BBTM'S Guide to Coping with the Misfit 1600 Meters
Hi. Thanks for coming here; we're here to help you cope with the 1600m. We've heard you're having an identity crisis. At school, at home and even on the track, you're a Miler. But, you're constantly falling 9 meters short.
Here's what we're going to do...we've answered all your questions below about the 1600. This guide will help answer all those questions at the dinner table. And we also have a petition you can sign to #BRINGBACKTHEMILE in your state: http://bringbackthemile.com/jointhemovement/petition
Sign, share and tell us what the Mile means to you. Instagram us, Tweet us or Facebook us (we're still wrapping our heads around SnapChat and TikTok). Just use the hashtag #BringBackTheMile and we'll feature our favs.
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BBTM's FAQ on the 1600m
1) Wait. So, the Mile isn't 4 laps around the 400 meter track?
Correct. It's actually 9 meters short. So, if you run a 4:29 1600 or a 4:58 1600, you can't actually call yourself a sub-4:30 Miler or a sub-5 Miler.
2) I thought this was supposed to make me feel better?
Sorry. We needed to start with this harsh reality.
3) How did this happen?! Why do we even run the 1600m?
In the late 1970s when tracks went to 400m ovals, High School state federation officials across the country ignored the history of the Mile. You know how parents are always telling you to not take the easy road. Well, that’s exactly what these ‘guys’ did. They decided to start and finish the four lapper in the same place. Apparently, stepping back 9 meters and marking it was too difficult and inconvenient.
Heck, even the ‘wiser’ folk at your meets who remember the “glory days” of the good ol’ Mile probably consider running 1600 meters a bigger offense than anything else.
You know, the ones in the funny red uniforms and straw hats; the ones who are sticklers about everything - “Jewelry off, ladies”, and “Tuck in your shirts, gentleman”. But they're just enforcing rules set by the federations.
4) But the 1600m is the international distance, right?
Nope. You're thinking of the 1500m. The 1600m isn't recognized by the IAAF (they run the World Championships) and the USATF (they run our National Championships). That’s right, it’s not recognized by them at all.
In fact, the Mile was the only official record distance carried over from the imperial system of yards to the metric system of meters. It is still an official record distance and run internationally in meets like the Bislett Games and their famed Dream Mile.
The 1600m is only run in the U.S. at the high school level.
5) So every high school kid runs the 1600m?
Well, almost. If you're good enough, you might run the Mile at select invitationals who understand the value and the history of the Mile. That's right, the Mile, America's Distance, has an elitist problem.
Or you live in Massachusetts (#BostonStrong). The original American Rebels are the only state that never switched. They still run the classic Mile at the State Championships and all their other races. For everyone else, unless you are an elite Miler, you are stuck with the 1600m - sorry. Although a handful of states do run the 1500m and if you're lucky enough to live in New York, the Boys run the 1600m and the Girls run the 1500m.
I KNOW, right.
7) OK. So the Mile starting line is 9 meters back. Do all tracks at least have this marked?
Not all tracks have it marked, but many do. If it does, you'll notice a slight waterfall start a few paces back from the track's finish line like the photo below. If you don't have the line at your track, there's a couple things you can do.
Unofficially, you can bug the math wiz on your team who will jump at the chance at using measuring tape and marking the Mile starting line. If you do this, definitely take a picture or shoot a video. We want to share it with the world.
Officially, you can work with a contractor to come out and mark it. This might cost nothing, it might cost something, but not too much. Send us an email if you want help bringing a Mile mark to your track. We'd love to help!
8) What if I just step back 9 meters at the start of a 1600m race and do the Mile?
That would be hella-cool / super-dank / wicked-awesome.
Can you imagine spotting your competitors 9 meters at the start and still beating them?
Or maybe, they'll join you in protest. You're still running 1600m, so you shouldn't be penalized.
And remember the officials we mentioned above. They might love it. And if they don’t, we got your back and everyone else on this support list.
Mile legend Jim Ryun, the first HSer sub-4, holding the t-shirt that says it all.
9) What can I do to #BRINGBACKTHEMILE in my state?
Sign the petition and spread the word. Bug your coaches, bug your parents and anyone else who will listen. Change doesn't happen over night and it takes each and every one of you to #BRINGBACKTHEMILE.
Remember, it's your sport.
"It is unacceptable for the collective voice of the athletes to be disrespected and dismissed. Track & field is our life, our dream, our soul. It is OUR sport. We are aligned with our fans in our quest to improve our sport." - Track & Field Athletes Association