Meet Narve Nordås, 24-Year-Old Norwegian 1500m Runner That Went from 3:36 to 3:29 in 1 Season

On June 16 in Oslo at the 2023 Bislett Games, a record eight men ran under 3:30 in the 1500m. The last of the men to break 3:30, Narve Gilje Nordås of Norway, ran a PB of 3:29.47. This run was historic for Nordås, making him the second fastest 1500m runner in Norway’s history, only behind Olympic champion Jakob Ingebrigtsen.

Nordås was the guest on the LetsRun.com Track Talk podcast this week. You can listen to the full Narve Nordås podcast in the player embedded below or on your favorite podcast app here. If you don’t have time for the podcast, we’ve found some time to type up some highlights below, edited and rearranged for reader experience. (Narve joins the podcast at the 82:15 mark).

LetsRun.com (LRC): You’ve been the talk of LetsRun, there’s been many threads on you because of the improvement you have made over the course of this season. We don’t usually see that much improvement in one season. What has the last month been like for you? Could you have ever imagined you would have improved this much this quickly?

Narve: No, not at all. I remember going into the season I said the main goal is to hit the World Champion standard of 3:34.20, and then maybe just maybe get down to around 3:32-high/3:33-low. That was the dream goal going into the season because my past PB was 3:36. Then I just ran 3:34 [in Oordegem on May 27] and then I started to believe that maybe 3:32 was possible this season. And when I hit 3:32 in Paris I realized that this was not a top race and I can run even faster. It turned out it was possible to run faster, but I did not see 3:29 coming. 

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On the 2023 Bislett Games in Oslo

LRC: When you go to Oslo for the Bislett Games, what was your race plan and what was your goal going into that race?

Narve: The race plan was just to stick to the pack because I knew the pacemakers were safe to run around 1:51 through 800m which was on course for the previous meet record. So I just wanted to stay with the pack a bit behind but not all the way far back.

I just wanted to try keep up when Jakob was going to push the pace on the last lap which which he did. However, it still wasn’t a perfect race in Oslo as well because there was a gap between the main field and our group and I had to try and reach them and used 600 meters to do so. When I reached the main group then there was only 400 meters to go then I couldn’t pass as many people as I wanted to.

LRC: I looked it up. Your last lap was 54.3 seconds, which was the fastest in the entire race. Were you surprised at all about how fast you were able to close and how much you still had left even though you were running PB pace? 

Narve: I definitely did not see that one coming as well and I didn’t really know how fast we were running until I looked at the (clock) after the finish line. I looked at the screen and then the time said 3:29. Also, I did not see the last lap coming because I know I can finish in 54 in a tactical race but not a 3:30 race. That there was quite a shocker to be honest. 

On transitioning down from longer races to the 1500m

LRC: In previous seasons, I see that you have run a 13:15 5K, 28:04 10K, and 64:57 half marathon. Your coach, Gjert Ingebrigtsen, said you only started to focus on the 1500m starting this year. Is that true and what events were you focusing on before this year? 

Narve: Yes, that’s true. So when you’re saying my PB was 3:36 last year, I really didn’t get the chance to ever run a fast race because 3:36 was the first race of the season and it was a tactical race, and then I ran 5Ks three times and I just really burnt out in the end of the season and really never got the opportunity to run a fast 1500m. Because of this, I think I was able to run 3:33 last year but I never did it. So the PB was what it was and it’s also correct that I started as a half marathon runner when I joined the group back in 2014, that was the main goal, just running half marathons locally. Maybe I would be going abroad just to run longer distances because I said to my coach that I’m not fast enough, I’m not talented enough, I have to run long distances because that’s the only thing talentless people can really do.

LRC: When and why did you make the decision to focus on the 1500m? 

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Narve: Maybe half a half year ago because I’ve run the 5K in the Olympics 2021 and in the World Championships in Eugene last year as well, and to be honest I thought it was a bit too warm to run a 5k so I thought maybe the 1500m sounds a bit better to run when it’s warm and humid as it is in the summers everywhere you’re competing in the big championships.

