How it works
Runners compete over three-and-three-quarter laps of a 400m track. They make a bunched standing start and can break immediately for the inside.
In the USA and Great Britain, the mile (1609m) was a common middle-distance race. But the metric 1500m has been contested by men at every Olympic Games since 1896. It wasn’t until the 1972 Games in Munich, however, that women raced over this distance.
Did you know
When Hicham El Guerrouj set his world record of 3:26.00 in Rome in 1998 he ran less than 55 seconds for each lap.
North African and Kenyan male athletes have dominated in recent times. But Great Britain and the USA also have strong traditions. Among the women, Russia takes the fight to the North African nations.
Hicham El Guerrouj
The Moroccan won four consecutive world titles (1997 to 2003) and finally secured that elusive Olympic gold in 2004. He is also the current world record-holder for the mile with his 3:43.13.
The Russian was originally an 800m runner, but she achieved far more at 1500m. At the 1996 Olympic Games she became the second woman to land the 800m/1500m gold double. She later won the European (1998) and world (1999) 1500m titles. She currently holds the world record for the mile at 4:12.56.