Middle distance track event

Middle distance track events are track races longer than sprints up to (and arguably including) 3000 metres.

Middle distance events

The standard middle distances are the 800 m, 1500 m, mile (in the United States), and the 3000 m (which is viewed by some as more of a long distance event). In the United States, the 3000 m is more common at the high school and collegiate levels (along with the US two mile).

600 m

This middle distance length is rather uncommon, and is mainly run by sprinters wishing to test their endurances at a longer distance. The 600 m is also used as an early season stepping stone by 800 m runners before they have reached full race fitness. The record at this distance for men is:

* Johnny Gray (United States) 1:12.81 Santa Monica 24 May, 1986

For women:

* Ana Fidelia Quirot (Cuba) 1:22.63 Guadalajara 25 July, 1997

800 m

The 800 m consists of two laps around a standard 400 m track, and has always been an Olympic event. It was included in the first women's track programme in 1928, but suspended until 1960 because of shock and the exhaustion it caused the competitors. Without the benefits of modern training, men of the era were, in contrast, expected to run themselves to complete exhaustion during competitions. The current record for men is:

* Wilson Kipketer (Denmark), 1:41.11 Cologne 24 August, 1997

For women:

* Jarmila Kratochvílová (Czechoslovakia) 1:53.28 Munich, 26 July, 1983

1000 m

This distance is not commonly raced, though it is more common than the 500 m event is for sprinters. This is commonly raced as an indoor men's heptathlon event, or as an indoor high school event. The record at this distance for men is:

* Noah Ngeny (Kenya) 2:11.96 Rieti 5 September, 1999

For women:

* Svetlana Masterkova (Russia) 2:28.98 Munich 23 August, 1996

1200 m

A distance seldom raced on its own, but commonly raced as part of the Distance Medley Relay.

1500 m

Along with the 800 m, this is a premier middle-distance race, covering three and three-quarter laps around a standard Olympic-sized track. In recent years, races over this distance have become more of a prolonged sprint, with each lap averaging 55 seconds for the world record performance by Hicham El Guerrouj of Morocco in 1998 at Rome (two 1:50 s 800 m performances back to back). Thus, speed is necessary, and it seems that the more aerobic conditioning, the better. This is a difficult distance to compete at, mentally, in addition to being one of the more tactical middle-distance track events. The distance is often witness to some of the most tactical, physical races in the sport, as many championship races are won in the final few metres. The record at this distance for men is:

* Hicham El Guerrouj (Morocco) 3:26.00 Rome 14 July, 1998

For women:

* Qu Yunxia (China) 3:50.46 Beijing 11 September, 1993

1600 m

At exactly four laps of a normal 400 m track, this distance is raced as the metric mile as a near replacement for the mile (it is, in fact, about 9 m shorter; however, it is still colloquially referred to as "the mile"). The 1500 m, however, is the most popular distance run at the college and international levels.


This length of middle-distance race, 1760 yards, (1609.344 metres), is very common in countries that don't use the metric system, and is still often referred to as the "Blue Riband" of the track.

When the International Amateur Athletic Federation decided in 1976 to recognise only world records for metric distances, it made an exception for the mile and records are kept to this day.

Historically, the mile took the place that the 1500 m has today. It is still raced on the world class level, but usually only at select occasions, like the famous Wanamaker Mile held annually at the Millrose Games. The distance can be romantically appreciated as a remnant of the past, but is, of course, still fiercely contested. Running a mile in less than four minutes is a famously difficult achievement, long thought impossible by the scientific community. The first man to break the four minute barrier was Englishman Roger Bannister at Oxford in 1954. The term "miler" is sometimes also applied to a 1500 m runner. The record at this distance for men is:

* Hicham El Guerrouj (Morocco) 3:43.13 Rome 7 July, 1999

For women:

* Svetlana Masterkova (Russia) 4:12.56 Zürich 14 August, 1996

2000 m

  • Another event that is rarely run, a miler's speed will generally allow him/her to prevail at this distance over less balanced challengers. The record at this distance for men is:

* Hicham El Guerrouj (Morocco) 4:44.79 Berlin September 7, 1999

For women:

* Sonia O'Sullivan (Ireland) 5:25.36 Edinburgh July 8, 1994

3000 m

  • Truly on the borderline between middle and longer distances, the 3000 m (7.5 laps) is a standard race in the United States, though it is not raced at the outdoor IAAF World Championships. This race requires decent speed, but a lack of natural quickness can be made up for with superior aerobic conditioning and supporting race tactics. The record at this distance for men is:

* Daniel Komen (Kenya) 7:20.67 Rieti 1 September, 1996

For women:

* Junxia Wang (China) 8:06.11 Beijing 13 September, 1993

3,000 metre steeplechase

  • The 3,000 metre Steeplechase is a distance event requiring greater strength, stamina, and agility than the flat 3,000 metre event. This is because athletes are requied to jump over five barriers per lap, after a flat first 200 m to allow for settling in. One barrier per lap is placed in front of a water pit, meaning that runners are also forced to deal with the chaffing of wet shoes as they race. The world record for men is:

* Saif Saeed Shaheen (Qatar) 7:53.63 Brussels 3 September, 2004

For women:

* Gulnara Samitova (Russia) 8:58.81 Beijing 17 August, 2008

3200 m

At exactly 8 laps on a standard 400 m track, this event is typically run only in American high schools along with the 1600 m. It is colloquially called the "two-mile," as the distance is only about 18 metres shorter than two miles. In college, the typical runner of this event would convert to the 3,000 metre run.

See also

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