Freestyle: 1500 Pacing and Training



The best 1500 swimmers display an impressive combination of speed and steady endurance. They show speed at both ends of the race while being remarkably consistent in the middle 1200m. Racing this way would obviously require a training strategy that prepares an athlete for speed, pace, and then speed again. Training pace alone would not be enough to race with the best 1500m swimmers.


Yang Sun and Grant Hackett hold the four fastest performances of all-time and are the only swimmers under 14:40. Most 1500s are raced in similar fashion, and all 12 performances in history under 14:45 were swum with the same speed-pace-speed strategy. We’ll just take a closer look at each of Sun’s and Hackett’s best two swims:

Mens 1500 Splits - Sun and Hacket.

  • Both men hold steady 58.7 – 59.2 pace.
  • Sun goes out in 1:55 (avg 57-high) and comes back in 54-low.
  • Hackett goes out faster (avg 56-57) and comes back in 56-high.
  • Sun’s last 50 was a whopping 25.94! That’s faster than any middle or last 50m for the men’s 200m and 400m free at 2011 World Championships!

Two lessons from this:

  1. Speed is important at both ends of the 1500, and an athlete needs to be prepared to do that.
  2. An accurate pace can’t be determined by dividing goal time by 15. A swimmer’s race pace should only consider the middle of the race because the speeds at the ends are so different.
    * Note that the Sun/Hackett middle 1200m averages are to a foot-touch, so a hand-touch pace 100 should be maybe 0.75 seconds faster.

For these same four races, the middle 1200m was also incredibly consistent. Every 50 split was within 0.5 seconds of each other -- all 24 of them!

For more tips from the National Team High Performance staff, visit the National Team High Performance Tips archive.

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