A tale of two Mile races, by Elliott Denman, note by Larry Eder

Elliott Denman was one of two writers that we assigned to cover the 2013 USA Indoors. Both Elliott and David Hunter gave us interesting views on the major events over the three days.

Mary Cain, photo by PhotoRun.net

In this column, Elliott Denman talks about two very different mile races: the debut and victory of Mary Cain and the second victory, in two days, of one Will Leer. Mary Cain won a very slow race, and Will Leer ran the fastest mile run at US champs in high altitude.

Leer and Miller to the finish, 
photo by PhotoRun.net

Elliott likes his races to be fast, if he has a choice, so you may know where he is going with his column.....


  ALBUQUERQUE - Certainly it's time to jump on the Mary Cain bandwagon.

  But maybe it's time to take an asterisk along with that leap.

When a USA National Indoor Championships one-mile title is won with a time as slow as Cain's 5:05.68

Sunday at the Albuquerque Convention Center, a whole lot of the gloss is taken off the triumph.

  Five-oh-five-point-six-eight?  Are we kidding?

  That's high school girls time.  Maybe truly exceptional middle school time.  Likely excellent Masters time.

  But surely not women's national championship time.

  The mile, or its 1500-meter running mate, has been on the women's national indoor championship program since 1967.

  That meant Cain's race was the 47th fastest in the 47 years the event has been held.


Mary Cain wins USA Indoor mile, photo by PhotoRun.net

   That's not picking on a kid.  That's just the way it was.


   Slowest previous women's national title win over the full mile route was Kathy Gibbons's 4:58.5 in 1970.

Slowest previous women's national title race over 1500 meters was Morgan Uceny's 4:19.46 in 2010 - roughly 4:38-ish full-miling.

   What to do about such mishaps - when no one in the entire field is willing to "take it out" and the real running,

as contrasted with the actual jogging seen Sunday, did not actually start until the final 400 meters?

  Here's one big course of action - put an asterisk next to this race in the sport's archives, with the explanatory note: "no one wished to run".

  Second suggestion: Get the meet announcer on the case and encourage the audience to indulge in spirited booing.

   True, Bronxville High School junior Cain, all of 16 years old and the first high schooler to win an Indoor Nationals title since sprinter Allyson  Felix in 2003, did run a 58ish final 400.

  But what's the point when the first 1200 meters took something like 4:07?

  What actually got into the other six starters - Treniere Moser, Brie Felnagle, Sara Vaughn, Sarah Brown, Dana Mecke and Erin Koch?   Was this some form of mass labor action?  A protest against the pay scale imposed these days on professional runners? Why-why-why did they not choose to run?

  The excuse-makers immediately leaped to the defense of Cain and all the others when it was over.

  They offered such gems as "that's just the way the pace went."  

Or "it just happened, can't tell you why."

Or "not a plan, it just was."

   Where does such brilliance come from?

   Even the great Alberto Salazar refused to look at the negativity of it all.

   He's Mary Cain coach and saw her run the Millrose Games' women's Wanamaker Mile in 4:28.25, sizzling by

anyone's standards and the national high school record.

   But he saw nothing truly amiss in a 5:05.68 national championship win.

   Then again, Salazar has some history in this department.

    He's the coach, too, of Mo Farah,  the lead role in that celebrated 2012 drama on the London stage - the Olympic men's 5000-meter final.

   No one was willing to "take it out" in this one at Olympic Stadium, either.  And so it evolved into a 4600-meter jog and a 400-meter dash.

   Farah "dashed" across in 13:41.66. Ethiopia's Dejen Gebremeskel took the silver in 13:41.98, Kenya's Thomas Longosiwa took the bronze in 13:42.36.

   Good on these gentlemen, they have their Olympic medals.

   But so does the family of the late, great Vladimir Kuts.

   They know that he won the Olympic 5000-meter title in 13:39.6.

    Yes, he did, and it was 1956,  probably before Mo Farah's father was born.

    And now, compare the Albuquerque men's mile to the women's mile.

   It was a dazzler, a dandy.

    Nobody held back. Nine men "went for it."  They produced a sensational race.

  Twenty-one and a half hours after he ran off with the Indoor Nationals 3000-meter crown, Will Leer added the one-mile title to his dossier with a 3:58.79 sprint-finish win over Craig Miller (3:58.90) and Cory Leslie (3:59.88) with Jeff See (4:02.73) on their tail.

   Leer's 3:58.79 will go into the books with a very different kind of asterisk.

    Next to his performance will be this statement: "Fastest indoor mile ever run at altitude."


Leer wins mile, 

photo by PhotoRun.net

    Albuquerque/The Duke City/ ABQ - whatever you care to call it - sits just about one mile over sea level.

   What a tale these two one-mile races told - one "the fastest," the other "the slowest."

   Personally, my preference will always be fast over slow.

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