The start line: a place where all the adrenaline, nerves and pep-talks accumulate. A place where, however ready, you’re running this race. Where mind games are played as people tussle for position. And you wait for no longer than a mere minute, yet still, enough time for the wild concoction of nerves to bubble up inside until you might burst…and then, BANG. The gun. The gun that signifies the commencing of the next three-and-three-quarter laps of sheer agony. The gun that marks the birth of glorious sporting moments and bitter disappointments. Welcome to, arguably, the most dreaded race on track: the 1500 metres.
The journey to the finish line (oh what a marvellous sight that will be) begins with the first 100 metres of sprinting chaos. In the majority of races the start is pretty horrendous (my latest one in particular, where we only just avoided a messy pile up of spikes and mud). I mean, forget being fiercely elbowed by fellow competitors, imagine being impaled by running spikes. I don’t think anyone needs me to tell them that running spikes are seriously sharp. How far do you push it? Once you’re in the race, you’re pretty much in it. Overtaking is definitely possible but slipstreaming behind someone the entire race is the best way to go. It’s certainly irritating for the person ahead of you. Trust me, I’ve had someone slipstream for two laps then beat me by 0.4 seconds at the finish line. 0.4 seconds…ugh.
Everyone seems to have different tactics for running the infamous 1500 metre. Some say sprint to get a good position, then relax into a steady pace, pushing a little harder every lap. Others insist on setting off steady and planning to overtake, really stepping on the pedal in the final lap. But it doesn’t always go as planned. Busy start lines tend to be the trickiest, all to often throwing any vaguely preconceived tactics out the window – especially (as in my last race) if you get stuck in the middle, leaving you with two options: sprint like your life depends on it or cling to the back. Neither of which are the ideal way to start the race.
The 1500 metre race is a true test of stamina and endurance. I remember crossing the 300 metre mark with three laps to go on my first race and seriously doubting I’d finish. “Just three laps to go!” – oh really, like reminding me there’s ‘only three laps’ is going to help, gee thanks. When you’re in the race, everything seems a blur. Watching the race, of course, is miles easier; you can see when people are catching up and predict the next tactical moves. However when you’re running, turning to check where you are in relation to other runners is the last thing you want to do; a distance race is all about conserving energy, right?! It’s especially demotivating when all you can hear is people cheering on the person behind you. Biased-much.
“First or last, no one looks down on a 1500 metre runner.” (Quote from a friend, without whom I wouldn’t have survived all my races so far). People don’t look up to 1500 metre runners for nothing; it’s tough. When you cross that finish line, you feel utterly drained, like you might collapse in a crumpled mess. Your legs resemble jelly, head throbs, chest burns, (I know, I’m making it all sound joyous aren’t I?!) As much as you feel completely drained by a hurricane of fatigue and pain, the overwhelming sense of elation and achievement is the best feeling; it’s what keeps bringing you back to the running track (that, and the desire to set a new PB!) *Thank goodness for serotonin.*