4 x 200-Meter Relay Tips

Yohan Blake anchored Jamaica's record-setting 4 x 200-meter squad at the 2014 World Relays. Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Olympic 4 x 100-meter relay gold medalist and veteran coach Harvey Glance calls the 4 x 200-meter relay “a beautiful event to watch.” But he warns that it can be “the most disastrous race ever in a track meet,” if the passers don't use the correct techniques. The following article is based on Glance's observations regarding the 4 x 200 relay, given at the 2015 Michigan Interscholastic Track Coaches Association's coaching clinic.

In his MITCA presentation, Glance advised any coaches using blind passing in the 4 x 200-meter relay to “change it right now. You must use a visual (pass).” The visual pass is necessary, Glance said, to make sure the outgoing runner matches the incoming runner's speed. Unlike the 4 x 100-meter relay, in which the incoming runner should be moving at or near full speed at the end of each leg, 4 x 200 runners will be significantly fatigued at the conclusion of their legs. So the outgoing runner can't build up to full speed as the incoming runner approaches, or the runner with the baton won't catch up to the receiver.

Accelerating in the Sprints

There are, therefore, two techniques the outgoing runner can use to accept the baton. In either case, the 4 x 200 team will prepare for the race by setting marks on the track before the event (see below for how to place the mark). When the incoming runner hits the mark, the outgoing runner begins to move. At that point, the would-be receiver can face forward, take about three steps, and then swivel his torso to see the incoming runner as he approaches. Alternatively, the outgoing runner can keep his eyes on the baton carrier all the way. The receiver still begins moving when the incoming runner hits the pre-determined mark, but keeps his focus on the baton carrier even while he's in motion. Either way, “you’ll never drop a stick if you see the target,” Glance says.

In another contrast to the 4 x 100-meter relay, the outgoing runner in the 4 x 200 should offer a high target for the baton passer. The receiver's arm should be roughly parallel to the track, with his fingers spread wide, to offer an easy target to the passer.

Carrying the Baton

As in the 4 x 100, the first runner in the 4 x 200 carries the baton with the right hand. As he approaches the second runner, the baton carrier runs toward the inside of the lane, while the receiver sets up on the outside of the lane. The pass is then made in the middle of the lane, from the first runner’s right hand into the receiver’s left. The second runner will move toward the outside of the lane when he approaches the third-leg runner, and will make the pass with the left hand. The third runner, standing toward the inside of the lane, receives the baton with his right hand. The final pass will then be made using the same technique as the first pass.

The bottom line, Glance told his MITCA audience, is that coaches and athletes must realize that the 4 x 200-meter relay is “a totally different race” than the 4 x 100. “And the way you eliminate trouble is a visual pass.”

Making the Mark

To create the marks that each outgoing runner uses as a guide, the outgoing runner stands on the front line of the exchange zone, facing the backward – i.e., looking in the direction that the baton carrier will be running – walks off five steps, and places a tape mark on the track. When the race begins, each receiver waits at the start of the exchange zone. When the incoming runner reaches the tape mark, the outgoing runner begins moving forward.

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