Blog #6 – February 14, 2015
3000 meters. 8 minutes, 28 seconds. Valentine’s Day Invitational. Boston University. February 1990. 25 years ago from today.
I was 18 years and six months old.
And, yes, I ran that time.
I was a freshman at Boston College with a PR’s of 4:21 for the mile and 10:00 for two miles and this was possibly the race of my career. The fall before, I had gotten over a case of Mononucleosis that set my cross-country season back until mid-October. I’d run in the 27:00 for 5 miles at Franklin Park, finished runner-up in the J.V. New Englands, losing on a big kick to Billy Sullivan from Providence. I concluded my freshman cross-country season by making the varsity team for Big East and IC4A’s. Decent achievements for an aspiring collegiate runner. However, I knew in the back of my mind, I had a little bit more.
I trained hard in December and remember running in the 8:50s at Brown University over Christmas vacation. In January, I went head-to-head with my high school teammate at Dartmouth Relays, Tom Coogan, a Dartmouth frosh, and out-kicked him in a mile for a 4:21 win.
Besides that win, I don’t remember many races that winter. I was really just doing track workouts and training through the snow and cold of winter.
I remember showing up at the B.U. Armory that February morning and learning that I was in the seeded heat of the 3000 meters. There were some Penn kids in town. The meet was not very well attended and B.U. head coach and meet directer, Bruce Lehane gave me the news.
“First heat kid. Here’s your chance.”
We went out fast. The first few laps felt like a sprint. At the mile I heard Lehane call out the split.
I guess I digested the fact that the split was four seconds slower than I had run a month before in an all-out mile, I’m not sure. What I did know was that I was in the hunt, running third behind the two Penn kids. In my recollection, one of them was a top Massachusetts high school kid, Bill Harrington from Swampscott and he was now a senior at Penn. I remember he had run 4:10 in high school against my idol, Bill Crowley from Seekonk and here I was, on his shoulder floating along and feeling good. The only thing we had in common was the fact we were both state mile runner-ups…with an 11-second gap
Around the 12th lap, I was starting to feel the pain of the brisk pace. I slowly felt my legs turning to lead. I made a last ditch effort and tried a move on the Penn kids passing one of them. I remember my coach, Randy Thomas standing up and taking note of my audacious move against upperclassmen and the fast split on his trusty stopwatch. On the last turn, I maneuvered high on the bank of the wooden track but the Penn kids held me off and my last image of the race was the glowing red digits of the clock
There were some shouts of approval from my teammates in the stands, ones that echoed off the brick walls of the Amory. I remember handshakes and pats on the back then being congratulated by Randy and my parents who were in attendance as usual. It was about a 30-second best and the conversion of 9-minutes for two miles was being thrown around (closer to 9:02-7). It was almost a minute faster that I had run the previous year. I was shocked. There was a conversation about Jr. Nationals and someone mentioned the conversion for the 5000 meter qualifying. I had just met the standard. I’d qualified for TAC Junior Nationals in June out at Fresno State. I had just missed the IC4A qualifying time by about four seconds.
My life had just changed in 8 minutes and 28 seconds.
But B.U. has always been a magical track. All my races there were pretty fast. The new B.U. facility is pretty magical too, built just around the corner from the old armory. It was a place that people went when they were fit to run run fast track times. This past weekend four runners from Georgetown broke 4 minutes for the mile in the same race. Yesterday, former Olympian and Georgetown alumni, John Trautmann ran 4:12, setting the World Master’s Mile record (45-49) at the very same Valentine’s Day Invitational.
In the end, I ran some good times in college but never seemed to match up to what was expected of me in this 3K….the conversions come to a 14:30 5K and 30:20 for 10K, neither of which I ever achieved. I remember the week after Providence coach, Ray Treacy coming over, shaking my hand, and congratulating me at Manley Field House at Syracuse as I warmed up for the mile trials. I felt flattered that he had noticed and went out ran a 4:15 personal best, only to be out-leaned by a UCONN kid in a photo-finish. There would be no final in the Carrier Dome from when the photo came back (I think Trautmann went doubled in the 3K and 5K that year and won both. I was the last man out for the mile final. I finished 5th in the 3K at New Englands that year at MIT three weeks later. That’s me trying to pass teammate Mike Pieroni (who was doubling in the 3K after winning the 5K the night before) in the picture above. I ran behind standout juniors and seniors named Giffen, Smith and Henderson, all who beat me.
But I held my own as a freshman.
In the end, I had a good day on Valentine’s Day 1990. And for 8 minutes and 28 seconds, I felt like a minor league superstar runner for a few minutes.
Coach Atwood is currently at work on his untitled book project on coaching distance runners. He has also published a short story collection, HiStory of Santa Monica: Stories available at http://www.historyofsantamonica.com, and Amazon.com. For ideas on distance training, check out CoachAtwood.com. He is the head indoor track and field coach at Middleborough High School, mentors the Wampanoag Road Runners, and has helped many high school runners realize their success with individual coaching. Have an idea for a blog post? Feel free to send him a note at CoachMikeAtwood@Me.com