BBTM'S Guide to Coping with the 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.

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). 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 track? It's not 1600m?

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.

"I PR’d again with a 4:58 and was initially ecstatic. However, when I realized that the time converted to a mark just over five minutes in the Mile, I was disappointed. I still had not accomplished my goal. It didn’t matter at all to me what my 1600m PR was. I wouldn’t be satisfied until I broke five in the Mile." - Madison Granger, 2012 Massachusetts State Mile Champion
2) I thought this was supposed to make me feel better?

Sorry. We needed to start with the 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 was too difficult.

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.


Steve Scott's 3:47.69 American Record was set in 1982 at the Oslo Dream Mile. Scott's record lasted more than 26 years until Alan Webb's 3:46.91 in 2007...in Belgium.

"I am a high school Miler who runs the 1600 meters. The sad thing is that I have no way to compare myself to the greats such as Prefontaine and Bannister, because there are no opportunities for me to run a full Mile. The fact that I can't compare myself to my idols or inspirations, really pushes me away from the sport. And it pushes me away from others outside of the sport. No one ever asks: "What do you run for the 1600?" - Andrew Huitt, Jesuit HS (CA)
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.

"New England’s was my first time running 1600m. I honestly didn’t know this race distance existed prior to that meet. I remember seeing converted times on the heat sheet and realizing that none of the competitors from other states raced the Mile. It was odd to me; the distance seemed to be a kind of knock-off. - MA State Champion in the Mile on the 1600m - Madison Granger
6) WOW!

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.


2014 Arcadia Invitational Boys' Mile - RunnerSpace.com

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 list.  

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.

"I hope they bring the Mile back; it's what people get" - Bernie Montoya, 2012 adidas Dream Mile Champion

"It is unacceptable for the collective voice of the athletes to be disrespected and dismissed. Track and 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

Return the Mile to prominence on the American & worldwide sports and cultural landscape by elevating and celebrating the Mile to create a movement.

ELEVATE
Bring Back the Mile as the premier event in the sport, and increase interest in and media coverage of the Mile for both those who love the distance as well as the general public.

CELEBRATE
Bring Back the Mile to celebrate the storied distance and to recognize the people who made and make the Mile great and to promote Mile events and the next generation of U.S. Milers.

NATIONAL MOVEMENT
Bring Back the Mile to create a national movement for the Mile as America’s Distance,
to inspire Americans to run the Mile as part of their fitness program and to replace the 1600 meters at High School State Track & Field Meets across the country.

Become a Mile Maniac member or a BBTM sponsor today! Join us, and go Mile!

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