British 800m record-holder explains the training workout she fears the most
World-class 800m racing needs a blend of speed, strength and stamina. So it’s not surprising that Keely Hodgkinson includes all these elements in what is probably the toughest training session she does all year.
Usually done only once every 12 months during an off-season training camp in South Africa, Hodgkinson and her group tackle the following:
6x30sec hill sprints with a jog back recovery in roughly one minute followed immediately with a 6min tempo run. The whole set is repeated three times in total too.
“It’s absolutely brutal as you spike your legs with lactic on the hills and then have to do a tempo,” the 21-year-old says. “It takes about an hour to complete!”
Hodgkinson is coached by Trevor Painter and has been doing sessions this year with athletes such as Irish international Sarah Healey and Scottish runner Erin Wallace plus some male runners who have PBs roughly similar to Hodgkinson’s 1:55.77 best.
This hill sprints and tempo running combo is a mid-winter workout, though, so what does she do closer to major events like the World Championships in Budapest? A few days before she races in Budapest, she will do an indicator session on the track where she runs 400m close to flat out, then has 30 seconds recovery before doing another flat-out 400m.
“You can mess it up by going too fast too early, but if you get it right it can be quite accurate so it’s a good representation of what you can do in a race,” she says, adding that her 400m efforts added up to 1:55.3 in the session before the 2021 Olympic final and she then ran 1:55.88 in Tokyo.
Hodgkinson hopes to go a little quicker in her actual races, too. Firstly there is the adrenaline, stadium support and competitive element, but she has also started taking a Maurten Bicarb System supplement this year before races. The theory is that bicarbonate neutralises the lactic acid in your muscles during an 800m race and minimises the effects of tying up.
Some athletes over the years have simply dissolved bicarbonate of soda into water to drink before a race but it can lead to diarrhoea and stomach issues. It has also been tried as a massage cream as well in recent years. But Maurten introduced a new product this year which uses ‘Hydrogel Technology’ in the form of a soup to allow the body to absorb the bicarbonate without unwanted stomach issues.
“I never used bicarb before Maurten reached out to me because I always heard the horror stories of taking it,” she says. “But they have a really good formulation. It tastes a bit like Calpol.
“I think people think that if you take it you won’t get lactic anymore. You definitely still get pain. But it just helps you tolerate it a bit more and I’ve run well with it this year.”
Her 800m races aside, Hodgkinson took the Maurten product before setting a 600m world indoor best earlier this year.
Hodgkinson won’t take the Maurten product before training, though. She prefers to use it on race day. Similarly, she says she trains in Pegasus running shoes instead of lighter, carbon-plated shoes. “Because in my head,” she explains, “if I just wear the heaviest shoes then when I take them off I’ll fly!”
Despite being focused on Budapest, she has kept an eye on the next generation this summer, too. Most notably Phoebe Gill ran 2:02.30 to win the Commonwealth Youth Games title, whereas another young Brit, Abi Ives, won silver at the European Under-20 Championships and has also broken two minutes in 2023.
Hodgkinson says: “It’s great we’ve got youngsters coming through. I watched the Euro U20s. With Phoebe, I saw her result not the race. It’s incredible from someone so young so hopefully she can keep the momentum going over the next few years.”
She adds: “She’s only 16 so I wouldn’t put any pressure on her and if I was to give any advice I’d say ‘try not to jump the age groups’. I see a lot of people who are young and are trying to go to the under-20 champs when they’re 15-16 and I think ‘their time will come’.
“I know I jumped to the Olympics but there’s a big difference between 16 and 19. Take your time and your time will come.”
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