The 1500m race. A sentence with the power to send fear through anyone who dares to ride it, from the most seasoned distance runner, to the kid who wished he hadn’t skipped history to enter the school sports day.
Unlike any other race, the 1500m race calls upon all of your resources, and has the ability to make you wish you were never born if you come unprepared. Contrary to the “eyeballs out” mentality in the 800m, and the steady build-up of pace in the 5k and 10k, the 1500m sits right in the middle. The 1500m man has to have the combination of speed, endurance, strength and a great tactical mentality, making it one of the most exciting races to watch on the track.
The 1500m event acts as the staple diet for every distance runner around the world, and brings athletes together from the 800m to even marathon specialists, who will inevitably use this event as a spring board to racing fitness. Considered by most to have a “screw loose”, the 1500m runner needs the full package, and must be prepared to take a lengthy stroll down lactic lane.
With the completion of this race being enough for most, how do the elites go about running the perfect tactical 1500m race? As imagined, a three and three quarter lap race with up to 15 athletes all of similar ability could easily turn into a cagey battle of wits, so with this said here are a few tips to get one up on your opponent.
With this race being such a compact affair, it is important to possess a controlled amount of aggression in order to get into the position you want to be in, at certain parts of the race. Whilst mindless acts of violence are forbidden, athletes should be encouraged to use their elbows in order to control their position in the pack, and to ensure they are not running too far from the inside line. Using elbows means it is more difficult for athletes behind you to block you in a slow moving pack, as will also make it harder to be overtaken.
Taking this on board it is just as important to get a good start as it is to have a good finish, and using your elbows can help with this. Avoiding an early mid pack scrap is not ideal, and although there is enough time to recover and move through the field, this can inevitably be energy zapping.
Referred to as “mushrooms” by Katie Mackey in her blog, athletes must ensure they do not surge too often in the early stages of the race. Short and aggressive bursts of speed can come back to bite you in the crucial stages of the race, when you will need that extra kick the most. Athletes should be encouraged to take closer order from the beginning and limit themselves to only a few moves in the race, whilst resorting to a more gradual and economical build-up of pace.
Middle distance races are a most often a mental chess match, and this is definitely the case in a 1500m. Whilst the physical attributes are essential, this will only get even the most talented athletes so far. Too many gifted athletes get familiarly comfortable with chasing the rabbit at time motivated events, disregarding what actually matters.
In order to win medals, athletes must be aware of everything around them, from ensuring there is an exit from a compressed pack to being able to cover moves as the pace fluctuates. Competitors can come back to bite you if you are caught napping, especially in the “no man’s land” stage with 700m to go. Whilst time trials are often good for confidence, athletes should always try and implement race tactics into some races, this is often better at low key races where there is more scope to experiment.
When preparing for the race, athletes must always ensure they have a game plan, and another one if that changes. For example, instead of making a move when you hear the bell ring for the last lap, why not wind up from 600m to go and catch your opponents, who may be bracing themselves for a brawl at the bell when everyone else decides to shift. Remember though this is not an 800m race, and a gradual relaxed wind up is often the best way to avoid hitting the lactic wall prematurely. As long as the athlete stays in contact, the most vital part of the race comes with 150m to go.
By looking at the best 1500m runner in the world, we see Asbel Kiprop of Kenya display some of the qualities listed above.
By getting a great start, he was able to avoid any of the jostling and stop start running which can often drain rhythm and energy.
After about a lap running in the lead, Kiprop was then able to slip back and let one of his fellow Kenyans do some of the work, whilst he lead the chasing pack. This is a particularly wise move, as Kiprop is able to see the whole race in front of him, and is seen to react to any of the moves made behind him, using his “mushrooms” carefully.
When the pack hits the bell, Kiprop moves into a commanding position, but instead of putting the pedal to the floor, he gradually steps on the gas whilst increasing his cadence, and keeping as relaxed as possible. As he approaches the final 150m he is in the perfect position, with enough reserved energy to surge away and win the race.
By self-evaluating your performances and weaknesses more often, you could become a more complete 1500m athlete than ever before.