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Why the 400m hurdles is one of the hardest Olympic races

Running the 400-meter hurdles requires strategic rhythm, but it’s over so quick you just might miss it.

Kimberly Mas is a senior producer at Vox video focused on science explainers.

There are few single events that demand as much skill as the 400-meter hurdle race. It’s not as simple as just running and jumping. Olympians need to have the speed of a 200-meter dash runner, the endurance of an 800-meter runner, an understanding of rhythm, and, of course, the ability to efficiently clear a hurdle.

Various techniques can make or break a race. For one, hurdlers don’t “jump” — they sprint right over the barrier. If you hurdle too high, you’re wasting time and energy; too low and you collide with a hurdle. Even if your technique over the hurdles is perfect, you can’t win if you don’t have the speed — but starting too fast could lead to burnout later in the race.

Former Olympic hurdler and (until very recently) world record-holder Kevin Young helps us break down the rhythm of the 400-meter hurdles.

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Correction: Karsten Warholm broke Kevin Young’s record at a Diamond League meet in Oslo, Norway on July 1 — not at the Olympic trials.