Why is high school track stuck in the past?


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Re: Why is high school track stuck in the past?

Postby BBTM media » Sun Jul 22, 2012 9:45 am

Because of Roger Bannister and the sub-4 minute Mile, and as important, because Americans think, speak and relate in miles, the Mile is perhaps the best platform to raise the profile of and interest in the sport. No way the 1600 or 1500 have the same value and history for promotion in this country. Bring back the Mile! If you agree, join us: http://bringbackthemile.com/home
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Re: Why is high school track stuck in the past?

Postby Halfmiler2 » Mon Jul 23, 2012 8:21 am

Marlow wrote:
lonewolf wrote:I suspect many/most are still 440 yd tracks.

I haven't seen a 440y track in over 10 years and that's almost 100 HS tracks up and down the East seaboard.

The key facts are these:

1. USAians don't get the metric system, so it's pointless to to ram it down their throats at a HS track meet.
2. HS track meets are run in a universe unto themselves and in that universe the 1600/3200 makes perfect sense and the Mile/2-Mile and 1500/3000 make NO sense.

You can try and deny those facts all you wish, but they are FACTS nonetheless.

signed,

a VERY typical HS track coach and enthusiast.


I am surprised this thread did not end right at the above post! But a few of us, while respecting Marlow, do not think everything he says is revealed truth. He doesn't live on a mountain top. :wink:

I continue to support replacing the 1600/3200 with the mile/3000.

We have the mile at our club's summer all-comers meets and the high school kids think it almost as cool to run a full mile as to wear jewelry in a race. :)
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Re: Why is high school track stuck in the past?

Postby Halfmiler2 » Mon Jul 23, 2012 8:30 am

dj wrote:
lonewolf wrote:Obviously I cannot always determine a track's surface or dimension from Google Earth.. my assumption was based on what I perceived to be the predominance of tracks with the pre-400 elongated configuration...
Again, I am speculating but I suspect many HS football/track stadiums will not accomodate the wider turns of modern 400 m tracks.
But then, whadda I know? My HS class is planning its 63rd reunion and the track and building have been reclaimed by Mother Nature.


The vast majority of high school and college tracks in the Philadelphia area occupy the same footprint they did before they were reconfigured in the 1980s. All that happened was that one turn was pulled in by shortening each straightaway by 3'10". The arc of the curve remained the same, the radius was the same, the look of the track was the same. The only difference was the straights being slightly shorter.

I suspect the only remaining 440 tracks were the cinder/dirt tracks which were never given a hard surface. Only the very few tracks that were constructed after 1980 would have modern configurations with broad curves.


In northern New Jersey, the very few cinder tracks still around may be 440 tracks but that is about it. When tracks were converted to artifical surfaces or re-surfaced, the companies doing it always converted to metric. The extra space from the slight downsizing to metric allowed a few schools such as at my regional school district to go from six lanes to eight lanes.
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Re: Why is high school track stuck in the past?

Postby CKuykendall » Tue Aug 14, 2012 11:24 pm

kuha wrote:It says: "The sister distance to the mile (1609.32 m), the 1500m was born on the 500 metre tracks of Continental Europe." I've been contesting that "fact" for years and would love some REAL proof. Simple assertion has nothing to do with proof.

A mile is 1609.344 meters, as a Google on the number will indicate, so the IAAF entry with its 1609.32 is sloppy immediately in the first sentence. Arithmetically, the conversion is: 1 mile/1 X 5280 feet/1 mile X 12 inches/1 foot X 2.54 centimeters/1 inch X 1 meter/100 centimeters = 1609.344 meters/1 mile. The key there is that 1 inch is exactly 2.54 centimeters, not just approximately 2.54 centimeters.

I'd have to look up my source, but it was my understanding that, when the modern Olympics began, there was a look forward to holding the second Olympics in 1900 in Paris, and the Paris venue had a 500-meter track, so the event was installed as 1500 meters and things proceeded from there.
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Re: Why is high school track stuck in the past?

Postby CKuykendall » Tue Aug 14, 2012 11:35 pm

CKuykendall wrote:A mile is 1609.344 meters, as a Google on the number will indicate, so the IAAF entry with its 1609.32 is sloppy immediately in the first sentence. Arithmetically, the conversion is: 1 mile/1 X 5280 feet/1 mile X 12 inches/1 foot X 2.54 centimeters/1 inch X 1 meter/100 centimeters = 1609.344 meters/1 mile. The key there is that 1 inch is exactly 2.54 centimeters, not just approximately 2.54 centimeters.

