This past May 12th marked my 3rd USATF Road Mile Championship, and 2nd time under 4min on the roads of Minneapolis. Twin Cities in Motion puts on a great event, and I’ve been very lucky to be a part of this exciting and fun event for the past 3 years.
However, I was not always a veteran of Nicolet Mall, and I wasn’t always the favorite going in. Each year at the TC 1 Mile has marked a different chapter in my professional running career, and whether I was the unknown underdog or the confident returning champion, each race has its own special narrative and memory in my mind.
So here’s a little rundown of each race (with video) for the past 3 years, I hope you enjoy it!
2009: The Win That Launched My Career
Watch more video of USATF Road Mile Championships on flotrack.org
My first year as a post-collegiate Track Athlete proved to be a difficult journey. Being unsponsored meant I had to work part-time and train full-time. Considering that most of the top guys that I was competing against were total professionals, this presented itself as an extra hurdle to overcome. However, I was adamant in my quest to be the best, and I managed to work and save, and give it one big shot in 2009 to try and make a name for myself.
But despite winning the Indoor National Championships in the 3k, I was still running low on funds, and I needed to get some prize money to continue to support myself before I went to Europe. So when I heard about the USATF Road Mile Championship, and how there was a $10,000 bonus for the winner that runs sub-4…I was SOLD. I booked my ticket and prepared myself for the race that could possibly set me up to train full time for at least a year.
At the line I had never been more focused. Usually when I race, I try to take a casual approach in order to calm the nerves…but this time I knew what was at stake, and I knew how big this win would mean to me and my career.
But when Jon Rankin took it out, I thought that the race was over. He was a 3:54 miler, and he just looked smooth, effortless, and in control. I decided that I just had to run my own race, do the best I can, and I shouldn’t beat myself up about it. But around 500m to go I noticed that Rankin was getting closer and closer, and with 300m to go I noticed that he wasn’t taking the tangent, and with 200m to I passed by him, filled with the determination to launch my career and take that first big step to the National stage.
Crossing the line in first and under 4minutes was one of the greatest feelings of my life, and I still feel to this day that it gave me the pride and support I needed to take my running to the next level.
2010: Was it a Fluke? I Think Not.
Returning to Minneapolis this year I had a bit more confidence heading in. I was sponsored, had a new coach, just got out of altitude training, and in general just feeling really fit…and then I heard Lopez Lomong was in the race. I knew I had the experience of having raced here before, but here was the Olympian, the two time national champion in the 1500m, the World Championship Finalist, lining up against me.
Of course you always try to just think about your own race and run how YOU need to run to win, but this time around I must confess my sights were set firmly on Lopez’s back. He was the biggest challenger in my eyes, and I wasn’t going to let him out of my sights until I made my move for the win. I tucked in for almost the entire race, waiting and waiting and waiting…and although we went out very slow (64, 2:06), all I cared about was the win and not necessarily the sub-4 bonus. After all, I was sponsored now, and the only thing that this race could take away from me was my pride, not the new support I received from Nike.
The last 200m there were no misjudgments by the field regarding the tangent. Everybody saw the video last year, and saw Rankin’s mistake, and as a result I almost got boxed in for the last stretch. But I powered my way to the front, and didn’t look back until I broke the tape, having successfully defended my title!
2011: The Target’s on My Back/A New Challenger Appears
Going into the USATF Road Mile Championships this year I knew I had my hands full. Due to some adjustments made this year, I was in the most intense weeks of my training in preparation for making the World Championship Team in Daegu, South Korea. I was fit, but not as sharp as I would have liked. And everybody knew I was the man to beat. Even at the press conference I was jokingly told to give some tips to my competitors to make it fair. However, I knew that this field was not light, and that although in the past people were racing to get that sub-4 bonus…it seemed that this year everyone was there to beat ME. So that was some extra pressure without a doubt.
And to top it off there was a recent late entrant: the new American Record Holder in the Marathon, Ryan Hall.
When the gun went off, I knew Ryan was going to try and take out hard and use his marathon strength to hold on, but I was NOT expecting a 58 first quarter…especially since it’s uphill! But I managed to stay relaxed, and tuck into the pack. However, I wasn’t able to relax for long, because James Hatch, Craig Miller, and Aaron Braun ALL threw some crazy surges in the race to try and drop me. By the time Aaron made his move at 400m, I wasn’t too sure I was going to be able to hold on. But once I made the turn, and saw the finish, I switched gears and brought it on home to a new course record, a $10k sub-4 bonus, and my 3rd Road Mile National Title.
I was pretty pumped to say the least.
To read a bit more about the race, check out this link: http://www.startribune.com/sports/121752379.html