What’s A Good 400m Time? Average Times By Age + Sex

This guide will look at what an average 400 meter time is based on age, sex, and fitness level, as well as the 400-meter distance and current 400-meter world records. 

In track and field, there is a long list of events and race distances ranging from sprints such as the 100-meter and 200-meter dashes, middle distances such as the 800-meter, 5k, and 10k, and longer distances such as the half-marathon and marathon.

The 400-meter event is considered a long sprint event, demanding a combination of power, speed, and endurance on the 400-meter track. You’ll be feeling the burning of lactic acid, yet you may need to pace yourself and hold back very slightly to make it to the end without burning out completely

Typical 400m times vary by age, sex, and ability level.

Whilst there is no clear-cut “good” 400-meter time for the average person, looking at the average times for your age group, sex, and ability level can help you decide what’s a good time for you.

Runners sprinting off the blocks.

Typical 400m Times By Age, Sex, and Ability

Defining Sprinting Ability Levels

Here’s how we’d define each of the levels listed in our table:

  • Beginner: By beginner, we’re not referring to somebody straight off the couch who’s shown up to their first race with no training, as there’s too much variation in terms of baseline fitness and physique to provide a useful guideline time. Instead, in this sense, we’d consider a beginner to be somebody relatively new to sprinting, perhaps a first-time racer, but has a decent base level of fitness. However, they lack proper sprinting technique, the ability to pace themselves effectively through a 400m race, and the knowledge required to build an effective training regime.
  • Novice: You’re still not especially competitive, but you have increasing experience and commitment to training. You’ve completed several races at this distance, and are looking to improve your PB in each.
  • Intermediate Recreational: You’re taking sprinting increasingly seriously, and it’s getting more difficult to beat your previous PBs. You might have joined an athletics club or started training with a qualified coach, and while you’re unlikely to be competing for local race victories, you’d be hoping to finish high up the field.
  • High-Level Recreational: You train seriously with a professional coach, and are among the top-performing sprinters in your athletics club competing for victories in local meets. You are likely approaching the peak of your potential performance, with a substantial time investment in training each week.
  • Sub-Elite: You are one of the strongest sprinters in your region, and may even compete nationally, although you’re unlikely to fight for the top positions.
  • National Class: You are one of the finest sprinters in your country, competing for victories against all but the very best athletes in the sport. You likely train either full-time as a professional, or you make a flexible job fit around your training.
  • Elite: You are at the pinnacle of the sport, competing for victories at the most prestigious races and representing your country at major international events.

Typical 400m Times for Men by Age and Ability

Age GroupBeginnerNoviceIntermediate RecreationalHigh-Level RecreationalSub-EliteNational ClassEliteWorld Record

Typical 400m Times for Women by Age and Ability

Age GroupBeginnerNoviceIntermediate RecreationalHigh-Level RecreationalSub-EliteNational ClassEliteWorld Record
* We’ve used Shaunae Miller-Uibo’s winning time at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics for our calculations, rather than Marita Koch’s 1985 400m World Record of 47.60.

How We Produced This Data

The tables above have been carefully created to give our readers performance benchmarks and to enable comparisons of relative performance adjusted for age and sex.

We drew on a wide range of sources to decide on our benchmark times for different ability levels in the 18-39 age range (which we used to calculate the rest of our data).

These included data presented in scientific studies, race results across a range of standards of competition, the IAAF points standardization charts, and our own judgment as a community of highly qualified running coaches at Marathon Handbook.1Spiriev, B. (n.d.). IAAF SCORING TABLES OF ATHLETICS / IAAF TABLES DE COTATION D’ATHLETISME IAAF SCORING TABLES OF ATHLETICS TABLES DE COTATION D’ATHLETISME DE L’IAAF 2017 REVISED EDITION. https://www.worldathletics.org/download/download?filename=b031e933-c722-4d0d-bfb9-9399ff8fb26f.pdf&urlslug=iaaf%20scoring%20tables%20of%20athletics%20-%20outdoor%20

For the age-graded world records, we’ve used the official records ratified by the World Association of Masters Athletes (WMA), correct as of 18 March 2024.2List of world records in masters athletics. (2023, November 16). Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_world_records_in_masters_athletics

To translate the times for ability levels across different age grades, we used our 18-39 benchmark times to establish each ability level as a percentage of the world record for a given age group.

For example, our “elite” men’s 400m time for the 18-39 range was 47.0 seconds, which is 110.16% of Wayde van Niekerk’s world record of 43.03.

So, when calculating the “elite” times for other age grades, we multiplied the respective world records by 110.16%. We replicated this approach across all of the listed ability levels.

It should be noted that this method does create some inconsistencies, with the performance gaps between certain age groups being larger than others because a particular world record happens to be an outlier.

However, we found the resulting data more reliable and with a more accurate representation of performance drop relative to age than we achieved when comparing our results to existing age-grade calculators.

People running on a track.

What Factors Can Impact Your 400-Meter Time?  

Deciding what’s a “good” 400m time will depend on a few different factors, such as your age, sex, ability, and current fitness level. 

Regarding sex, most male runners genetically have more muscle mass and fast twist muscle density, which makes them faster runners overall in most distances, as you can see in the world record times.