Whoops. That should have read:

"...= 1609.344 meters." Stopping there, without the "/1 mile" add-on. The mile unit has already cancelled out by being in the numerator of the first element of the conversion and in the denominator of the second element.
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Re: Why is high school track stuck in the past?

Postby kuha » Wed Aug 15, 2012 5:05 am

CKuykendall wrote:it was my understanding that, when the modern Olympics began, there was a look forward to holding the second Olympics in 1900 in Paris, and the Paris venue had a 500-meter track, so the event was installed as 1500 meters and things proceeded from there.


Then why not the 500 and 1000? Why "endorse" all those wacky fractional distances: 400 = 4/5 lap; 800 = 1-3/5 laps, etc? This "500-meter track explains the origin of the 1500" story remains utterly baseless as far as I can tell.
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Re: Why is high school track stuck in the past?

Postby Marlow » Wed Aug 15, 2012 5:57 am

kuha wrote:
CKuykendall wrote:it was my understanding that, when the modern Olympics began, there was a look forward to holding the second Olympics in 1900 in Paris, and the Paris venue had a 500-meter track, so the event was installed as 1500 meters and things proceeded from there.

Then why not the 500 and 1000? Why "endorse" all those wacky fractional distances: 400 = 4/5 lap; 800 = 1-3/5 laps, etc? This "500-meter track explains the origin of the 1500" story remains utterly baseless as far as I can tell.

Kuha, as someone who has done exhaustive research in the matter and never came up with a satisfactory answer, what is your guess? Mine (Occam-Razorly) is that 1600 seemed too untidy, but they wanted something close to 800 doubled, so settled for 1500 as a 'tidy' number.
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Re: Why is high school track stuck in the past?

Postby Conor Dary » Wed Aug 15, 2012 7:03 am

Perhaps the French didn't want anything resembling the English mile, such as the 1600. So what to do? So the 1500 was born.
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Re: Why is high school track stuck in the past?

Postby kuha » Wed Aug 15, 2012 7:16 am

Conor Dary wrote:Perhaps the French didn't want anything resembling the English mile, such as the 1600. So what to do? So the 1500 was born.


My basic point, all along, is that 500 meter tracks have little to do with anything. It is my supposition that the 1500 was born from two factors. FIrst, the need to shift from the basic doubling progression of imperial (220/440/880/mile) to the base-ten framework of metric: thus 2s and 4s and 8s at some point had to adjust to 5s and 10s. Why not have the 250, 500, and 1000 as your "basic" events? Because they were simply too different from the established imperial differences--AND, I would suggest, precisely because 500m tracks were NOT really common. Thus, the 200, 400, 800 are nothing more than imperial-lite, Metric for the Wimpy.

But, this weakness became a a kind of strength with the mile: THE definitive and characteristic imperial distance. This was chosen as the breaking point between the 2/4/8 and 5/10 systems. Thus, the 1500 is similar enough to the mile to be a meaningful running distance AND it is different enough to define a NEW system--a French, continental system, that was very clearly NOT English. And we should not underestimate the importance of that last feature.

I've said it before, but just consider how weird it is to have your central distance in this whole progression be 1-1/2 times your "standard." We might as well have grown up celebrating the wonderful mile-and-a-half run.
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Re: Why is high school track stuck in the past?

Postby lonewolf » Wed Aug 15, 2012 7:54 am

Marlow wrote:[Kuha, as someone who has done exhaustive research in the matter and never came up with a satisfactory answer, what is your guess? Mine (Occam-Razorly) is that 1600 seemed too untidy, but they wanted something close to 800 doubled, so settled for 1500 as a 'tidy' number.

Uhhh,, how is 1500 m, as opposed to 1600m, "tidy" on a 400 m track? :?
I repeat, the 1500 m race is an abomination, inexplicably conceived and should be abolished. :evil:
All metric tracks should be converted to 440 yards consistent with the length of King James(?) foot. :wink:
Ok, the last dictum may be a bit ambitious but the first is administratively possible.
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Re: Why is high school track stuck in the past?

Postby Marlow » Wed Aug 15, 2012 10:28 am

lonewolf wrote:Uhhh,, how is 1500 m, as opposed to 1600m, "tidy" on a 400 m track? :?

Oh, I see you must be totally WITH me on the 1600 being tidy on a 400 track! :twisted:
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Re: Why is high school track stuck in the past?

Postby lonewolf » Wed Aug 15, 2012 11:38 am

Marlow wrote:
lonewolf wrote:Uhhh,, how is 1500 m, as opposed to 1600m, "tidy" on a 400 m track? :?

