February 1st 2020 – By: William Larsen – Civilians News – “News For All Views” – Why 1500 Meters Is The “Crown Jewel” Of The Olympic Games –
I like running but it hurts…. Nevertheless, on most Wednesdays, I like to go out onto the local track and masochistically tire myself, which is basically my repentance for a week’s worth of typing and sitting idly by my desk.
It’s almost therapeutic retribution, in essence for the time that I spend either watching sports (instead of playing them), or working on ArtificialIntelligenceProject.com, or my music hobbies.
Do I enjoy it? That’s difficult to answer, however, I usually run 3-4 times a month… and every-time that I do…. I push myself outside of my comfort zone (often considerably).
I should say, I like to time my 1 mile runs… I find that this practice is analogous to checking your weight on the scale, a weekly ritual to keep an ongoing assessment of your personal health. To be clear, I don’t play the, “weight game,” because my weight IS my 1 mile run time….. Meaning, that while 90% of America is focusing on their meal portions, often checking their weight 2-3 times a day, or intermittently fasting, I’m instead checking my seconds on the track.
6’36, 7’05, 7’26, 5’57, 6’43, are what my month’s typically look like.
However, this has led me to take an interest in the sciences behind running and speed/endurance.
I truly love the sport of running because tall runners have a slight advantage but not a considerable advantage, which means that for the most part… I believe running is a fairly unbiased assessment of an individual’s heart and fortitude, as well as people’s discipline and determination. Body type isn’t as damning a factor in distance running… as it is in basketball, I should say.
Nevertheless, I’m also semi-judgmental about it……. even though my times aren’t particularly great, compared to most runners….. my personal best is 5’29 on the treadmill and 5’56 on the track, which I ran in High School. *I also ran a 6’02, outside, in 2016, albeit mediocre times…. or are they? *I also ran a 6’09, in 2019.
This year my times have dipped to 7 minutes on the track and 6’30 on the treadmill, but for many years… I consistently ran under 6 minutes….
Nevertheless…… I ran similarly average times growing up and I often found myself getting lapped by the field, during my youth track meets. (*Don’t worry kid, it turns out 6’30 really isn’t that bad.)
I finished dead last in High School track a dozen times and embarrassingly crossed the finish line last… I remember that I would get lapped while running a 6’15 mile and one of my friend’s would run a 4’15… but what’s truly funny about that is…. a 6’15 mile is practically superior to 95% of runners over the age of 30, today. Furthermore, according to the military fitness examination, I believe it’s something like 90% of runners in the military over the age of 32, cannot break 6 minutes in the mile. (Statistical reference link.)
Which is a funny thing……. because today that 6’15 mile…. is right around the top 10% of runners my age (32+), but amongst young runners, it’s a poor time.
Nevertheless, does it hurt to run under 6 minutes? YES, it does…. it’s a deep physical pain….. sprints, 400m’s and 800m’s, hurt a lot, as well.
Although, at least I’m not getting butt implants for attention…..
Where was I?
Running is PURE, I love the purity of it. I love the, “me vs me,” aspect of it and in many ways it’s similar to golf, but much healthier.
Nevertheless, the SCIENCE behind my weekly run is utterly fascinating, along with the preparation, as well as the lung capacity and really the TOUGHNESS required to run under 6 minutes, deep into my 30’s. Is it training? Is it body type? Is it evolution?
Does it help to train everyday? Sure.
Does it help to eat properly? Sure.
But that’s the beauty of this sport too, heart can make up for inadequacies…… in fact, more than make up for inadequacies, particularly with smaller body types, where people can also use their lighter weight, to their advantage, as well…… That is to say, the more that I study the science behind running, the more that I believe this is a very cerebral sport……. hinged predominately upon mental toughness, for growth/evolution.
Which leads me to the topic of today’s article, professional running and the limitations of the human body. I often wonder…. what it feels like when famous Marathon runner Eliud Kipchoge turns the final corner, on his 26th mile at 4’35/mile pace. It’s almost spiritual and hopefully, in the near future Ai technology will quantify this pain for the public, but some professional runners endure a level of intensity very few human’s can even comprehend, I believe. The pain must be surreal. Professional running is a depth of physical pain and endurance that I believe cannot even be described. What Kipchoge and many great runners do, on a weekly basis is quite simply a level of toughness that you CANNOT TEACH. I would guess that lighting yourself on fire is about the only thing that equates to running the way Kipchoge runs a Marathon.
Now, with that said….. and my personal diagnosis of this sport understood…. I’m a fan of distance running. I greatly enjoy the 400 meters, I enjoy the 800 meters, both as a fan and participant and I greatly enjoy the 1600 meters/ 1 mile run, as well as the 5k (3.1 miles) and Marathon running…. *I’m transitioning away from park basketball, into my 30’s.
