Born to Run in the U.S.A : 25 American Milers Break Four ….On The Same Day

Blog #7: February 17, 2015

The Mile is back.

Or, did it ever go away?

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As much of an anomaly that these series of blizzards have been for the Northeast this year…something even more unusual happened this past weekend in four different U.S. cities.

In Boston, New York, Seattle and Ames, Iowa, an unprecedented 36 milers broke four minutes for the mile on Saturday, February 14, 2015.

Here are the stats:

  • 24 hours
  • 36 total Sub-Four miles
  • 25 Americans
  • 23 were on banked tracks
  • 13 were on flat tracks
  • 8 of the top 9 times overall were at Millrose
  • 11 were at B.U.’s Valentine’s Day Invite
  • Four were from Georgetown athletes
  • Only two Kenyans
  • One runner from Villianova ran 3:57 but was in the DMR at Millrose (37)
  • The World Masters Mile record was broken (Lagat 3:54.91))
  • The World 45-49 record was broken (Trautmann 4:12.61)

That question is: What is going on? How have all these milers come out of the woodwork? Is this connected with Global Warming? Is there EPO in the water? Illegal spikes? Did B.U. forget to put 10 meters of their track in again? Oh that’s right…it doesn’t come apart anymore, new facility. That was a dirty rumor about the old Armory track anyway.

Never happened. As far as you know.

One main attraction may be the distance. The mile is cool and possibly a little sexy and maybe a little bit rock ‘n’ roll. To be a miler is a little bit of an American tradition: Jim Ryun, Marty Liquori, Steve Scott, Jim Spivey, Alan Webb, Bernard Lagat…all household names who ran between 3:46 to 3:50 for the distance. All Olympians and a few won some medals. Four of those guys went even went under Four before they were 19!

And if you want to extend your running career later on, staring with the mile is a bit of a prerequisite to the 5000 and 10,000 meters, just ask Pre, Lindgren, Liquori, Lagat, Solinsky…all 4:00 minutes or better and killer distance runners and AR holders. Improve you mile speed and plug it into the McMillan Pace Calculator and magical times appear for longer distances.

This is an eight lap race not the marathon. It’s not 16 laps like that grueling 2-mile. I remember suffering through my share of 5000 meter indoor races, I can attest 24 1/2 laps can be dizzying on the 200-meter oval.

However, if you talk to someone like Will Leer, when asked how much he trains per week, his response was, “A lot.”

Training for a sub-4 means you are running 70-100+ miles per week PLUS speed work, tempos, long runs, hills, cross-training, and a number of other hard training. In the Northeast, to get all this done, it is grueling especially in the winter. I recall the stories from a high school buddy who saw Brad Schlapak and Eric Nedeau train for the mile at Northeastern University. This is especially for Schlapak, who broke 4-minutes then went onto to be a U.S. X-C Champion and race successfully in longer distances, it sounded much like marathon training to me.

The miles builds strength but also speed. It takes a little bit of a sprinter and a little bit of an engine to achieve good mile times. I ran a 4:14.9 for my best. I was 18 and ran it at one of the Northeastern Twilight meets up in Dedham, MA. My best came with my first and only defeat of an injured Providence soph and former Massachusetts X-C star, Scott Cody. I won the heat. Indoors my best was a 4:15 which I ran three times at Brown and up in Syracuse. I never had the wheels to come close. I think my issue was purely speed. Guys like Eric Nedeau across town at NU moved up from the 400 meter hurdles to shatter 4-minutes but also could run in the 1:40s for the 800. Lower mileage, great turnover.

In the end, something extraordinary happened this past weekend in the United States. 36 people smashed four minutes in the mile. As Bannister proclaimed when he broke the barrier in 1954, quoting King Louis XV of France:

“Après moi, le déluge”……”After me, the flood”.

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

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