"How am I Doing?"-The Millrose Games, by Jeff Benjamin, photos by Lianne Cohen

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Bernard Lagat, photos by Lianna Cohen



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Alan Webb, and his child, photo by Lianna Cohen

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Jeff Benjamin and Alan Webb, photo by Lianna Cohen



The Millrose Games, even with all of the bad weather, had some amazing performances, from Lagat's AR and five men under five minutes for 2,000 meters. Kim Conley won a fast 3,000 meters, and Will Leer won a topsy turvy mile with Alan Webb running his last professional mile indoors. 

Jeff Benjamin wrote this piece for RunBlogRun, and special thanks to Lianne Cohen for the photography. 
 
"How am I Doing?"--The Millrose Games
 
By Jeff Benjamin
 
Former New York City Mayor Ed Koch was famous for asking his fellow New Yorkers, "How am I Doing"? Throughout his terms as Mayor he got an earful of answers, some positive, some negative. After two years removed from Madison Square Garden, the Millrose Games at the 168th street armory in Manhattan now begged the same question. After a 97 year tradition at a fabled arena, could they be just as relevant as before? Would any records set carry with them the same impact?
 
Good News was reported a few days ago by writer Matt McCue, who reported that the meet was close to selling out, despite what some might say were expensive ticket prices. When spectators and athletes alike arrived at the Armory, they were presented with a state of the art facility, a fast track and commemorations throughout the building of the sport, along with an impressive Track and Field Hall of Fame. But an answer still had to be given by Dr. Norb Sander (A former NYC Marathon Winner), Meet Director Ray Flynn (A 2 time Olympian with a 3:49 mile to his credit) , the New York Road Runners, along with the athletes and fans to the question "How am I Doing? This time, positives far outweighed the negatives. Fans were treated to a compact, pinball machine-type event where the racing was competitive, fast, and with very little down time. "This is the first time also that the meet is being televised live in many years," said Dr. Sander. "To also have it on aSaturday afternoon, I think, draws more fans to watch it." Ray Flynn echoed Sanders' sentiments, noting that the design of the facility makes it "more intimate for the fans. They're really right on top of the action."
 
While this may sound like a preaching from the converted who have no choice, it was now the athletes turn. "The Millrose Games at the Armory is a lot louder here than the Garden", said New Zealander Nick Willis, who was a little disappointed with his performance (3rd in the Wanamaker Mile with a time of 3:53.02). Another disappointed athlete, Nick Symmonds (3rd in the 1000 with a time of 2:18.87) said that "the great crowd made me go out a little too fast. I decided to race it like an 800 and I was hoping to get David Krummenacker's American record." Symmonds also said humbly  that he owed Krummanacker an apology. "I said that the record was soft, but I don't think so now."
 
Bernard Lagat set an American record in winning a great 2000 meter race in 4:54.74. "To me this will always be the Millrose Games. It's a big difference having it here where fans are loud and pretty much in one spot, and the track is fast!"

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 Alan Webb and the loves of his life, photo by Lianne Cohen

Alan Webb, one might say,  had come full circle. Becoming the fourth high schooler to break 4 minutes in the mile at this very same venue in 2001, Webb's career would eventually lead to him competing  in the Millrose Games at the Garden, and now finishing his career with a farewell race here at the Armory's edition. "I've spent the last month reflecting on things," he said after finishing back in 11th place (4:06.11). "I also wanted to try an run even 60 second 400s today, but I felt I gave it all I had." Now getting ready to embark upon a triathlete career, he said that his track career was over." I'm overwhelmed with gratitude with what fans and fellow competitors have said to me here. I've also realized how special and fleeting it can be." As for comparing the Armory to the Garden, "the stage here at the armory is much better. Someone had said that running at the Garden was like running in a bathtub."
 
While Webb exits from the sport, young Mary Cain continues her amazing rise, as she dominated the NYRR Women's Wanamaker mile in 4:27.73. Cain, who lives nearby in Bronxville said, "I love it here. I attended the Millrose games at the Garden, but I've been an Armory girl since the 8th grade. The fans are on top of you here and are very loud. I think in a way that the Millrose Games are bigger here."
 
So there you have it. One can surmise that the Millrose Games are alive and well, albeit just with a different flavor. Whereas one type of Millrose traditional flavor lasted nearly a century, the new century now has created a unique track meet for the times, with slam-bang quick events along with a very loud crowd that feels they are part of the event. As Alan Webb put it, it was "a Loud Ride"

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Nick Symmonds tells it all to Jeff Benjamin, 
photo by Lianne Cohen

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The young athletes quoted in the article never experienced Millrose in the Garden in its prime. The Millrose Games back in the day were more than worthy of being held in the World's Most Famous Arena. The stadium was filled to capacity (18,000) until the end of the '80's. Ray Flynn had a front seat to the sea of cheers that sent Eamonn Coghlan around the 160 yd track for his multiple Millrose and USA Championships won in the stadium. The atmosphere rivaled any of a playoff Knicks game.

Sadly, track and field couldn't keep up with the superior marketing and presentation of revival sports and entertainment options. The move from the Garden was necessary but an unfortunate reflection of track and field's fall from its once vaunted place in the world of sports. This history is important to know in order to avoid complacency and illicit urgency in the battle for the sport to maintain its relevance.

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