As promised via Facebook announcement on our flight returning from New York (as more of a favor to Julia), Alan himself is the guest blogger to give a little recap of Millrose Games last weekend. A busy week as he was off to Arizona for training a few days later, Alan shared some words reflecting on his final race as an elite miler. Summing up a whole career in one blog post isn’t going to happen, but right now the next logical step planned is writing a book to reflect back on his career. A disclaimer that this blog is by no means professional writing, just some words from the heart.
This past weekend I was given the gift of being able to toe the line with giants of the mile at the Millrose Games. I received a lot of attention for performances clearly unrelated to my 4:06, penultimate finish. A hair less than 11 ticks away from my indoor pr of 3:55, moments of my career flashed before my eyes as I raced along the track.
Although unspectacular, it was not unceremonious and intensely emotional. Now that I am moving onto other things (three to be exact), I would like make my first blog reflecting on how I really began my career and finally give some of the attention I received to the other guys in the race, specifically the winner Will Leer.
February 15, 2014
Millrose Wanamaker Mile Results
1. Will Leer Nike 3:52.47 (all time SB, PB)
2. Lawi Lalang University of AZ 3:52.88 (SB, PB, Collegiate Record)
3. Nick Willis Adidas 3:53.02 (indoor SB)
4. Nate Brannen Saucony 3:54.32 (SB, PB)
5. Chris O’Hare Scotland 3:54.66 (SB)
6. Craig Miller New Balance 3:55.09 (SB)
7. Leo Manzano USA 3:56.73 (SB)
8. Jesse Garn Binghamton University 4:01.10
9. Kirubel Erassa Oklahoma State 4:02.54
10. Johnny Gregorek Columbia University 4:04.7
11. Alan Webb BAC 4:06.11
12. Miles Batty Asics 4:10.12
Julia (JW): A little background history to how Alan ended up here – a grown man with no college degree (he will get it one of these days!), 12 years of professional running to claim as a “career” and now at the age of 31 (not 61) using the word “retirement”.
AW: The summer after my fifth birthday I was disappointed when my mom informed me that they had changed the age to start summer league swim team from 5 to 6 so I had to wait another year before I could start racing. I had been taking swim lessons since I had memories so I don’t remember learning to swim; only learning to swim faster. The next summer I was allowed to compete and one of the things my summer league team (the Ridge Heights Sharks) did was every Monday was give out a Krispy Kreme donut to every one who had a season best time the previous Saturday. After the first week everyone got one because you got a season best just by not drowning. But it got tougher and tougher after each week. We were like little puppies being taught how to sit with doggie treats. If you work hard and improve here is treat.
We even had a cloth banner that we brought to meets that said “We swim (little swimmer drawing) for donuts(donut figure)”. You could say that’s how I trained and competed for the rest of my life even in my running career. My dad would bring a bag of Mint Milanos to my early XC races and I could have them after the race. Yes, all of them. When I was at Michigan for college, coach Ron Warhurst would bring the team donuts from the Washtenaw Dairy after long runs on Sunday.
JW: I’m sure he likely ran his last miles a little faster than everyone so he’d be back early to get the first picks.. actually that wasn’t true, like me he was typically the first one to get there, last one to leave.
As a 5 and 6 year old swimming, this was an important life lesson because it taught me to recognize how difficult it becomes for you to continue to improve because by the end of the summer it got harder and harder to earn donuts. That challenge also made them taste that much better. This was the process of how I became addicted to the improvement and willing to work really hard to get those tasty treats.
So, to acknowledge the amazing performances of this past weekend’s race, I’d like to honor everyone who kicked ass with donuts. I did not quite earn mine as I had ran 4:02 a month ago.