In fact, there should be a pro distance league of some sort, where runners brave the elements, run courses all over the world and perhaps run through dirt and sand. Chess and distance running have long been overshadowed by other sports, somewhat unfairly, in my opinion.
I’m straying off topic, but let’s get back to the point…. “Why is the 1 mile run so important? And what is the significance of it, in this year’s Olympic Games?”
But first let’s divulge some history, surrounding the standards of this event, throughout the history of this event.
Running the mile under 4 minutes had never even been done before, up until 1954, when an Oxford runner broke the 4 minute barrier…. after decades of failed attempts.
That was 66 years ago and since that time…. the limits continue to change.
Since that time, most High School’s today… have 1-2 kids… that can run under 5 minutes and a few are even near World Record times. We’re talking about 4’45, 4’30 and even 4’05, or 4’15, in some rare cases…. and in 2001, Alan Webb even broke 4 minutes, in High School.
Pretty incredible times, often only a mere 15-20-30-40 seconds off of the WORLD RECORD. Where I grew up, we had 2 runners who ran under 4’30, in High School…… Furthermore, that would’ve probably gotten both of them a Harvard scholarship back in 1970, but who’s keeping track……
Anyway; long story short…… it’s a field where the science of it has become shrouded in recent history and the standards are continuing to evolve.
And maybe I’m naive….. but for reasons unknown… this sport doesn’t get the recognition that it deserves. Maybe our society stands to lose some sort of, “work ethic,” by teaching our citizens to push their minds and bodies to their limits through cardiovascular exercises, but we don’t talk about the cardiovascular limits of the human body nearly enough, in today’s day and age……. If Alan Webb ran under 4 minutes in High School, Webb being a person with mediocre physical advantages, I might add, then why is the World Record only 3’42? For example.
Furthermore, I don’t know why this sport is so overlooked…. but I do know that the pinnacle of this sport…. has dramatically shifted over the years.
The World Record, 1 mile run…. today, is 3 minutes and 42 seconds, set by Hichum El Guerrouj in one of the most remarkable races you’ll ever see, which I’ve included at the bottom of this article. But when diagnosing the state of this sport, before you scroll down (where I hope you’ll watch Hichum’s moment of greatness), I want to explain something to the casual reader…… this is evolution. This is the evolution of not only athletic science, but society and the human body itself!
The World Record… is 3 minutes and 42 seconds….
Now comparatively, my friend in High School ran a 4’15, he was 17 years old at the time and in hindsight, he was 30 seconds off of the World Record time… while attending school for 6.5 hours a day, with no hope of ever going pro……. and training at night, unpaid, simply for the love of the sport.
Pretty incredible…….. although, what’s even more incredible is that friend placed something like 5th in our County, that same year….. 35th in the State?
Now, I come from a fairly competitive area…. but that in itself… goes to show what a slim margin of error, that there has come to be, when running at the highest levels today. Unfair? Perhaps? But this is the reality of a sport, which has so often gotten overshadowed by basketball and football, yet it’s a sport which remains an intricate part of athleticism itself.
Running mechanics, sprint speed, lung capacity, it all counts…. and the premier runners will even do breathing exercises, as well as, sleep in pressurized environments and spend lavishly on their bodies… just to shave seconds off of their times.
But here’s the thing……….. what is the human body capable of? Is it even possible to run under 3’30? I think it is……. and especially with today’s modern NBA athletes I feel that a runner with a superior body type, like say Kevin Durant, could possibly run record breaking times…. were he to commit to the less lucrative sport of running, as opposed to basketball. This concept, however, breaks into the topic of EVOLUTION and physical EVOLUTION of the human body, which is why I don’t think we have this conversation nearly enough….. in pop culture. Because Durant could definitely set the World Record but the government doesn’t want everyone striving to become 7 feet tall….
At the same time….. I also wonder… can you die from pushing your body past a 3’40 mile? I think that answer is also, yes. I think that your heart CAN LITERALLY EXPLODE, from training that hard.
Which in itself is also fascinating, especially in terms of the relationship between the body and the human mind.
I used Kevin Durant as an example because in my opinion… his Kenyan roots make him an ideal physical specimen, for the sport of distance running. *I would also assume that it helps to have curriers in your blood line, which I believe, is why Kenyan runners are typically so dominant.
Regardless; point being….. there might be 5,000 runners today who can run under 4 minutes… in the mile now… maybe more… maybe 10,000 can do it today, world wide. In fact, Google states a quote from, “OutsideOnline.com,” a running website, when asked about how many runners can break 4 minutes in the mile today, in America;
“According to a Track & Field News list, 487 Americans had run a sub-four–minute mile as of June 3, 2017, and 2016 was the year with the most new additions to the list (27), followed by 2015 (24), 2013 (23), and 2012 (also 23).” Jun 9, 2017
I’ve placed specific sentimental value on this event because I find…. this event is something of a catalyst, in the future evolution of the human body, as well as…. because I find it to be arguably the most competitive event, in the entire Olympic Games.
