Pre Classic starts today. Men’s Bowerman Mile is Saturday at 2:49 pm pacific time. Watch it live on NBC Sports at and witness feats of greatness with guaranteed sub 4 minute miles (that stuff didn’t exist until 60 years ago people!)
This is it. The final installment on celebrating Alan’s initial Prefontaine Classic accomplishment (3:53.43 high school American record) & beyond ends today with friends Jena Winger, Todd Iacovelli and Joe Jacobs. I appreciate my blog readers staying with me for the duration of the week.
First up- Jena. We love Jena. The other “JW” became friends with us in 2010 when I was new to Portland and joined the same running club (Run Portland). We quickly found we had many friends in common and both had a severe love for track and field, and the pursuit of the steeplechase at a high level. We gave it our all and dreamed big, even both knowing inside we probably both didn’t have what it took to make it (and here we are 2014. You didn’t see our name in the results of any diamond league races, so nope we didn’t). The major thing we don’t agree on is Oshkosh. She hates my hometown because she had a bad race at D3 Nationals there her senior year and tore something in her knee. She needs to give it another chance.
Jena has been through it all and seen just about every side of the Webbs. She has witnessed Alan in action at the track in Eugene (succeeding at times and others not quite). She had the luxury of being featured in the infamous photos that floated on the internet the night of the post 2008 Olympic Trials party. If you are unfamiliar, this is where Alan, after an unspecified number of sodas*, apparently broke a ping pong table. . As newlyweds, we extended the invite for her to move in with us and lucky us she did! Even though both Jena and Alan could admit they were not in the best form during those months of their lives due to career uncertainty and injury, I enjoyed having 2 of my best buds within a 100 foot radius most of the day, crabby or not.
*beverage has been changed to protect the privacy of the potentially innocent.
Jena was there a year and a half ago when she was coming down from her hometown of Seattle for a visit and I mentioned via text just as she was about to walk in the door, “Alan’s upset.. I think he’s injured again.. Like really upset. You might want to wait a little before you come in”. This was after his attempt at months of 100-140 mile weeks, when his previous highest mileage was a lone 100 weeker once. In our house the word “injured” means “terrible news” and “not fun to be around”. Jena knew he needed time to cool off and made a pit stop at Fred Meyer down the street. Just as we could always count on her to cheer us up she arrived with numerous goodies including cookies and a Loadstar Rocket. She basically saved the day. Jena was there to witness Joanie’s first poop in the bathtub (and not her last). She is basically our “kid” as we like to joke.
In good times, Alan and I have shared many beers and Wilbur Burgers with cajunized tots at McMenamins with Jena post Lincoln High workout. I have seen how a simple stumble on a single root along Wildwood trail can turn your running partner not only dirt covered from head to toe, but bloody and woozy. Since her departure to Seattle for “real jobs” outside of pursuing the steeplechase (currently footwear product line manager at Brooks), I have been running with her ghost and look forward to our occasional run in.
Here’s what Jena experienced witnessing Alan perform as an upcoming track star back in their heydays.
I’ve been a runner since I was 5 years old, when I ran for the Hill and Valley Striders. Throughout Junior High and High School, I continued to run, but also considered myself a basketball player and I rarely ran in the summers. After my junior year of high school, I decided to drop basketball and focus on running. At that time I happened to be invited to join another local team on a trip to Eugene, Oregon to watch the Prefontaine Classic. Thinking this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, I eagerly joined and thus had my first exposure to the world of Professional Track and Field.
Of all the events from that day the men’s mile was the one that I recall the most. To be clear, this was three years after Alan Webb had run the High School National Record. Instead I witnessed him win the mile in what was then a meet and stadium record time of 3:50.85. My inner fan-girl came alive as I waited in line with my friends to get a photo with Alan.
Being a high schooler at the time, I quickly learned and was inspired by all that Alan had accomplished in high school and beyond. Although my high school running career had been a struggle, I went on to run track and cross country at Willamette University- a DIII school just an hour north of Eugene. Eventually I saw big improvements in my performances and was probably the biggest running nerd on team.
After college I had the opportunity to befriend Alan and Julia (who I was equally inspired by, as she is a former DIII national champion in my event- the steeplechase). The Webb’s have been inspiring me for years, not only because of their talent and speed, but also because of their openness and humility. I feel very lucky to consider them my friends. Congratulations Alan on the 13-year anniversary of your High School National Record!
Trivia Fact: Jena’s dad Dan Winger was an elite miler back in his day. Cool article mentioning Dan racing in the Prefontaine era in a “Where are they now article”.
Todd Iocavelli, a Michigan cross country & track alum, hails from the great state of Hawaii. A little jealous because Alan’s been there 3 times, and I have yet to go. Todd is one of those guys whom both Alan and I knew before we knew each other. Todd and I met at the USATF Level 1 Coaching clinic in an inner city Detroit high school on a long weekend back in 2006. We had zero friends in common but looked to be the only actual distance runners in the group.
I knew he was a cool guy because he offered to run with me and didn’t try to drop me (unlike someone I know.. hint.. Alan- who does not usually possess a friendly Hawaiian type of attitude toward training). He mentioned he was finishing up his eligibility running for Michigan so naturally the convo likely shifted “did you ever run with Alan Webb!?” No proof on that, but not surprised if the line was dropped on my end. I didn’t agree with Todd’s decision to attend Michigan because let’s face it. Wisconsin would have been a much better choice. Todd attended Michigan a year after Alan, but met him during his senior year when he took his official visit. Alan was coming back from an achilles injury (see note above on = injury = likely not of friendly status), so they didn’t get past the “Hi I’m Alan, Hi I’m Todd” gulp stage. Awestruck was the best term to describe his initial encounter.
