There is something magical about running the mile. How many of us ran the mile in high school? OK, maybe you’re dating yourself if you admit to it since most high schools now either run the 1500 or whatever you call the bastardized distance of 1600 meters.
From Roger Bannister first breaking the 4-minute barrier in 1954, to Hicham El Guerrouj running the current world record of 3:43 in 1999, to Alan Webb running 3:53 as a high schooler in Eugene in 2001 and then setting the American Record 3:46 in 2007, the mile has captivated track fans. While the mile is seldom raced in the rest of the world anymore, each June at the Prefontaine Classic we get to watch the best in the world run the mile. Last year we saw 13 guys break 4-minutes for the mile. 4 laps plus a little bit. 1609 meters.
What about the women? Well, they don’t race the distance as often as the men, but the current bests are 4:16 by Mary Slaney (American Record) and 4:12 by Svetlana Masterkova (World Record).
So this summer, after a decade of running 100 milers, I wanted to see if I could still run a “fast” mile. My partner for this was Tbag, a 4:28 1600 meter runner in high school. He’s still got some wheels as he runs a fast mile each year, usually sub-4:50. But he’s getting close to being old (he’s 39) and he’s been drinking beer like AJW does, so it wasn’t a gimmie for him this year.
With five or six weeks of faster track workouts and drastically reduced weekly mileage, we set the date and time of Sept 11, 6pm at Hayward Field for our sub-5-minute mile attempt. I recruited 2:18 marathoner and former UO track runner, John Lucas, to help us with the pace. John, who is preparing to run Chicago Marathon next month, thought he needed to be tired before the mile so he wouldn’t go too fast. So Friday morning he ran 24 miles, with 21 of them at 5:30 per mile pace. A surprising number of people showed up to watch the old slow ultrarunner run 4 laps and 9 meters around the track. Not so sure why there was such a crowd, but it was great to have so many friends there.
You can watch the video to see how it shook out, but at 1000 meters it got very hard for me. Thanks to perfect pacing by John both of us got under 5:00. Tbag put a move on me in the last 400 meters to finish in 4:57.4 while I squeaked under with a 4:59.0. If you’re stuck in a rut doing that 100 mile shuffle, maybe you should get on the track and see what you can do. The speed comes back pretty quickly. In my first repeat 400 workout just six weeks ago I barely averaged 78s! It’s a lot of fun and can be a great source of motivation. Oh, and a personal challenge to AJW – let’s see if you can run faster than my 4:59.0. And don’t forget I’m 4 years older than you.