There is no distance in the world of running more romantic than the mile. Like the story of Roger Bannister above, running the Miracle Mile in 1954, there is no more storied race in the history of man. The U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association voted yesterday to recommend for the NCAA to replace its Division I outdoor 1500 meters with the mile. This won’t bring back the magic. You can never go back.
What it will do is make US runners less competitive internationally in the 1500 meters, which will remain the Olympic distance. I would argue the mile, and the 1500, are the most strategic distances in running. Logic might imply tactics increase with distance, but this is the unique race where distance and speed are optimal. No other race requires the runner to run so hard for so long, after almost immediately exceeding their lactate threshold from the start. Waterboarding would be a merciful reprieve to the ceaseless oxygen debt.
The mile wasn’t my strongest event in college. I didn’t quite have the speed to be competitive, but it was by far my favorite distance. There’s something about it. Maybe because it was my key event in high school. By college, I was already nostalgic of fast times in high school. I was also thankful however for the marginally shorter distance. The race is so exhausting that even though I romanticized over the mile distance like any other runner, I didn’t exactly mind the shorter 1500.
I think going back will be a mistake. The 100 meter difference will matter in international competition. Special mile events can always be held. The mile is so special I would even argue it should always be a rare event. Not some commodity distance to be run at every directional school. I can say that without being derogatory having run at one – Southwest Texas State. This isn’t innovation. It won’t make the event more exceptional. I hope the NCAA votes to keep the 1500 meters.