JW: Interjection – I would like to admit I can account for at least 2 seconds of the blame as I was constantly requesting Alan for help with Joanie as I recently took on 2 new part time jobs, resumed training and realized I couldn’t be super mom .. and Alan didn’t really protest when he really should have been recovering. When you’re training for triathlon AND the mile- you don’t have much energy. It’s why they don’t have triathletes put on spikes at the final transition and step on the track to try to go sub 4.) Hey that brings up a good point. Maybe some time he could do this if he ever got the itch to run track again. It doesn’t have to be a formal race, he’s better for time trialing anyway.
If you ever meet the fathers of young kids who are successful professional athletes, they either A) have a supermom for a wife (Kalin Ritzenhein comes to mind) or B) they have a great nanny or C) they are Bernard Lagat. I witnessed him with his kids for a week, and never was it a problem to be up at 6 ready to go along. Poor Joanie has to entertain herself each morning for a good 30 minutes before either of us can move to get her out of her crib.
AW: Post race, I didn’t get a victory lap for winning, but did get a final lap around to soak up my last professional track experience.
JW: As a witness to this it made me tear up that as a way to honor the entirety of his career, not only did Joanie and myself get world class treatment pre and post race (trackside at the Armory and access to the media room), but the after party celebration sealed the deal.
Joanie, passed out from exhaustion of the track meet, was wheeled to the entrance of Coogans (the place to be post-Armory races). Packed to the gills, there was no way it seemed to keep her asleep in her 2×6 foot monster stroller. The next thing I know, owner Peter Walsh (who I’d heard about from Alan years ago) is rushing me in, clearing the way and parking her next to one of his buddies eating solo at the only half open table. This friend was then designated as babysitter as Peter sang to Alan with the crowd joining in, “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow” as we headed to the next room to celebrate (Joanie-free) with a round of beers. No donut, but a melted sundae was Alan’s post-dinner treat as it became impossible to sit and enjoy with all the love and attention from the fans and NYRR crew.
AW: So who did get donuts? I owe gift certificates to Voodoo in Portland, Oregon for the following to redeem (please give us a 2 day heads up as we may need to plan this around my sleeping, training and toddler entertaining):
Nate Brennan (my college roommate, former Michigan standout)- he’s also an old dude at 31 with a 2 year old and is still on fire – setting the Canadian record for the indoor mile. 🍩
Nick Willis (another former Michigan standout) – 2008 Olympic silver medalist and one of the greatest kiwi milers of all time- coming off a 3:55 outdoors and New Balance win the previous week; not the win but in the money with 3rd. The guy also has a 6 month old, but a note that it is likely Sierra is of supermom status. 🍩
Leo Manzano- 2012 Olympic silver medalist bringing his A game for a season best, showing that he can bounce back fast after a 4:04 season opener the week prior. He also has a toddler! 🍩
Lawi Lalang – setting the collegiate record and almost taking the win with an indoor PR 🍩
Ron Warhurst- not that he needs anymore donuts, he deserves one, as 2 of his current athletes (Leer and Willis) beat 2 of his former (Brennan and myself). Ronnie- Just make sure you head out for a jog later that week. 🍩
And finally the man of the hour….
Will Leer - 🍩 🍩 🍩
He kicked like we have seen him before, but this time had enough room to catch everyone to win the prestigious Wanamaker mile. (Unlike when he passed me the final strides of the 2008 1500m trials when he pushed me back to 5th. Good job dude. 4th place worst place.) His win on Saturday was not a fluke either. 3:52 is far from a “right place at the right time perfect kickers race time.” It’s a lifetime PR indoors and out, which is top 5 all-time indoors for US runners. A culmination of a lifetime of work. No kids to distract him yet.
Not to say that Leer will not go on to make World and Olympic team because he can and will, but no matter what happens the rest of his career, we witnessed a man achieve something he had never achieved before. He prevailed on one of the biggest stages against the best competition in a lifetime best time. The ultimate 1-2 combination punch. That is really something special and I was part of it.
So Will for your efforts and achievements, I can also throw in a bag of Mint Milanos along with the donut next time you happen to be in town … World Indoors are coming to Portland 2016.
By Alan (with commentary from Julia)
Race photos by David Bracetty.