Today (Aug. 16) in Rio, some of the world’s many talented runners will contest the 1,500 meters.

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That’s also bad. They must be running the mile instead.

The 1,500 meters has been component of the Olympic program since 1896, reflecting the French beginnings of the contemporary Olympic movement and its founder, Pierre de Coubertin. The also the street used at the human being championships and at the NCAAs. However the mile, just 109 meter longer, is a much superior experience for athletes and spectators.

While the 1,500 meter takes three-and-three-quarter laps of a conventional 400-meter track, the mile is operation in simply a shade an ext than four laps. The the opposite of the 4 laps renders the mile easy to follow, and also is particularly useful as soon as watching elite runners capable of challenging the four-minute mile. Cheering athletes against the clock, understanding each lap needs to be operation in under a minute, is among the good spectacles in track, a sport that has far too few of them.


Thanks to roger Bannister, that famously broke the four-minute mile in 1954, the mile has transcended sport and moved into metaphor. The four-minute mile is an virtually universally recognized benchmark, also if the world record, set in 1999 by Hicham El Guerrouj that Morocco, is now an impossibly rapid 3:43. Meanwhile, only die-hard monitor fans might tell you the time of a world-class 1,500.

The mile makes an ext sense for the runners, too. I was a trivial high institution miler, who advanced into one (even more) mediocre collegiate 1,500-meter runner. In the mile, I constantly knew whereby I stood in relationship to the remainder of the race, and also how much I had actually come and had actually yet come go. However the 1,500 was constantly disorienting. Was ns gauging mine laps native the start of the race? Or from the finish? as soon as I had actually completed two laps, the natural halfway point, i was more than halfway done, which intended the final lap come up on me faster than i felt it should. Ns was already running in a state of near-panic, desperately trying to save up v the leaders, and also the weirdly abbreviated distance didn’t help.

Complicating it all is the problem of splits. In street races, the an essential to the gyeongju is your pace. Walk out also fast and you’ll fade in the last lap; start too slow and you’ll struggle to make back the time before the finish. In the mile, maintaining track the your pace is simple—after every lap, a coach would read out quarter-mile splits. In the 1,500, relying on where the coach is standing, girlfriend may have to calculate your speed after 300 and 700 meters.


I wasn’t sure if ns was the only ex-miler that felt this way about the 1,500, so ns tracked down my former college teammate Pete Brady. Quite than cave up his spikes as adulthood collection in, Pete never ever stopped running, and is country competitive in over-40 races. The finished 4th in a masters exhibition 1,500 held at the us Olympic trials, and the main results illustrate the strange nature the the 1,500, with splits at 300, 700, and 1,100 meters.

Pete, who works in finance, says that after years of racing, the still battles with the 1,500 splits. “I’m a mathematics guy. But when you’re running—running hard—it’s no easy.”

The mile is straightforward to explain to non-track people, the says. Anyone understands a quick mile.


But even word-class athletes gain befuddled through the 1,500 meters. Steve Scott, now 60, organized the united state mile document of 3:47 because that 25 years, and also ran much more sub-four-minute miles—136—than anyone in history. He likewise finished 2nd in the 1,500 meter at the 1983 civilization championships.

Given a choice, Scott, who currently coaches track at Cal State mountain Marcos, said he always chose the mile over the 1,500. But when he contended internationally, sometimes the 1,500 meters was the just choice.

“There to be times as soon as I would lose count,” the says. “You acquire to 400 meters to go faster than you expect. I would certainly get caught off guard; I’d listen the bell (for the last lap) and also think, ‘Oh, crap.\"”


Scott concedes the his ambivalence toward the 1,500 stemmed indigenous his familiarity v the longer distance, and that he never ever committed come the 1,500 together its own race through its own demands. In theory, that says, he might have run the 1,500 at a slightly much faster pace because of the slightly shorter distance. “I never really made the investment,” that says.

Europeans who thrived up gyeongju the 1,500 might feel differently; for them the mile may seem abnormally long. And for women, running the 1,500 in four minutes is quiet a significant barrier that separates the upstream from the an extremely good.

But when the 1,500 has the benefit of gift a ring number, that otherwise no make lot sense. That an azer fit on the track, it’s no a street that has actually any background or symbolism. Yes a reason it’s called “the metric mile.”


While many Americans’ grasp of the metric device hasn’t progressed beyond 2-liter Cokes, even the united state running human being has gone metric. The mile, when a fixture at us track meets, has gradually been phased the end in donate of the 1,500 meters as the sport and also its occasions become an ext international.

A project called Bring back the Mile is trying come return the gyeongju to the US. The founder, Ryan Lamppa, states displacing the 1,500 at the Olympics is past the group’s ambitions.

But the Olympics include another famously non-metric race: the 26.2 mile, or 42.195 kilometer, marathon.


Contrary to well-known myth, the contemporary marathon’s size wasn’t collection by the ancient Greeks to mark the distance operation by Pheidippides from the fight of Marathon to Athens (that’s around 24 miles). Rather, that widely thought that the official distance was collection in 1908 so the Britain’s royal family could see the begin from their window at Windsor Castle, 26.2 miles from the finish, in that year’s London Olympics.

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The marathon, one of the marquee events of the Olympics, is still a stubborn outlier in a sports civilization that has actually otherwise unable to do metric. Probably there’s quiet room for the mile.