I was a mediocre 1500 runner most of my Decathlon career until the last couple years. In 1984 I broke my back in 6 places, and ruptured 3 discs. When I won the US National Championships in 1985 (8381) the back was still broken, I had surgery in 1986 and the higher level training and performances pretty much came to an end.
During the period from 1986 – 1992 I still competed as best I could, but relished the lifestyle, training, and camaraderie. I was fortunate enough to train with the greatest athletes in the world; Daley Thompson became a good friend and training partner. It was through Daley that I finally figured out just what it was to prepare properly for the 1500. Daley only trained ballistic-ally, and could pull out a 4:25 1500 at any moment he needed to win (but rarely ever needed it). Daley and I would run a 1200 weekly, and would simply warm up and get it done. What I found to be amazing was that the confidence it inspired was earth shattering for me. The 1200 became nothing more than a glorified warm up, and I used it as such on occasion (only took 20min to recover for training). I knew I could go sub 4:30 anytime, never once feared it again, and even offered to help others pace out a run once in a while.
In 1988, I had already qualified for the Olympic Trials and I helped a young guy qualify by pacing and prodding him through a lifetime best 1500 in a Santa Barbara, CA Decathlon, it was Dan O’Brien. Dan’s qualifying was a key turning point in his life, and kept him in the event. So many times I would watch incredibly gifted Decathletes wash away stunning performances because they seemingly fell apart, and ran embarrassing 1500’s. Think of it, guys who could run sub 48, 400M. They considered a 2:20 800M “easy”, but suddenly a 3:35 1200M became something to be afraid of. They rolled out in 1:20, 2:40, and then 4:05 @ 1200M! Never giving themselves the opportunity to ever run well. Gone were the training “runs” of 5K that only deadened the legs, or the 400m repeats that hurt so much. One effort, once a week (72, 72, 72), that felt a bit uncomfortable for only the last 30 seconds of a 3:36 effort, to ensure taking the weight off of the 1500! So Easy...
BTW – Daley was a truly unique individual. So much training and competing depends on mental toughness and being a competitor. To this day I’ve never met anyone that had what he had/has. Daley never even entered the possibility of a loss in his mind while he was healthy, it just was not possible…and it effected those that competed against him. Kind of like Arnold Schwarzenegger at the Olympia, “I’m here now, we can start, who will get second?”