LRC: I’ve heard you refer to yourself as a talentless runner, do you still believe that after running 3:29? 

Narve: I’m not so sure anymore to be honest because I’ve always looked at running 3:29 as you have to have some sort of talent. I’m not sure, I think I’ve been doing the best training possible. However, [28] people can run faster than me, and if they would have done the exact same things as I’ve done the past couple of years, they would be better to be honest. Overall, there might be a tiny tiny bit of talent in the mix there. Just a little bit. 

On Sponsorships, University, and Work

LRC: What about your sponsorship situation? How long and who is your sponsor? 

Narve: It is a bit complicated in Norway compared to the U.S. when it comes to sponsorships because I think in America it’s basically only the shoe sponsor which is the main sponsor. In Norway, you have the federation, you have a track club, you have a shoe sponsor, and it’s also very common to have private sponsors as well. So you have maybe six or seven different types of income. That’s how I’ve been able to go on training camps and take on a real attitude camp this year.

LRC: How does that situation breakdown, who’s your biggest sponsor and how much of your income is coming from that sponsor? 

Narve: Right now HOKA is my biggest sponsor, which is my shoe sponsor obviously, and they’re contributing to maybe a fourth of the total income I would say, but it’s only a national sponsorship. But maybe after 3:29 I could go international with HOKA. 

LRC: Are you done with university yet? Where did you go to school and what was your degree? 

Narve: I’m still a full-time student actually, so I’m going to university but I’m not working anymore. I’m earning a master’s degree in applied data science. I’ve been going for four years and I have one year left, but I think I’m going to finish my last year after the Olympics. What’s cool is that I attend the university in the city where I live. 

LRC: What was your job? What were you doing when you were working?

Narve: I’ve always been working on a farm because my uncle had a farm so I was doing some manual labor up there from when I was six years old until I was 19 to 20. Besides that, I worked in a sports store in Sandnes, the town where the Ingebrigtsens are from. I am from a town that is 10 to 15 minutes south of Sandnes. 

On working with Gjert and his training

LRC: Why did you decide to start training with Gjert’s group and was it easy convincing him to let you join the group? 

Narve: I didn’t have to do any convincing because I got invited by another guy in the group. He said I could work with them no matter my level because there was not only the Ingebrigtsen brothers there but also joggers as well, who were running the half marathons so I thought why not I can run together with them at the same time as the brothers are doing their thing but we didn’t train together. We were just at the same place at the same time.

LRC: Did you ever work out with the Ingebrigtsen brothers? 

Narve: I had some workouts with Henrik and also Jakob as well but I soon realized that’s not too smart to run with Jakob because you will very soon burn out because he’s just going too fast and your lactic acid is just too high compared to his in the training. I don’t think that was too good of an idea.

LRC: What’s it like being coached by Gjert? If you watch the documentary, he seems like a pretty intense guy. 

Narve: To be honest, it is quite relaxed with the training. If you’re doing what you’re told, then there’s no problems. Why should I be anxious about that? I think it’s quite relaxed. Obviously, if you’re not doing what you’re supposed to do and if I’m stating I’m going to run 3:30 this year, and not taking the consequences of that and not doing the correct training or having the correct intensity and so forth then he can shout. 

Jakob Ingebrigtsen and his dad, Gjert, after Jakob won 2021 Olympic 1500m gold

LRC: You subscribe to double threshold training under Gjert. One of the challenges of double threshold training is because it’s so focused on these specific lactate levels, if you’re not working out with someone who’s very close to you in terms of fitness or then one of you guys is going to be running too fast, right?

Narve: That’s definitely true, so it’s all about being the fastest guy in the group and then you always get the correct intensity. I think the best thing is just to keep your own pace even if it means you have to run by yourself. In terms of planning training, I do double threshold Tuesday and Thursday pretty much the whole time during the base phase and that would be from maybe October 1 until May 1. It’s basically the base period but maybe you can start maybe late September or ended period in late May. We’re still doing it now and I mean I’ll try to do it every single week even in racing weeks to be honest but trying to keep the mileage high and trying to keep the structure. I (ran) 90 to 100 miles when I had a race …. and now we’re back on 110 to 115 miles between the racing weeks.

