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How Many Laps Is 1,500 Meters in Swimming?

How Many Laps Is the 1,500-Meter Swim? You'll Want to Get Comfortable For This One

TOKYO, JAPAN - JULY 26: Katie Ledecky of Team United States competes in heat five of the Women's 1500m Freestyle on day three of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Tokyo Aquatics Centre on July 26, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

For long-distance swimmers, winning a gold medal in the 1,500-meter freestyle is as good as it gets. Nicknamed "the mile race" by the aquatic community, the event is the longest distance athletes swim in the competitive pool. Pretty wild, right?

At the Tokyo Olympics, the eight women who advanced to the 1,500-meter final, including Team USA's Katie Ledecky and Erica Sullivan, will make history as the first group of women athletes to compete for an Olympic medal in this event. Ledecky will be heading into finals as the top seed in lane four, after she clocked a finish time of 15:35.35 in prelims — incredibly fast, though 15 seconds shy of her own world record. While a mile long swim is nothing out of the ordinary for these athletes, it'll be a different story for fans tuning in for the first time. You might be wondering, how many laps is 1,500 meters of swimming, anyway?

Based on the dimensions of an Olympic pool, which is 50 meters in length, athletes will need to swim 30 laps to complete the mile swim. As someone who has competitively swam a long distance race before, I can assure you this event is anything but a sprint. Even Ledecky will need about 15 minutes to finish the race — which means that, after those first 50 meters, you probably have enough time to use the bathroom, grab a snack or a glass of wine, take the dog out, and maybe put the laundry in the dryer, all without missing the last 100 meters.

Definitely keep your eyes on the TV between those last two laps, though. At the sound of the official's bell, you'll know the lead swimmer is flip turning into the final stretch of their race. Whoever clinches the gold will make Olympic history, and that's something you won't want to miss. Oh, and just be thankful this isn't happening in a traditional 25-yard pool or else you'd really be in for the long haul: a grand total of 66 laps.

Image Source: Getty / Al Bello
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