13 years have come and gone since a high school senior (Alan) rewrote history with a 3:53.43 mile at the Pre Classic on May 27, 2001. Throughout this next week on my blog I have invited friends of Alan to chime in about the great feat which took him to the heights and arguably brought back revival to the US distance scene in track and field. June 5th also marks the 50th Anniversary in which Jim Ryun became the first high schooler to break 4:00 in the mile (1964). Alan will be heading to San Diego to celebrate the Jim Ryun Festival of Miles this upcoming week. Here’s some more history for the up and coming track stars and taking those of us who have been around long enough to that “where were you when…” moment.
Guest Blogger – Ahrlin Bauman, master’s National Champ at US Cross Country 2013. He’s pretty fast for an old guy (age 41 as of January 2014). Current Bowerman Track Club teammate and racing enthusiast (this guys runs hard or he runs hard. Rarely does he do easy runs. He’d rather take a day off). So dedicated I caught him grinding out intervals less than 24 hours post kidney stone. Twin to Oscar Bauman; known as the Dutch Brothers. One of Alberto’s go-to guys for workout assistance. Famous pace making during Jordan Hasay’s chase for the 10,000m world standard. Took a back seat to me at the finish last spring during a 5K road race (women appropriate headstart; photos of proof).
Here’s what Ahrlin has to share:
For all the “where were you when…” statements that come through our lives, only a few really resonate. For me, as a young child, the eruption of Mt. St. Helens in 1980 was one of those moments. Nearly 20 years later, 9-11 was another one of those moments, but in the mid 1990’s and early 2000’s with the internet finally unlocking massive amounts of easily accessible information, my appreciation for track and field had similar magnificent moments. The biggest being; where was I when Alan Webb ran 3:53.43 for the mile. I’ll tell you exactly where I was; glued to my TV with my jaw hanging below my chin.
Backing up a few years though; it was 1998, and I had bumped into an old college teammate who was coaching at the local community college. I was 23, working full time for the Postal Service, and really had no intention of returning back to school. Something about the opportunity to run one more year must have perked my interest though, and before I knew it, I was attending college full time; running and working full time and living the dream all over again.
Running was something I loved, and the track season of 1999 was looking very promising, and that was about the time I heard that some high school sophomore had blazed a 4:06.94 mile and broke Jim Ryan’s sophomore class record in the process. At that point in the history of high school track and field, fast times were few and far between, so a 4:06 for what had to have been a geeky little kid was something special. I kept my eye on Alan Webb from then on, as he could only get better through the coming years.
For myself, I had a very successful return to collegiate running, and ran my fastest times I’d ever run in my life, and garnered several championship victories that year.
I was hooked on running and learning a lot about the up and coming speedsters of the future. We had Webb, we had Hall, and we had Ritz.
The following year in 2000, the internet was a buzz about Alan’s extreme talent and his goal of breaking 4 minutes for the mile. It seemed like he had a shot, but I don’t know all the details, and Alan eventually popped off an impressive 4:03 mile and called it a year. It was a little disappointing for us track nerds, but a very solid time none the less.
Fast forward to indoors of 2001, and Alan’s seemingly out of the blue drops an indoor high school record of 3:59.86 for the mile (only high schooler ever to go sub 4 indoors), but it was so low key, that it took a while before people found out. Perhaps it was hopes of bigger things to come. The buzz was big, but not crazy out of control huge. 3:59 was amazing, but not other worldly; which leads us to the “where were you” moment of 2001.
Early in the spring, it was announced that Alan would make an attempt at Jim Ryun’s fabled 3:55 high school record at a big meet like Prefontaine, and while we all had our hopes; realistically, Jim Ryun’s record had stood for a long time; 33 years. There was a reason it hadn’t been broken; it was legit. Ryun was essentially a world class runner when he ran that, so Alan’s 3:59.86i was solid, but way behind the 3:55 he needed to run. Each second below 4:00 gets even harder to chip away at.
It was only fitting that the final event at Prefontaine was the showcase of the whole meet; the men’s mile. A dream mile of sorts, and America’s track fans were waiting for history to be made. Watching the race unfold, Alan went straight to the back. He wasn’t planning on winning; he just wanted a shot at Ryun’s record. I remember as each lap passed that he was on target to break 4 minutes, but nothing seemed to suggest breaking the record. On the final lap, he was in great position, and it was at that moment that the momentum of a legend began to unfold. He starting picking guys off, and rather then slowing down because of pain of lactic acid build up, he was actually speeding up. Two hundred meters out he was rolling like a freight train. Hicham El Guerrouj was far enough ahead to have little worries of Alan, but Alan was chasing someone else; Jim Ryun’s fabled time. The clock counted down, and Alan muscled his way across the line spent, but a solid fifth place overall. I knew he’d run something special; perhaps close to a record, but when the official time popped on the screen, my jaw dropped.
A high school senior had run a 3:53.43 mile. That changed high school running forever. After Alan’s incredible accomplishment, high school kids around the country changed their habits. Training was a full time thing now. Message boards buzzed about the next great miler, and year after year, young high school phenoms targeted the magic number. It’s been 13 years now, and for all the hype each year about sub four minute attempts, only one person has done it, and he would have been more then 6 seconds behind Alan’s monstrous run.
I followed Alan’s short college career, and was pleased when he decided to go pro. That moment as well has changed attitudes about running careers. Even today, we are now seeing high school kids take the leap and forgo college scholarships. You can’t blame them; the career of a runner is around 10 years if you’re lucky. The younger you get started, the more you can be shaped it a world class superstar.
Alan had a tremendous span of about three years where he lit the world on fire; 2007 being the pinnacle of his profession. He shattered the American record in the mile, and showed how amazing his range was with his 1:43.84 800 meter time all the way up to a 27:34 10000 meter victory against Dathan Ritzenhein.
How much higher can anyone go. Alan’s enormous talent was always the talk among message board fans, and internet bloggers. He was exciting to watch.
Around 2009 Alan relocated to Portland to try and reignite the fire that had understandably cooled a bit. I remember my very first encounter with Alan at Lincoln High School’s track. He had just returned to running from achilles surgery, and he showed up to jog some laps. As a fan, I didn’t want to embarrass myself and be a dope, so I just pretended I didn’t know him. Here was the greatest American miler running on the same track with me.
Later, I had the privilege to actually workout with him. Tempo runs on Renaldo and 400 repeats on Michael Johnson. I was training with the legend. It was great times.
It all seems so surreal too; the guy who got me hooked on following track and field was letting me run with him, and run we did. I had to sprint my ass off every workout to hit the times required to get Alan into amazing shape. Alan was a talent like no other, and I was honored to be a part of that.
Even after his retirement from competitive track and field, I still get to have a nice easy long run with him every once in a while, that’s pretty cool too. (Editor’s note – or a brutal hill interval session after his open water swim yesterday)
Not many people get to say; where were you when… stop… I was training with him.
Stay tuned as there’s more to come as the week rolls through – up to the Pre Classic held this weekend!!