On past performances and struggles

LRC: Were there any points where you are frustrated or thinking I’m not improving or did you all have always have faith that this break out that you’ve had here would come? 

Narve: Last season I will stay was a disaster because I PB by [less than a] second in the 5K (from 13:16.67 to 13:15.82) and the World Championships was terrible, (13th in his heat) the European Championships were even more terrible (17th overall) and after the European championships I said I don’t want to do this anymore — I’ve been doing all these miles just not to become any better so why should I do it? There were some weeks there where I wanted to just quit professional running but I got convinced to keep on going for at least two more years and I did. Gjert said that I have been going this far and if you’re this far just give it two more years. He guaranteed me the results will come just give it at least two more years and he guaranteed me.

LRC: I wanted to confirm with you the reason you started out in the longer distances was because you didn’t think you were talented enough to run at the top level in the 1500m? 

Narve: That’s 100% true. I didn’t think I was talented enough and I didn’t think I was fast enough. I can guarantee you I’m the slowest sub-3:30 guy in history. I think I’m not able to run faster than 1:47 for 800m. I can for sure not run sub-24 in a flying 200m. I’ve never run a 400m all out but with a block start maybe 51 I think. Only 51, not a single chance going sub-50.

On doping allegations

LRC: It’s pretty uncommon for an athlete to go from 3:36 to 3:29 in one year and you know there are some people out there that say this is not possible without taking performance-enhancing drugs to improve that much. What would you say to anyone who sort of questions that improvement?

Narve: It’s a bit provoking to be honest because I have been working this hard for 10 years just to be told I am cheating. It’s possible as I said earlier t0 go from 3:36 to 3:29 because I think I could have run 3:33 last year. It’s possible obviously to go even faster and be 100% clean. So I don’t really see why these accusations are coming but it’s a bit difficult for these “forum warriors” to see that.

LRC: How does it make you feel when you see your name being thrown out there with those sort of accusations?

Narve: To be honest, back in the days when I was much worse runner and much slow runner maybe I was one of those guys as well because I didn’t know what it meant to run 3:29 but now I do as I’ve done it. I can say it’s possible to go 3:29, no matter where you come from or what the talent is just work hard. 

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On altitude training

Narve: This year is the first time I’ve been doing one camp in October, one in January, and one in April all about one month at 2400 meters [7875 feet] above sea level so I think that also contributes to the fact that I’ve been improving so quickly when the track season first started. I will stay in St. Moritz until World Championships. 

On different types of training and recovery

Narve: I try to avoid the treadmill as much as possible because I hate it so when I’m doing morning thresholds back home I’m doing it on trails. We do hills just once a week. I wouldn’t really call the long run a long run because it’s too easy and too short but mostly 20K [12.4 miles] to be honest so it’s not really long run just something longer than the regular runs. And it’s always easy, never fast.

LRC: What techniques do you employ to stay injury-free while doing this double threshold training?

Narve: I think one of the reasons is that I’m never running on concrete or asphalt I’m always trying to run on soft surfaces and trails or dirt roads and try to avoid the treadmill because I think it’s a bit too hard and stiff as a surface. Also, eating enough and the right nutrition that’s important as well as doing plyometrics mobility exercises. Finally, be patient and do the progression in a smart way so not going from 70 miles in one season to 100 miles in the next season, try to increase with maybe five to 10 miles every single year until you reach 150 miles a year. 

On his upcoming racing schedule

LRC: What’s your racing schedule look like between now and Budapest? 

Narve: I’m going to be at Norwegian nationals in two weeks and then hopefully I can get into a few Diamond Leagues in the 1500m, but I don’t know yet. Maybe a 5k but I’m not sure if we’re going to run a 5k because it’s demanding a bit more recovery afterwards compared to a 1500m but it would be fun just to run a 5K in the shape that I’m in right now just to see if I can hit the sub-13. 

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