Alan Webb announces retirement from Track & Field, and the beginning of Triathlon, by Jon Gugula

Alan Webb, Nike Pre Classic 2013, photo by

Alan Webb, the high school record holder in the mile and the American open men's record holder in the mile, is retiring from track & field. After giving it over a decade, one of the most promising American track & field athletes of the modern era is going to give the triathlon a go. 

In this piece, Jon Gugala writes on the entry that Julia Webb, Alan's wife wrote about Alan's decision to give up track and field and pursue the triathlon. 

I last saw Alan Webb in December at the Nike NXN. He was the most relaxed that I had seen him in years, and we spoke a bit about some racing in 2014. Always a great interview, Alan Webb will be missed from our sport.


Alan Webb Announces Retirement from Track and the Beginning of Triathlon

by Jon Gugala


Alan Webb wins Pre Classic Mile, 2004, photo by

On Saturday, Alan Webb, the American record-holder in the mile, formally announced his retirement from professional running to "[make] the transition from runner to triathlete," his wife Julia wrote on their family blog. 

Webb, 31, set the American prep mile record of 3:53.43 as a senior at South Lakes High School in Reston, Va at the Nike Pre Classic in May 2001. In 2007, he set the American record in the mile of 3:46.91. His PBs include 1:43.84 for 800-meters, 3:30.54 in the 1500m, 13:10.86 for 5,000m, and 27:34.72 for 10,000m.


Alan Webb, 2007 US Outdoor, photo by

Runner's World reported comments made by longtime agent Ray Flynn on January 22 that hinted the end was near. In that interview, Flynn said the Wanamaker Mile on February 15 would be Webb's last indoor race, "like a retirement." When pressed to clarify if that meant Webb wouldn't run an outdoor track season, Flynn said, "It's quite likely that that will be the case." 

On their family blog, which she writes, Julia offers much insight into her often-reclusive husband, saying Webb's split with longtime sponsor Nike at the end of December 2013 was "not by choice."


Mike Stember, Alan Webb, 2004 Olympic Trials, photo by 

"It has been a bumpy road with so many twists, turns and setbacks that has left Alan unable to recover to his full strength he once had," she says. "At this point it makes no sense to keep driving the nail into the ground to leave him bitter."

Julia also addresses Alan's numerous coaching switches, which over his career ran the gamut, including Alberto Salazar, Jerry Schumacher, Jason Vigilante, and Scott Raczko, calling his "lack of consistency to stick with one training plan" the reason for his inconsistent results, even bluntly referring to it as "jumping ship [at the] first sign of failure."

"Winning is a habit and so consequently, losing becomes a habit," she says. "Once you lose your momentum, it is very hard to bring it back when your confidence is down."

Triathlon, Julia says, was something Alan brought up to the couple's coach Jon Marcus, of Portland State University where Alan is a volunteer assistant coach, this past summer, and after a disappointing race schedule during the remainder of the year, has decided to pursue.

The idea of Alan Webb in triathlon is something that many close to the couple have known about for years. Macklin Chaffee, a 3:39 1500m runner and former training partner of Webb's during the Charlottesville, Va., period under Vigilante in 2010, believes he was present during the first time Webb began to consider it. 

Chaffee says Webb, in a conversation with Nicole Kelleher, mentioned his swimming background in middle school and early high school. Kelleher, herself a former collegiate runner at Darmouth, made her own transition to triathlon in 2009 and placed third in the 2010 USA Elite National Championships. 

"As soon as Nicole heard that, she was like, 'Oh my god, you should try triathlon. You'd be amazing at it,'" Chaffee says. "I feel the seed was planted that night."

Julia writes that Webb isn't "delusional" about his chances at running as fast as he once did or making another national team on the track. She goes on to point out the successes of former exceptional runners like Lukas Verzbicas and Jesse Thomas in triathlon, and lists Webb's swimming times from his freshman year of high school, his final season, many of which were seconds off national qualifying marks. "It is just exciting to know Alan has a chance," she says. "The thought of racing this sport brings him excitement." 

"Were there mistakes made? Yes. Stupid decisions. Definitely," she says. "What's done is done and the only thing we have is now and the future."

Julia writes that Webb will debut in the triathlon in March.


Mike Stember, Alan Webb, 2004 Olympic Trials, photo by 

In an early edition of her blog, Julia ends one of her thoughts with "..". Since corrected, it seems a fitting metaphor for her husband's career. Not a period for Alan Webb, indicating its end, or an ellipsis, letting it stretch on with disappointing year after year, she intimates it goes somewhere between, into triathlon, where, she says, "I can't wait to see what he can do."

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