Oh, I see you must be totally WITH me on the 1600 being tidy on a 400 track! :twisted:

Indeed, I am. It is the only logical tidy comparable distance on a 400m track.
On a 440 yard track, the mile is the appropriate distance.
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Re: Why is high school track stuck in the past?

Postby aaronk » Wed Aug 15, 2012 11:59 am

Peter Snell ran his first sub-4:00 mile and first WR mile (one and the same!) on a 385 yard grass track in NZ!!

1500?
1600?
400/440 tracks?
500 meter tracks?

Explain a 385 yard track!!
Or for that matter, a 146.7 yard indoor track the Millrose used their entire history (until this year!).
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Re: Why is high school track stuck in the past?

Postby kuha » Wed Aug 15, 2012 12:22 pm

aaronk wrote:Peter Snell ran his first sub-4:00 mile and first WR mile (one and the same!) on a 385 yard grass track in NZ!!

1500?
1600?
400/440 tracks?
500 meter tracks?

Explain a 385 yard track!!
Or for that matter, a 146.7 yard indoor track the Millrose used their entire history (until this year!).

What's to explain? Up until about the 1960s, tracks did come in various sizes--predicated on the spaces they occupied. No great mystery there. I dare you to put a 4440y/400m track inside Madison Square Garden.
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Re: Why is high school track stuck in the past?

Postby dj » Wed Aug 15, 2012 12:26 pm

kuha wrote:
Conor Dary wrote:Perhaps the French didn't want anything resembling the English mile, such as the 1600. So what to do? So the 1500 was born.


My basic point, all along, is that 500 meter tracks have little to do with anything. It is my supposition that the 1500 was born from two factors. FIrst, the need to shift from the basic doubling progression of imperial (220/440/880/mile) to the base-ten framework of metric: thus 2s and 4s and 8s at some point had to adjust to 5s and 10s. Why not have the 250, 500, and 1000 as your "basic" events? Because they were simply too different from the established imperial differences--AND, I would suggest, precisely because 500m tracks were NOT really common. Thus, the 200, 400, 800 are nothing more than imperial-lite, Metric for the Wimpy.

But, this weakness became a a kind of strength with the mile: THE definitive and characteristic imperial distance. This was chosen as the breaking point between the 2/4/8 and 5/10 systems. Thus, the 1500 is similar enough to the mile to be a meaningful running distance AND it is different enough to define a NEW system--a French, continental system, that was very clearly NOT English. And we should not underestimate the importance of that last feature.

I've said it before, but just consider how weird it is to have your central distance in this whole progression be 1-1/2 times your "standard." We might as well have grown up celebrating the wonderful mile-and-a-half run.


Definitely! This is the best definition of the problem of combining the British Isles with the European continent and the reconciliation of the two measurement systems. The "NOT English" aspect can not be overstated.
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Re: Why is high school track stuck in the past?

Postby kuha » Wed Aug 15, 2012 12:29 pm

dj wrote:Definitely! This is the best definition of the problem of combining the British Isles with the European continent and the reconciliation of the two measurement systems. The "NOT English" aspect can not be overstated.


Thank you! I can retire now!
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Re: Why is high school track stuck in the past?

Postby dj » Wed Aug 15, 2012 12:37 pm

aaronk wrote:Peter Snell ran his first sub-4:00 mile and first WR mile (one and the same!) on a 385 yard grass track in NZ!!

1500?
1600?
400/440 tracks?
500 meter tracks?

Explain a 385 yard track!!
Or for that matter, a 146.7 yard indoor track the Millrose used their entire history (until this year!).



A 385m track was probably the largest that could be fit within the available grounds. This was also distance of the Stockholm track used for the 1912 Olympics.

For most of its existence Millrose was run on a 160y (c146.3m) track, 11 laps to the mile. When the current Mondo track was put in, the distance was shortened slight to 145.4545m (c159y), 11 laps to 1600m. Don't know where you've come up with 146.7y.
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Re: Why is high school track stuck in the past?

Postby dj » Wed Aug 15, 2012 12:40 pm

kuha wrote:
dj wrote:Definitely! This is the best definition of the problem of combining the British Isles with the European continent and the reconciliation of the two measurement systems. The "NOT English" aspect can not be overstated.


Thank you! I can retire now!



No you can't, as we'll undoubtedly recycle through this another three years from now. In the meantime, we have a full off-season to reinvestigate Jeremy Wariner moving to the 800m, and Wilt Chamberlain having the greatest all-around track potential of anyone!
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Re: Why is high school track stuck in the past?

