We are forever stuck with metric versus English measurement discrepancies. Here are some handy rules of thumb for translating times. Of course, you can go online and find any number of calculators to do many of these. However, some handy rules of thumb while you’re out at the track away from your computer can be handy to know.
First, so we are all on the same page, I will be talking about hand timing. The rule of thumb for translating hand-timing to fully automatic timing (FAT) is to add .24 seconds. Hand-timing is artificially faster then FAT due to human error, no matter how good you think you are… you aren’t as good as FAT. After years of officiating and timing track races I’ll just tell you – this is conservative. Most timers lack the skills and techniques to do it well. But, I digress.
400 meters/440 yards (quarter mile) – The metric distance is 2.34m shorter so you add .3 seconds to your metric time. Most tracks are 400 meters nowadays.
800 meters/880 yards (half-mile) – Add .7 seconds to your metric time to give you your true half-mile time. The 800 is 4.67m shorter.
1500/1600/mile – The 1500 and mile are the most common international race distances. The 1600 is run as a relay or is the U.S. high school “mile” event. Again, since tracks are 400 meters our high schoolers do not run the “mile”. The mile is 9.36m longer than the 1600. The mile is 109.3m longer than the 1500. 1500 times convert to mile times by adding 8% (mulitply by 1.08). Conversely, you subtract 7.4% (multiply by .926) from your mile time to get your 1500 time. Add 1.1 seconds to your 1600 time to get your mile time.
For a quick reference look at it this way. For the mile, elite runners will run approximately 17 seconds slower on the mile than the 1500. 3:42.2 is the accepted 1500 time for a 4:00 mile. Of course, age group runners (you and I) will add 22 seconds if you run in the 5:00 mile range and 30 seconds in the 8:00 mile pace range.
3000/3200/2-mile – Ok, it’s the same story as the mile. The international event is 3000. We used to run the 2-mile in the US (and rarely still is). But, our U.S. high schoolers run the 3200. The 3000 is 218.7m shorter than the 2-mile. It is 7 and a half laps on a conventional track. Add 7.9% to your 3000 time to get your 2 mile equivalent (multiply by 1.079) or subtract 7.3% (multiply by .927) from your 2-mile time to get your 3000 time. Your 3200 time is approximately 2.5-3 seconds slower than your 2 mile time (18.72m longer).
5000/3-mile – The 3-mile is no longer run to my knowledge, if so, it is rare. However, I include it because so many of us run on tracks (400 meters) and of course 12 laps is not 3 miles. It is 28.08 meters shorter. The 5000 is the internationally accepted distance and of course is run in numerous road races as well as on the track. The 5000 is 172m longer than 3 miles. It is also 12 and a half laps on a standard track. Add 3% (multiply by 1.03) to your 3-mile time to get your 5000 time. Or, subtract 3.5% (multiply by .965) from your 5000 time to get your 3 mile time.
Much of the above information and calculations are from Bert Nelson’s Little Red Book.