01 JUL 2002 General News Mile

Mile - Introduction

The sister distance to the mile (1609.32 m), the 1500m was born on the 500 metre tracks of Continental Europe. It has become the classic middle distance event - demanding a combination of speed, staying power and tactical acumen.
Part of the first modern Olympics in 1896, many 1500m runners also competed at 5000m in this early era. Paavo Nurmi (Finland) became Olympic champion in both events within the space of 50 minutes in 1924.

The rivalry between Sweden's Gunder Hägg and Arne Andersson between 1940 and 1944 brought the world record down to 3:43, thanks to Gösta Olander's natural training method of long cross country runs twice a day.

By the mid 1960s, thanks to the marvellous times achieved by the young Jim Ryun (USA), intensive, speed-oriented interval work gained popularity.

Africa, whose athletes have come to epitomise the virtues of talent, hard work and tactical bravery, had their first breakthrough when Kenya's Kip Keino won Olympic gold in 1968. At the 1974 Commonwealth Games, Filbert Bayi (Tanzania) ran a world record 3:32.2 (1:52.2 at 800m).

Just as Roger Bannister achieved immortality by being the first to break four minutes for the mile at Oxford in 1954, fellow Briton Steve Cram was the first under 3:30 for 1500m, in Nice in 1985.

Previously Seb Coe and Steve Ovett had ruled the 1500m/mile scene.Today it is the North Africans who dominate this event. First Algeria's Noureddine Morceli and then his successor Hicham El Guerrouj of Morocco, with their punishing training schedules and fearless attitude, represent the ultimate thoroughbred 1500m racer.