Postby kuha » Wed Aug 15, 2012 12:42 pm

dj wrote:No you can't, as we'll undoubtedly recycle through this another three years from now. In the meantime, we have a full off-season to reinvestigate Jeremy Wariner moving to the 800m, and Wilt Chamberlain having the greatest all-around track potential of anyone!


Very true. Not everyone has grasped that the underlying structure of these boards is a Mobius Loop.
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Re: Why is high school track stuck in the past?

Postby Conor Dary » Wed Aug 15, 2012 12:46 pm

kuha wrote:
dj wrote:No you can't, as we'll undoubtedly recycle through this another three years from now. In the meantime, we have a full off-season to reinvestigate Jeremy Wariner moving to the 800m, and Wilt Chamberlain having the greatest all-around track potential of anyone!


Very true. Not everyone has grasped that the underlying structure of these boards is a Mobius Loop.


More like a Klein Bottle.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/c ... le.svg.png
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Re: Why is high school track stuck in the past?

Postby Daisy » Thu Aug 16, 2012 7:39 am

dj wrote:
kuha wrote:Thank you! I can retire now!

No you can't, as we'll undoubtedly recycle through this another three years from now. In the meantime, we have a full off-season to reinvestigate Jeremy Wariner moving to the 800m, and Wilt Chamberlain having the greatest all-around track potential of anyone!

We really need a FAQ's sticky at the top of each forum with links to the appropriate threads. Even a succinct summary of each debate. I have no doubt that Marlow has time to compile all this information! :twisted:
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Re: Why is high school track stuck in the past?

Postby Marlow » Thu Aug 16, 2012 8:11 am

Daisy wrote:I have no doubt that Marlow has time to compile all this information! :twisted:

Sorry, I'm back at work now, so I'm only available 20 hours a day to discuss T&F.
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Re: Why is high school track stuck in the past?

Postby posty333 » Thu Aug 16, 2012 9:34 pm

jhc68 wrote:But lonewolf IS right about the 1500. The initial presumption in this thread is skewed... we ought to be asking why international distances are stuck on multiples of 5 instead of distances which conform to 400 meter tracks that are required for any sanctioned event. 1500 or 3000 meter races are random and make less sense than 1600 and 3200. Might as well split the difference and run 1550 and 3100. Once the distance does not correspond to the oval all races are equally illogical and stuck on nothing more than past practice.
This is my reasoning as well for the 1600 and 3200. I prefer running an exact number of laps. The 3000 and 5000 have 1/2 laps, but that is a little easier to figure than 3 3/4. At least with the 5000, I am running over 3 miles, and could get a 3 mile or 4800 split en route to the finish. With the 1500 and the 3000, it always felt like an unfinished race. Not quite a mile and not quite a 2 mile (or even a 1600 and 3200). There were times in my high school years when I would run the extra distance at the local all comers meets to make 1600 or 3200.

One thing I do like about the 1500 is that I seem to get a psychological boost from the shorter distance. These days I am far from the shape I used to be in, so coming through with 3 laps to go when I haven't even run a full lap makes me feel like the race is a lot more than 100 meters shorter than a 1600.

My high school track was still a 440y track when I graduated in 1988, but I think it was eventually redone as a 400m. However, the only time we ran a non-metric race was when they accidentally started us on the wrong line in an 8th grade 800m, and thus did an 880y. We also ran yards at another school's dirt track my senior year. I think the only time we ran 1500 or 3000 was at an invitational at a school that had a cinder track.
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Re: Why is high school track stuck in the past?

Postby hc10003 » Sun Aug 19, 2012 9:11 am

Big fan of the mile for all the historic/legend reasons others noted. But I understand the reality of the 1600 / 3200, much as I dislike it in concept. I live in a major US city with woefully underfunded public schools. Like many such systems, a victim of suburban flight. Minimal sports budgets. Many track coaches coach a fall sport too; few if any officials at meets, instead coaches and volunteer parents usually run the meet. So the simplicity of "every race starts and ends at this line" is paramount. No matter who is bringing the kids to the line, taking splits, etc. in any given week, there's no confusion over where to stand. And the kids don't care about 1600 or mile or 1500, they run to win and to run faster than last week.

So on an international level, love the mile, let's see more, the term still means a lot to the casual US sports fan. But for HS coaches who receive a minimal stipend for hours of work, and who face huge challenges just getting the kids to class each day, let's not complicate their tasks any more than necessary.
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Re: Why is high school track stuck in the past?

Postby lonewolf » Sun Aug 19, 2012 9:20 am

hc10003 wrote: So the simplicity of "every race starts and ends at this line" is paramount. .

