# In the Olympics, Why Do They Run 1500 Meters Instead of a Mile?

"In the mile, I always knew where I stood in relation to the rest of the race, and how far I had come and had yet to go. But the 1,500 was always disorienting," wrote Oliver Staley.

By

Published Aug. 5 2024, 2:20 p.m. ET

If you've enjoyed watching Olympic runners as they pull off feats that we mere mortals could only dream of doing, you may have found yourself wondering about why they run 1500 meters instead of 1600 meters.

After all, 1600 meters is around the length of a mile, so wouldn't that make more sense? Why run less than a mile?

Here's a quick breakdown of the situation.

## Why do they run 1500 meters instead of 1600 meters in the Olympics?

There are 1,609.344 meters in a mile, meaning there's about a 109-meter distance between 1500 meters and a mile. If you grew up in the U.S. and remember having to complete the mile in gym class (a horror, for many of us), you probably remember having to run around the track four times (or a little over that, technically). If you changed this from the mile to 1500 meters, you'd instead be running about three and three-quarter laps around the track.

And if you were to ask competitive runners in the U.S. about it, they'd probably tell you that running a mile makes more sense for them than running 1500 meters on a standard 400-meter track. After all, a mile is easy to keep track of while you're running — for instance, you know that after you've run twice around the track, you're at the halfway point. (Not to mention that it's easy for spectators to understand this too.) And if you're running, this all makes it easier to keep track of your pace, which is crucial.

As writer Oliver Staley wrote for Quartz, reflecting of his time as a "mediocre" high school track athlete: "In the mile, I always knew where I stood in relation to the rest of the race, and how far I had come and had yet to go. But the 1,500 was always disorienting. Was I gauging my laps from the start of the race? Or from the finish?"