The Magic of 1500m Night Continues

The 11th annual 1,500m Night "was everything I expected it to be!" proclaimed first time attendee Greg Hetterley, winner of the 2nd fastest men's section in a Personal Best time of 3:47.57. "The atmosphere of running under the lights, against some of the best competition in Canada, and competing in front of engaged, knowledgeable spectators is an athlete’s dream. It was definitely worth the travel from Saskatchewan, and I will be back next year for sure!"

Participants in Canada's largest annual middle distance PB-a-thon were once again met with favourable conditions on Sunday, June 16th at TD Stadium in London, Ontario. The meet saw a record 399 finishers - aided by a record 153 female finishers - including all levels of competitors, from locals participating in their first ever 1,500m to experienced National team competitors.

An impressive 30 sections of 1,500m races took place, alternating between men's and women's fields, with the 25 Open sections progressing faster and faster, culminating in the 5 High Performance sections. Says Jamie Stafford: "Every race was filled with drama and it’s rather remarkable to see so many athletes in one place with one purpose. The high performance sections thrilled but perhaps it’s the earliest sections that are the most compelling. Here athletes of very young ages compete with slightly more senior athletes. We understand why high performance athletes compete but understanding what motivates the very young and the very “not so young” is worthy of reflection. My children have thrived at this meeting through the years and how fitting for Nicholas to run his first 1500m here! Great event! Best show in town!!”

The Staffords have indeed thrived at 1,500m Night, with three family members collecting a sizeable amount of Section Winner prizing over the years. As women's overall champion Lucia Stafford of UTTC recounts, “The first time I ran at this meet was 7 years ago as an early section competitor inspired by all the fast races and hoping to one day be in the high performance section running with the elites. To come back this year as one of those runners and have the opportunity to reflect back is a surreal experience. I am so glad to see the magic of 1500m night continue and to have shared it with my brother and runners of all ages."

Stafford put a sizeable gap on her competitors over the final lap with a strong finishing kick. Thanks to the pacing duties of Mikenna Vanderheyden, five women ran under the 4:20 mark, topped by the 4:14.41 of Stafford.

While simple in concept, the success of 1,500m Night follows from the help of excellent local officials, as well as collaborative efforts. New in 2019, for example, was the move to secure a second announcer - Evan Ubene of Hamilton - who was an excellent complement to regular announcer Michael Rochus; the duo kept spectators engaged with their colourful commentary. Often overlooked at track meets, officials and volunteers are the cornerstone of a smoothly running meet. Capturing this impact, Nick Falk writes: "This year everything was on time and conditions were great, making for a low stress environment for all those looking for pb's." Falk elaborates on the ambience of 1,500m Night: "What I love is that anyone you talk to after their race has their own story of how it went down, how they felt, and where they're going next; just a great atmosphere all together." In the coming weeks, we will highlight a few of our regular Runners' Choice London Distance Series officials via mini-profiles on the Endurance Odyssey social media accounts.

Part of what has made 1500m Night such a strong competitive opportunity is large participation numbers from Ontario clubs such as Speed River, Central Toronto, and the Newmarket Huskies. 2019 also saw an increase in representation from Eastern Ontario groups such as the Ottawa Lions and Physi-Kult Kingston. Ecstatic with the 2019 event, PK coach Brant Stachel writes "Our group had immense success with our biggest group yet. This event has now been passed on from our seniors to youths as absolutely a must go every year! Can’t wait to be back next year."

For many, the appeal of 1,500m Night is the unparalled domestic depth. On the women's side, we saw 39 competitors under the 4:42 mark, with a stellar 70 men under a comparable time of 4:00, including the 500th sub-4:00 in 1,500m Night history - Michael Mather of Speed River. The men's field proved particularly deep in the High Performance sections this year, with 14 athletes under the 3:50 mark including the 3 fastest times run on Canadian soil so far in 2019 (though, we expect that to change at the Harry Jerome meet).

Following his 3:44.41 clocking - the 2nd fastest time on Canadian soil in 2019 - Monarch Athletics member Kyle Grieve had this to say: "I’m pleased with my result last night. I went in looking for the win and a pb, and while I came up short on the former, I was happy to come away with the latter. It has been a few years since my last pb in the 15 and it is nice to know I still have more to give."

Beating Grieve required a break-through performance from South Simcoe Dufferin's Isaiah Frielink, a regular attendee and big fan of 1,500m Night. "Every year Steve Weiler and his crew put on 1500m night they create an energy that is unmatched by any other meet I compete in," say Frielink, adding "they find awesome pacers and draw great runners to the meet which leads me to a large PB every year. This year I took my PB down from 3:48.32 to 3:44.14, a time which I doubted I even had the ability to hit. Already I am looking forward to coming back next year and throwing down with some of the best 1500m runners in Canada!"

Frielink, Grieve, and UWAC teammates Nick Falk (3:44.97) and Corey Bellemore (3:45.45) were aided by pacer Connor Darlington. Bellemore quickly slotted into second place behind Darlington, acting as a pseudo second pacemaker for the rest of the field and helping many competitors achieve Seasonal and Personal bests, highlighted by Frielink's superb finish, captured below.

Local Julie-Anne Staehli (Physi-Kult) was the 2nd place woman in the top section in a smashing new PB of 4:16.04. She writes: “I would say 1500m Night is the most highly attended high performance race of the season, and I’m lucky enough that it’s in my new home city of London, Ontario. My previous personal best was from this race, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I just broke it yesterday. Thanks to the race organizers, Steve Weiler and Leslie Sexton, for putting on this meticulously seeded and perfectly executed event. You make it hard not to run fast!”

With the London 10,000m and 1,500m Night now complete, we're half-way through the 2019 Runners' Choice London Distance Series. Next up is the Saturday, June 22nd Forest City 5,000m (and 800m) which will include a deep field of 5,000m runners in both Open and mixed (for seeds 19:00-25:00) sections. The London Series Finale takes place on Sunday, July 7th, featuring 800m, 1,500m, and 3,000m events.

Both photos above were taken by Matt Goodale Photography, our official series photographer, who will have 1,500m Night photos posted and available for purchase on Tuesday, June 18th on the London Distance Series page.

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