Yep, that is the nub of the matter. As much as I would like would like to perpetuate the mile,the fact is, we live in a world of metric tracks. :(
And, even if you start the mile 9.xx meters before the finish line, you screw up the spits, just as in the 1500m. :x
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Re: Why is high school track stuck in the past?

Postby Conor Dary » Sun Aug 19, 2012 10:07 am

There is nothing intrinsically wrong with the 1600. And even splits are, somewhat, important.

The only real big problem--which we have gone over many times here--is the thinking that it is an ENTIRELY new event. And although someone years before ran 1609+ meters faster that is still, somehow, inferior to a 1600 time. Ugh.
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Re: Why is high school track stuck in the past?

Postby Dilan Esper » Sun Aug 19, 2012 6:33 pm

cawong wrote:
lonewolf wrote:Ok. But, I don't think they are still building 500m tracks in Europe, or anywhere else, why do they still run a race that starts 100 m down the track from the finish line?


There is an incredibly important reason, though probably not historical, as to why the 1500 metres is superior to the 1600 metres/one mile race, and that is precisely the fact that the race is started on a straight rather than a curve. Until they run one mile races with only a maximum of 8 or 9 competitors, starting in lanes, I would absolutely refuse to run such a race. I've seen way too many mad scrambles at the beginning of such races.


FYI when we ran more miles, we started and finished them in front of the stands with a good run to the turn. The timing equipment of the day (AKA "guys with stopwatches") was portable.

All in all this was actually much better for the fans than the 1500.
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Re: Why is high school track stuck in the past?

Postby posty333 » Sun Aug 19, 2012 8:28 pm

kuha wrote:
cawong wrote:
lonewolf wrote:Ok. But, I don't think they are still building 500m tracks in Europe, or anywhere else, why do they still run a race that starts 100 m down the track from the finish line?


There is an incredibly important reason, though probably not historical, as to why the 1500 metres is superior to the 1600 metres/one mile race, and that is precisely the fact that the race is started on a straight rather than a curve. Until they run one mile races with only a maximum of 8 or 9 competitors, starting in lanes, I would absolutely refuse to run such a race. I've seen way too many mad scrambles at the beginning of such races.


:lol: Yes, the history of mile running is pretty much the same as the history of demolition derby: crashes left, right, and center. It's actually rare that all the runners in a mile race actually make it through the first lap. Thank God for the sanity of the 1500!
Indeed. We seem to see more falls in the 1500 nowadays than in any other event. I was never one to make a mad dash at the start. I felt it wasted too much energy. I'd rather spend that energy gradually over the first lap to get up to the front, or to run extra distance on the outside. Also, since the track at our high school was 440y, we started even closer to the curve than other tracks so as to finish the 1600 and 3200 at the same finish line as the other races.
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Re: Why is high school track stuck in the past?

Postby PDJ551 » Mon Aug 20, 2012 1:58 pm

In 1980 high schools went from yards to meters. NJ ran the 1500 and the 3000 for two years. Then it was announced that the National Federation mandated that the distance must be 1600 and 3200 so that runners wouldn't get confused. I noticed that some other states continued running 1500 and 3000. In the two years that the 1500 and 3000 were run I never heard any runners complain or any get confused.
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Re: Why is high school track stuck in the past?

Postby dj » Tue Aug 21, 2012 1:15 am

PDJ551 wrote:In 1980 high schools went from yards to meters. NJ ran the 1500 and the 3000 for two years. Then it was announced that the National Federation mandated that the distance must be 1600 and 3200 so that runners wouldn't get confused. I noticed that some other states continued running 1500 and 3000. In the two years that the 1500 and 3000 were run I never heard any runners complain or any get confused.


You're overstating the situation. The NFHS "recommended" the change in distances, the did not "mandate" it.

Thus some states to this day do not run 1600 and/or 3200. Those states chose not to follow the NFHS recommendation, and yet are fully compliant as members in good standing of the NFHS.
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Re: Why is high school track stuck in the past?

Postby Halfmiler2 » Wed Aug 22, 2012 12:54 pm

aaronk wrote:Peter Snell ran his first sub-4:00 mile and first WR mile (one and the same!) on a 385 yard grass track in NZ!!

1500?
1600?
400/440 tracks?
500 meter tracks?

Explain a 385 yard track!!
Or for that matter, a 146.7 yard indoor track the Millrose used their entire history (until this year!).


Maybe the 385 yard track was meant to be the finish of a marathon course. :lol:

The Millrose track that was 11 laps to 1600 meters was only used the last decade or so. Before that, the track was 160 yards.
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