Once Todd graduated from Michigan (where he went on to run PRs of 14:23 for 5000m and 30:02 for 10,000m under legendary coach Ron Warhurst), he got a chance to run with Alan out in Hawaii and really get to know him. We last partied ages ago at a Nate Brannen’s wedding and currently I am waiting for Alan to surprise me with a plane ticket and nanny for a weekend getaway on a long overdue visit to hang with Todd.
Todd on Remembering the day of 3:53...
I actually watched Alan’s high school record live from Honolulu. As a student and runner at a high school in a state without much of a distance running tradition, the 4 minute mile seemed like a nearly impossible proposition. In fact, only high school runner had ever run faster than 4:10 in Hawaii.
I remembered Don Sage coming up agonizingly short as a high school senior in the year before Alan ran at Pre. I knew Webb already broke 4 indoors, but there was something much more familiar and meaningful to me about an outdoor track.
I vividly remember two aspects of the race. One was on the backstretch of the last lap. Alan had moved out and appeared to be sprinting hard. The shot was from straight ahead so only when the changed angles could you tell that he had passed the majority of the pack. I believe the announcer said something like “LOOK AT ALAN WEBB!!” but I clearly remember the singular focus and the power. This guy was an ATHLETE and he was COMPETING with the best in the world!
My second memory is after they finished. I remember El Guerrouj come up to Alan and gave him a small tug on his ear lobe. I know nothing of the Moroccan culture, but somehow this gesture seemed friendly and affectionate. I got the feeling that he was proud of Alan and knew he must have run well. That moment is so clear in my mind, the best miler in the world connecting for a brief moment after such a monumental event.
It seemed to take a while after the finish before they got the official time on the board. In reality I assume it was only a few seconds. It was an amazing time! I just didn’t realistically think a high school runner could run that fast. Those two images from the race are still so clear to me. I don’t actually think I ever watched the race again online, but I still remember Alan firing down the backstretch with passion and determination and sharing a moment with El Guerrouj immediately after the finish.
Trivia Fact: In high school Todd ran 4:05 for 1500m (3rd fastest in his state’s history) and 8:33 for the fastest 3000m time ever recorded by a high schooler from Hawaii. Impressive! (To compare- I ran the 3rd fastest 1600m for my high school alone)
Joe Jacobs and I met working as tech reps for Saucony back in 2009-10. We once had a race walk competition, untimed, but I believe I was the winner. The same age as Alan, he was a standout high school runner from Jersey. With a 9:22 2 mile PR in HS, and being NJ State Small School champ in XC & 3200 he continued competing at University of North Carolina at Greensboro – he ran 25:02 8k, 15:07 5k, and became All Southern Conference in XC. Joe first crossed paths with Alan in the 2 mile at Nike Indoor Nationals (Alan 8:45 for the win) and again both competing in their first collegiate xc race at Great American 2001. As a professional cyclist, he now puts more time on the bike than in his running shoes. (I’m looking forward to their race in the near future). He is a new store owner for his very own Sneaker Factory in Florham Park, NJ.
Joe reflecting on Alan’s biggest high school race:
Spring of 2001 was my senior year in HS. Seniors were preparing for graduation, making college plans, and planning for the “best summer ever!” My spring was spent running intervals, chasing state championship dreams, paying attention to every detail that could make me better, and following the progress of a fellow senior runner; Alan Webb, and his quest for Jim Ryun’s record. I can remember logging into dyestat, when it was still run by John and Donna Dye, and following the latest from the Big Three of Webb/Ritz/Hall. As the season reached it’s culmination so did the legend that was Alan’s outdoor campaign. The Penn Relays, the legendary triple (1600, 400, 800), a ridiculous 800 at the Va. State Meet, THE RECORD! 3:53!
I can remember watching that race vividly. My father and I were watching an afternoon Yankee game, if the Yanks are on the Jacobs are watching. History was about to happen, though, and my trusty VCR recording would not fail me… I would want to share this moment with my children someday. We switched over to Prefontaine as two of my favorite runners were about to toe the line; one a World Record holder from Morocco, the other a schoolboy from Virginia chasing a record and wearing the same Yellow Zoom Kennedy’s as I raced in. Lap 1, 2, and 3 passed as expected with the high schooler taking up the middle of the pack. Lap 4 is still one of the most exciting 55 seconds I can remember in track and field, those yellow spikes were picking off elite runners one after another! As Alan broke the tape, the neighbors must have mistook the cheering for a Derek Jeter opposite field home run. 3:53… a smashing of the HS record… a victory lap with El Guerrouj. In the span of three minutes and fifty three seconds USA Track and Field had found it’s “next great miler.” We could compete with the Africans. We can set records and win medals. Running had it’s celebrity on Letterman. In that 3:53, it became possible for all of us to dream bigger… and I believe USA distance running began it’s ascent to the level we are at today.
Trivia Fact: Joe made it on NBC slapping Alan’s hand on his victory lap after Alan’s 1500m Olympic Trials victory in 2004. Wearing a “Go Webb” shirt another fan passed onto Joe, Alan stopped and said “Nice shirt” as the camera happened to be rolling.
The original shirt featured in a “Go Webb” selfie