 to 8 sprinters in different lanes and moving at
top speed hamper concentration. Investigations have established that most top-
class athleteshav ear eact i
ont imetomov i
ngobj ectsofabout0. 20. This means
that running at a speed of 11.11m/sec., the incoming runner would have passed
the check mark by 2.22m during the reaction time to moving objects of the
out goingr unner .(0.20x11. 11m/sec. = 2.25m). Consequently the outgoing
runner will have to bring in the check mark to 8.77m, rather than use the
calculated 10.99m.

We have established in our investigations three principles to be observed in the

establishment of the check mark position:

1. The time of the reaction to moving objects of the sprinters must be taken
into account.

2. The check mark used in training over a 75m distance is not adequate for
competitive conditions. It enables to develop the interaction of the runners
in the changeover zone (passing the baton, use of distance between the
incoming and outgoing runners, reaction speed etc.) but does not meet
racing demands.

3. The check marks for competitive conditions should be established

separately for the first (105m) and for the second and third (125m) legs
with maximal intensity sprinting from start to finish.

The Soviet national team prepared for the Seoul Olympic competition with twice
a week training sessions (Tuesdays and Fridays), aiming mainly to perfect the
technique of the interaction of the runners in the 20m changeover zone. In
parallel, these training sessions also provided excellent workouts for the
development of maximal speed capacities.

In order to resolve the set aims and objectives the following evaluations took
place regularly:

Educational observations;

Electronic timing;

Video analysis of the baton changeovers.

In the beginning we studied the sprinting capacities of the team members in

sections of 25m over the 75m distance. These indices were used in the
calculations for the check marks for each pair according to the experimental
method. In order to achieve perfection in the interaction of the runners in the
changeover zone and pass the baton at the end of the zone (26th meter) we
used a cross as a control marker.

The development procedures were based on the following:

Baton changeovers in pairs within the 20m zone with a 60 to 75m run by
the incoming athlete.

Baton changeovers in pairs within the 20m zone in competition conditions.

The incoming runners use 75 to 125m distances.

Baton changeovers in pairs in which the athletes of all four legs run the full

Running of 4 x 50m, 4 x l00m and 4 x 150m relays in training.

Closer to the competitions the preparations take place with the permanent
line-up of the team members.


1) The following procedures may serve as criteria for evaluating the technical
skills of the 4 x l00m relay for each pair of the runners:

Time of passing the baton in the 20m zone.

Distance from the start of the running zone to the control

Differences in the time of entry into the changeover zone

between the runners.

Place of the baton transfer in the 20m zone.

2) It has been established that the running speed over the last 25m
diminishes markedly when the running section of the incoming runner is
increased from 75 to 125m. It is decisive to take this fact into
consideration in the establishment of check marks for training and for

3) Studies have shown that the individual running preparation of sprinters

must be considered for each pair in the calculation to establish the check
marks according to the following method:

T1 - T2 = T3

t3 xVav

t reaction x V average = S1

checkS1 =S

4) The proposed method to calculate the check mark enables to justify the
possibility of increasing significantly the distance of the check mark to
ensure a stable changeover at the end of the 20m zone (26th metre) and
a reliable interaction during the changeover.

Finally, the specifics of the relay sets severe demands on the starting speed, co-
ordination capacities, speed endurance, motor reaction and psychological
stability of sprinters. These qualities must be taken into account in the selection
of relay teams and developed further in training.