In my opinion, it’s not just any other distance event—it’s the most special event in track and field. I know this may be an unpopular opinion, but let me tell you why I believe this.
Its history: I am a real history buff, so of course I have to start with this one!
The first official national track championship was put on by the New York Athletic Club in 1876. Want to take a gander at what one of the few events offered was? Yep, you guessed it, the mile (a man named Harold Lambe won it in 4:51.5).
The mile has such a rich history in track and field first in England, and then the United States. One of the first facts I ever learned about track and field was that the mile proved that indeed the impossible truly isn’t impossible. In 1954, Roger Bannister cemented his name and the mile’s place in history with the first sub-4 minute mile, a time many thought an impenetrable barrier. Today Bannister’s iconic mark is still regarded as a landmark moment for the mile, and for track and field as a whole.
I mean, there is a reason that a whole organization was founded to specifically “Bring Back the Mile.” It’s iconic.
It’s recognizable: You all know it, you all understand it, and you all inevitably ran it in elementary or middle school.
I ran my first mile when I was in elementary school, on a grass field filled with gopher holes. My sole purpose was to beat the boys. Whether you dreaded this mile run in P.E., or loved it (like I did) and whether you realize it or not, you all have a personal relationship with the mile.
It’s competitive: Google any 1500 meter final of a championship on the collegiate or professional level, and you will find what I can only describe is an EPIC sprint to the finish. (For context, in the NCAA and other national and international competitions, we run the 1500 meter rather than the mile. It’s about a 100 meter difference between the two!)
I like to make fun of milers (aka those who run the mile, including myself) as being the most secretly cocky in the sport of track and field. Why? We all think we have the best “kicks” at the end of the race, particularly in championship races. We all bide our time the first 1000 meters, waiting for someone to make the first move. Once they do, it’s an all-out, crazy sprint to the finish. Arms pumping, teeth gritting, and legs moving, milers like to leave it to the end to see who can truly outlast the rest of the field the final 400 meters.
It’s freaking fun: For me, racing the mile is similar to being a kid in a candy store and buying a chocolate Wonder Ball.
At the risk of quoting Forest Gump, you really “never know what you’re gonna get.” The mile is the same way. It may go out hard, and be a burn fest for the entire duration of the race. This is usually a good recipe for a PR. The race may go out extremely slow too. I have been in an elite 1500 meter race that has gone out in 90 seconds (6 minute mile pace- for perspective these women could all run 4:35 or faster). And everything in between. It’s all about the race situation, which can really vary depending on the day, particularly in a mile. That’s the fun of it! It’s a very different experience every time that I run it.
The mile is historical, recognizable, competitive, really freaking fun, and most definitely a distance event.
Best of all, I get to race it.