This past weekend, at the Emory Invitational outdoor track meet, I had the opportunity to run the 1500m. About a minute after finishing, I had already decided that it was the best running event in track and field.
Given the oddity of running 3.75 laps on a 400m track, it might not have seemed the most "clean" event, but the 1500 truly takes the gold.
The 1500 is the metric race equivalent of a mile. The mile, something we're all used to running in elementary school on up, is a perfect (almost) 4 laps on an outdoor track. But as we compete in metric distances, the 1500 is the standard middle distance, mile-like event on the track. And honestly, it is a great substitution.
The mile is an extremely physical event. It balances our bodies' systems of aerobic and anaerobic respiration in a harmonious ratio. It requires both strength and speed. And it always ends in a battle of wit and will.
But the 1500 has all of these things too, and more.
During my race, I was definitely going lactic sprinting down the homestretch. I was certainly relying on my aerobic base and my ability to kick down the competition. And I also used some, albeit weak, tactics to spin around other runners in the field.
The great difference is in the mental advantage.
3.75 laps is entirely different than 4. Starting on the backstretch and relying on pure adrenaline for that first 300m makes the last 1200 seem extremely manageable. The race flies by, and there is never a point where you are mentally straining, searching for that end in the midst of all those laps. By the time you start to really hurt, you have such a small distance left to run, and you can easily be carried through that with the excitement of the final kick.
Not to speak of the prestige. The crowd still roars at a good 1500m. All the teams cheer on the middle distance display at hand. It's the perfect distance at which the spectators are interested for the whole race. A great 1500 captivates the crowd and draws everybody to wait with suspense for the final kick. Who will prevail in such a test of tenacity and performance? A question like that can only be answered with a ferocious spirit that lies in the hearts of all the hungry middle distance racers.
The 1500 draws out the best in everyone at the stadium. The athletes racing it draw on a varied toolkit of both talents and strategies to outlast their competitors. The spectators, understanding the effort required, are drawn to the whole race. And the energy of the whole affair is electric.
At the end of the day, there are many track events which draw their own superstars. The sprints are crazy fast, and the long distance races boast incredible endurance. But if you're looking for one that's just plain exciting, look for the 1500m. You won't be disappointed.