Age also affects our performance as research suggests that the prime running age category is between 25-35, and our performance begins to decline after the age of 35.3August 2017 – Volume 31 – Issue 8 : The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research. (n.d.). Journals.lww.com. https://journals.lww.com/nsca-jscr/fulltext/2017/08000/Running_Performance

However, don’t be discouraged! Performance declines gradually, so there’s still plenty of time for excellent running after 35 years old and beyond!

Our current fitness level will also affect our performance. However, our fitness level is one of the factors that we can actually control and set goals towards improving, unlike our age and sex. It is possible to run 400m faster with hard work and dedication to a specific training plan.

People running a 400 meter race.

Tips To Improve Your 400 Meter Time 

#1: Train Your Top Speed 

Short-distance, high-intensity interval training will help improve your top speed, turnover, and running form, improving aerobic and anaerobic fitness. 

The 400 meter dash is considered the “long sprint, ” so for top speed, let’s choose workouts that are even shorter distances than 400 meters and contain complete rest inbetween each rep.

Perform these short interval workouts on a track, if possible, or if you do not have access to a track, a flat surface where you won’t need to stop for traffic or any other obstacles. 

You want to be on a route where you feel comfortable giving it your all without needing to worry about stopping for obstructions.

These exercises will also be beneficial for distance runners or any runners looking to increase their speed.

100-Meter Repetitions 

  1. Warm-up: 10-15 minutes at an easy, conversation pace with 5 x 10-second strides
  2. Run: 12 x 100 meters hard with a full recovery between each one. Take as much time as you need to be able to run the following reps at full speed, trying to stay as consistent as possible for all reps.
  3. Cooldown: 10-15 minutes

200-Meter Repetitions 

  • Warm-up: 10-15 minutes at an easy, conversation pace with 5 x 10-second strides
  • Run: 10 x 200 meters hard with 2 minutes of total rest in between each one, or more if necessary, to keep all the following reps consistent. 
  • Cooldown: 10-15 minutes 
Runners going uphill.

#2: Include Hillwork 

Including hill repeats in your training program is an excellent way to increase your speed, power, and overall running economy.

Try some short hill sprint workouts to get started: 

  1. Warm up for 10-15 minutes with an easy jog
  2. Sprint 5 seconds uphill at an effort of 9+ on the RPE scale. 
  3. Walk back down to your starting point. 
  4. Rest completely for 1-2 minutes at the starting point until you are ready to go again.
  5. Repeat 8-12 times, depending on your fitness level.
  6. Cool down for 10-15 minutes with an easy jog

As your fitness improves, increase the sprint time to 10 seconds.

For more hill repeats, check out our complete guide here.

A box jump.

#3: Strength Train 

Strength training isn’t usually high on most runners’ list of priorities as, well, you guessed it, we prefer to run! 

However, strength training will not only make you stronger and make you a more powerful 400 meter runner, but will also help reduce your risk of injury.

Include two strength training sessions per week in your training plan for great results. 

Focus on compound exercises such as squats, deadlifts, lunges, push-ups, pull-ups, hip thrusters, planks, and calf raises. 

You can also add plyometric exercises to your sessions to increase power, such as jump squats, jump lunges, box jumps, skaters, and long jumps.

Ready to get training to improve that 400-meter time? To start, click here for a complete strength training session for runners.

Runners on a track.

How Long is 400 Meters?

400 meters is 0.4 of a kilometer and approximately one-quarter of a mile. On a standard outdoor 400-meter track, 400 meters is one complete lap around the track. 

In the 400m event, athletes begin in race blocks on the track in a staggered position and stay in their designated lane for the entirety of the lap.

What are the Current 400 Meter World Records?

According to World Athletics, the current 400-meter world record was set by Wayde Van Niekerk from South Africa at the Olympic Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on August 14, 2016, with a time of 43.04 seconds.4World Athletics. (n.d.). Worldathletics.org. https://worldathletics.org/records/by-progression/16924

In comparison, Usain Bolt has a time of 45.28 seconds.5Usain BOLT | Profile. (n.d.). Worldathletics.org. https://worldathletics.org/athletes/jamaica/usain-bolt-14201847

Michael Johnson from the USA held the record for many years with a time of 43.18 seconds for the 400m in the 1999 World Championships. The American held the record for 17 years until being beaten by van Niekerk in 2016.6Michael JOHNSON | Olympics.com. (n.d.). Olympic Channel. https://olympics.com/en/athletes/michael-johnson

‌The women’s 400-meter world record is still currently held by Germany’s Marita Koch, with a time of 47.60. It was set at Bruce Stadium in Canberra, Australia, on October 6, 1985.7400 Metres – women – senior – all. (n.d.). Worldathletics.org. https://worldathletics.org/records/all-time-toplists/sprints/400-metres/all/women/senior

A sprinter off the blocks.


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Katelyn is an experienced ultra-marathoner and outdoor enthusiast with a passion for the trails. In the running community, she is known for her ear-to-ear smile, even under the toughest racing conditions. She is a UESCA-certified running coach and loves sharing her knowledge and experience to help people reach their goals and become the best runners they can be. Her biggest passion is to motivate others to hit the trails or road alongside her, have a blast, and run for fun!

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