With 500 U.S. runners going under 4 minutes how does the Olympic committee choose 12 runners? Particularly, when the top 1,500 runners are probably separated by 1-2 seconds, world-wide (*if not more, literally separated by the difference in poll position). ALSO, BEYOND THAT…… what if the World Record wasn’t 3’42….. what if the WR we’re to be 3’36, would more runners run under 3’40? That is to say, is it mental? Mentally, if we weren’t taught to believe that 3’42 was the APEX of human achievement, could we run faster?
And that’s the real underlying beauty of this event…… is it a mental barrier or a physical barrier, at the professional level?
Also, I’d go as far as to say;
1) Michael Jordan could probably have come close to breaking the 1 mile World Record in his prime.
2) The US government has probably had Navy Seals break the 1 mile run World Record, before.
We’re talking about Julius Cesar’s army marching 300 miles in 5 days, type of human achievement…
Which is another great debate, as well, “were ancient Olympians actually BETTER than modern athletes?” We may never know… but Wilt Chamberlin makes me think that quite possibly a few were better. (You would think that Rome’s ancient Olympic Games would have had some sort of ancient records kept somewhere, water timers or something…. laying around somewhere….)
Nevertheless, what is GREAT? Is what I’m really getting at here… particularly when High School kids are basically 2 trainers away from being Olympians…. and every second counts….?
And that’s where, “greatness,” itself, becomes difficult to surmise……. although, again, this is what the Olympics were designed to do….. settle these debates…. and in the modern era, we have the film, we have the footage.
The last Olympic’s was peculiar, beyond peculiar….. to say the least. In fact, taking a look back at the 2016 Olympic Games, in Rio, and the 1500m event in particular (this event is 1500 meters now, for some reason it’s not a mile anymore) but it seems to me, that by the pace of this event….. there’s a strong likelihood that these runners were mad about the lack of RESOURCES attributed to their sport. Furthermore, I believe that this event was corrupted last Olympics and that these runners chose to voice their frustration through the Olympics, likely because they were either frustrated by the lack of funding attributed to their sport, or the intense competitiveness of the field, which was trimmed down to 12 runners, from a pool of probably 200-300 deserving athletes. Who should get to be the professional Olympian, when everyone runs a 3’45?
NEEDLESS TO SAY, I HATED HOW THESE RUNNERS RAN LAST OLYMPICS AND YET, I can’t relate to the intensity of running the mile, at that level. The pain of the 1 mile is intense, to say the least, even during my amateur 5’45 miles on the treadmill…. I wither in pain afterwards, so maybe it’s not my place to judge. This is also something that I think this Olympic field… would be quick to point out……
Nevertheless, those familiar with the legendary Steve Prefontaine… would literally roll over in their grave, having witnessed this heartless performance, last Olympic Games. Steve Prefontaine… for those who don’t know…. is perhaps America’s most famous distance runner… an Oregon runner who was coached by the founder of Nike and whom notoriously ran every race, “balls to the wall,” from start to finish.
Now, not to compare generations…. but today…. as you can see here….. a lot of runners seemingly coast through the first 3 laps of the race and then treat the final, 4th lap, like a 400 meter, sprinting event. And… while this sometimes makes for good entertainment, seeing an explosion in the final 400 meters, it can also feel somewhat amateur, particularly when the Olympic pace is 60 seconds a quarter mile and every runner in the field coasts through 75% of the race……. Needless to say, this is NOT how the 1500m has always been run…. historically speaking.
And in this way, running is an art, as well.
Because the first time someone ran this way, in 2005, or whatever, I’m sure it was entertaining…. A runner coasts through 1200 meters, at 60 seconds/400m pace, a relatively amateur pace…. only to explode on the last lap, for a photo finish, coming from all the way behind, to pass the field.
Nevertheless, the point that I’m trying to make is……. due to a lack of resources attributed to their sport, the runners didn’t seem to care as much as they should last Olympics. Going out at a 60 seconds/400 meter pace, for those who don’t know, is a jog for those guys, let alone most college athletes….. Furthermore, watching this race in retrospect, from the last Olympic Games, it’s even more absurd that the pace was so slow because 4 of the top 10 runners to EVER run the mile…. took part in this event, in 2016….. Again, to me this indicates that the athletes themselves, seem to feel that the 1 mile event, has become a glorified 400 meter, “sprinting event,” compared to events like the Marathon, which have grown more popular in recent decades. Or perhaps the runner’s were mad because their sponsors had begun showing preference to the Marathon runners…. to be honest, what was specifically said, I can’t be sure.
