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Middle distance track event

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Middle distance track events are track races longer than sprints up to (and arguably including) 5000 metres. Biological factors that go primarily into a middle distance racer are developed fast and slow twitch muscles fibers, adrenaline (usually for the final kick), anaerobic respiration (bringing it in after the final kick), racing tactics, and aerobic conditioning. The 1500 m has been estimated to require an equal contribution from fast and slow twitch muscles.

Middle Distance Events:

The standard middle distances are the 800 m, 1500 m, mile (in the US), and the 3000 m (which is viewed by some as more of a long distance event). In the United States, the 3000 m is more common at the high school and collegiate levels (along with the US two mile).


600 m

This middle distance length is rather uncommon, and is mainly run by sprinters wishing to test their endurances at a longer distance. The 600m is also used as an early season stepping stone by 800m runners before they have reached full race fitness. The record at this distance for men is:

  • Johnny Gray (USA) 1:12.81 Santa Monica, USA 24 May 1986

For women:

  • Ana Fidelia Quirot (Cuba) 1:22.63 Guadalajara, ESP 25 July 1997


800 m

Main article: 800 metres

The 800 m consists of two laps around a standard 400 m track, and has always been an Olympic event. It was included in the first women's track programme in 1928, but suspended until 1960 because of shock at the exhaustion it caused the competitors. Without the benefits of modern training, men of the era were, in contrast, expected to run themselves to complete exhaustion during competitions. The current record for men is:

  • Wilson Kipketer (Denmark) 1:41.11 Köln 24 August 1997

For women:

  • Jarmila Kratochvílová (Czechoslovakia) 1:53.28 München 26 July 1983


1000 m

This distance is not commonly raced, though it is more common than the 500 m event is for sprinters. This is commonly raced as an indoor high school event. The record at this distance for men is:

  • Noah Ngeny (Kenya) 2:11.96 Rieti 5 September 1999

For women:

  • Svetlana Masterkova (Russia) 2:28.98 München 23 August 1996


1200 m

A distance seldom raced on its own, but commonly raced as part of the Distance Medley Relay.


1500 m

Main article: 1500 metres

Along with the 800 m, this is a premier middle distance race, covering three and three-quarter laps around a standard Olympic-sized track. In recent years the "Metric mile," as it is sometimes called in the United States, has become more of a prolonged sprint, with each lap averaging 55 seconds for the world record performance by Hicham El Guerrouj of Morocco in 1998 at Rome (two 1:50 s 800 m performances back to back). Thus, speed is necessary, and it seems that the more aerobic conditioning, the better. This is a difficult distance to compete at, mentally, in addition to being one of the more tactical middle distance track events. The distance is often witness to some of the most tactical, physical races in the sport, as many championship races are won in the final few metres.

The record at this distance for men:

  • Hicham El Guerrouj (Morocco) 3:26.00 Roma 14 July 1998

For women:

  • Yunxia Qu (China) 3:50.46 Beijing 11 September 1993


1600 m

At exactly four laps of a normal 400 m track, this distance is primarily raced at the middle/high school levels as a near replacement for the mile (it is in fact about 9 m shorter). The 1500 m, however, is the official distance at the college and international levels and 1600 m runners change to the 1500 m when they go into college or become professionals.


This length of middle distance race, 1760 yards, (1609.344 metres), is very common in countries that don't use the metric system, and is still often referred to as the "Blue Riband" of the track.

When the International Amateur Athletic Federation decided in 1976 to recognize only world records for metric distances, it made an exception for the mile and records are kept to this day.

Historically, the mile took the place that the 1500 m has today. It is still raced on the world class level, but usually only at select occasions, like the famous Wanamaker Mile held annually at the Millrose Games. The distance can be romantically appreciated as a remnant of the past, but is, of course, still fiercely contested. Running a mile in faster than four minutes is a famously difficult achievement, long thought impossible by the scientific community. The first man to break the four minute barrier was Englishman Roger Bannister in 1954. The term "miler" is sometimes also applied to a 1500 m runner. The record at this distance for men is:

  • Hicham El Guerrouj (Morocco) 3:43.13 Rome 07 July 1999

For women:

  • Svetlana Masterkova (Russia) 4:12.56 Zürich 14 August 1996


2000 m

  • Another event that is rarely run, a miler's speed will generally allow him or her to prevail at this distance over less balanced challengers. The record at this distance for men is:
  • Hicham El Guerrouj (Morocco) 4:44.79 Berlin September 7, 1999

For women:

  • Sonia O'Sullivan (Ireland) 5:25.36 Edinburgh July 8, 1994


3000 m

Main article: 3000 metres
  • Truly on the borderline between middle and longer distances, the 3000 m(7.5 laps)is a standard race in the United States, though it is not raced at the outdoor IAAF World Championships. This race requires decent speed, but a lack of natural quickness can be made up for with superior aerobic conditioning and supporting race tactics. The record at this distance for men is:
  • Daniel Komen (Kenya) 7:20.67 Rieti 01 September 1996

For women:

  • Junxia Wang (China) 8:06.11 Beijing 13 September 1993


3,000 meter steeplechase

Main article: Steeplechase (athletics)
  • The 3,000 meter Steeplechase is a distance event requiring greater strength, stamina and agility than the flat 3,000 metre event. It also requires athletes to go over barriers, one which contains a water pit on the adjacent side. For each full lap of barriers, the athletes go over 5 hurdles, including the water jump. The world record for men is:
  • Saif Saeed Shaheen 7:53.63 Brussels 3 September 2004

For women:

  • Gulnara Samitova 9:01.59 Heraklion 4 July 2004

See also

  • Athletics (track and field)
  • The Flying Finns
  • sprints
  • Athletics long distances
  • Relay race


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