How to win a mile or 1500-meter race

Written by steven lafler
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The mile run and its metric cousin, the 1,500 meters, are classic tests of endurance and speed. The successful miler is able to sustain a quick pace for the entire race and can unleash a winning sprint at the end. All things being equal, the smart runner with a sound strategy has the best chance for victory.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

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Things you need

  • Running shoes
  • Racing shoes with spikes
  • Shorts
  • T-shirt
  • Track

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  1. 1

    Begin training at least one month prior to a mile or 1,500-meter race. Three times per week, run repeat 400-meter intervals at mile-race pace, with a 400-meter slow jog between each. Start with three or four repeat intervals and gradually increase the number of repeats until you can run eight to 10 in one workout. Run easily for a few miles on days between interval workouts. As race day nears, substitute one day per week of repeat 200-meter intervals at faster-than-mile-race pace. Sprint the last 200 repeat of this workout.

  2. 2

    Taper your workouts as race day approaches. Run your final interval workout four days before race day, and jog three miles slowly on the two days before the race, resting your legs for the big day.

  3. 3

    Relax on the starting line and visualise yourself breaking the tape in first place. Follow the pace of one or two other runners when the starting gun goes off, relaxing into an even pace. Maintain contact with the leading runners, not falling more than 10 or 15 yards behind them.

  4. 4

    Run an even, rhythmical pace in the middle stage of the race. Pass runners who tire with a smooth acceleration. Follow closely any runner who passes you and maintain contact with him.

  5. 5

    Entering the last lap, position yourself right behind the leader or leading group. As runners accelerate toward the finish, go along with them. As you enter the final turn, position yourself on the right shoulder of the lead runner. Pass him coming off the turn and sprint to the tape to win.

  6. 6

    Should you prefer to lead the race, run an even pace, with a target time in mind for finishing. Consider taking the lead at the halfway point instead of the start. Win the race by pressing hard from the halfway point, when the other runners will be feeling the stress of your pace.

Tips and warnings

  • Experiment in races with both a fast-finish strategy and a front-running strategy, to see which you prefer.
  • It is OK if you do not win. Do your best and look forward to the next race.
  • Plan on running several races over the course of a month or so, to achieve the best overall results.
  • Every runner experiences tiredness in racing. When you hit a tough patch, maintain your running rhythm and relaxed stride, while pressing on at a sustainable pace.
  • Inexperienced racers tend to start too fast. Do not make this mistake. Pass the fast-starters as they tire in the middle of the race.

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