But this peculiar event from the last Olympics brings up a whole plethora of concerns and leads me to wonder, did the committee pick the 12 best sprinters, when trimming the field from 1,000 elite runners, down to 12, last Olympics? Or in essence…. did the Olympic committee use sprint speed… in order to distinguish the Olympic qualifiers?…. I guess we’ll never know but it seems clear to me that there was some level of consensus amongst these Olympic runners, last Olympic games, to coast through the first 1200 meters of the race! (A secret consensus amongst pro athletes? Did the Raptors win the Championship again?)
And I think the US government kind of hides this as well, perhaps because they don’t want everyone running distance in their spare time and then calling into work…… (*Corporate America tends to get their way on these types of societal issues and perhaps this sports lacks popularity because of the pounding on an elite runner’s knees, as well… Running your whole life, can lead to health issues, particularly in elderly years (although, running can also prevent a hip replacement, when you get old, too).
Regardless, more was going on in this 2016 Olympic race than meets the eye.
Nevertheless, whatever type of understanding that these runners had…… it was a sub-par performance, in my eyes, by any measure. That is to say, every race might not be run at World Record pace, but this 2016 Olympic field lacked heart, albeit, “heart,” at a level which I and most humans…. can barely comprehend.
Nevertheless, in 2016, a 3’50.62 won Gold in the 1500 meter event, not even the 1600 meters, also a method that I believe the government uses to shroud the limits of the human body.
AND AS A FAN OF THIS EVENT, AN EVENT THAT I CONSIDER THE PINNACLE OF ALL SPORTS, THAT’S JUST NOT VERY GOOD.
Now, will anything compare to what Hicham El Guerrouj did? Running the World Record time of 3’43, back in 1999, in Rome? (In the 1600 meters, running 100 meters further, I might add! *Video below.) MAYBE NOT….. BUT YOU WOULD THINK THAT THE OLYMPIANS WOULD CARE MORE.
But don’t take my word for it, CHECK THE TAPE! Am I being judgmental? I don’t know, but let’s see what the PINNACLE of human achievement is thus far…….. Below is Hicham El Guerrouj’s World Record mile and below that Steve Prefontaine’s finest performance, in a loss at the 1972, Olympic 5k event (3.1 miles).
*****https://youtu.be/spZ_tUff3Nw – This one’s blocked from streaming, but it’s available here.******
You can just see the difference… particularly when it comes to these runner’s HEART.
WITH INFERIOR TRAINING ABILITIES and inferior equipment…. to what we have today, these runners 20-30 years ago, are outrunning modern athletes……. which is essentially both shameful and generational, in some ways.
And why isn’t this a topic that’s more readily discussed in sports? I don’t know, but it’s a real testament to, “the human spirit,” and the concept of, “physical evolution,” itself.
Although, again, I wonder….. could Russell Westbrook or Kevin Durant, possibly run faster than Hicham El Guerrouj? I think so….. especially if more resources were put into running. In fact, I’m almost 100% sure… that a 3’30 mile, is possible.
In fact, I’d bet Adrian Peterson of the Washington Redskins… can run a 3’15 on the treadmill right now and probably has. Furthermore, the concept of NFL/NBA players breaking this World Record, with no recognition, also goes to show the power of pacing and how little the NFL and NBA actually speak about the realities of their training, like we’re all literally supposed to assume that American athleticism comes strictly from North American slavery………
But running is so mental….. is really my point here….. this is a pinnacle of human achievement and it’s really a pinnacle of fortitude. That is to say, this event in itself, is an evolution of the human condition…. in many ways.
Point being…. and I’m going to end this article with this….. limits can hinder people and even a, “World Record,” is a limit. A World Record is an accepted norm and it’s a cancer to the potential of human achievement….. in my opinion.
But ultimately…. I hope to see times like 3’30, or dare I say even 3’15, reached in my lifetime. Furthermore, I’d also like to see the Olympic committee shed light on the difficulty in distinguishing these runners and to simply pick the fastest MILE TIMES, not the fastest sprinters, in this year’s event. In conclusion, for the 2020 games I want someone to go out like Steve Prefontaine, “balls to wall,” chasing history, for the entire 4 laps! Furthermore, I’d also hope that the Olympic committee considers choosing more than 12 runners for this event, or possibly re-organizing this event, in order to include multiple heats and a bracket style playoff system. That’s because simply choosing the fastest sprinters and then letting the world watch another sub-par performance…. is simply unacceptable, in my opinion.
Because I want the 12 best runners on Earth, in the mile next time, not the 8 highest paid.
-William Larsen, CiviliansNews.com