It's New York Time: NYRR Fifth Avenue Mile, Q&A with Jenny Simpson, by Elena Dyachkova

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Jenny Simpson, on the move, NYRR Fifth Avenue Mile, photo by PhotoRun.net


RunBlogRun asked Elena Dyachkova, a frequent contributor and one of our favorite writers, to cover the NYRR Fifth Avenue Mile. Elena did so in style, and here is her feature for the Running Network on the unofficial end of the middle distance runner's season in North America for 2014. 


It's New York Time: NYRR Fifth Avenue Mile, Q&A with Jenny Simpson, by Elena Dyachkova


One of the most special road mile races in the world was conquered by Jenny Simpson and Jordan McNamara on Saturday, September 13.


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Jenny Simpson, NYRR Fifth Avenue Mile, photo by PhotoRun.net

The 5th Avenue Mile is my favorite road race, by far, and one of my favorite competitions whatsoever. It is special in so many aspects. Premium location - in the heart of Manhattan, along Central Park's eastern side, the course goes past the Gugenheim Museum and the Metropolitan Museum, which guarantees an impressive exposure to hundreds of tourists, strolling around the streets of the Big Apple on a Saturday afternoon. Great race weather, it's no secret that autumns in New York are often way more pleasant than its hot and sticky summers. The very end of the track season, which makes athletes feel more relaxed and helps to gather on the start line representatives of various events: 800m, 1500m, 5000m, even steeplechase. And, of course, the hospitality of New York Road Runners Pro team, that makes all athletes feel like home.

This year, the race was missing some of its previous editions' stars. Bernard Lagat, Nick Willis, Leo Manzano, Gabriele Grunewald, Susan Kuijken were busy representing their respective teams at the IAAF Continental Cup. But the fields for both men's and women's races were still as deep as it gets. 2013 World medalists Jenny Simpson and Brenda Martinez, World and Olympic medalist Sally Kipyego, NCAA champion Lawi Lalang, World Indoor medalist Augustine Choge, as well as very dangerous road milers Gareth Heath and Heather Kampf. Alberto Salazar, who was at this race for the first time, brought four athletes from his group - the newly crowned World Junior champion Mary Cain, Jordan Hasay, Treniere Moser and Matthew Centrowitz. 

(And yes, Mary and Jordan didn't escape a post-race workout in Central Park in preparation for the next week's USA 5k Championships).

You probably have already read numerous race reports, so there is no need to describe the action in detail. Both races were close and competitive from the gun to the finish. in the men's race, Oregon Track Club's Jordan McNamara snatched the win from Heath on the very last meters of the course (3:51.0). McNamara was getting ready to win the national title back in June, when he got injured and had to miss not only the USATF Championships, but also some valuable time of training and action. In his first race back - High Performance Meet in Eugene on July 26, he got the win and showed how hungry he was for more. Seems like McNamara was able to maintain that attitude and that victorious shape since then.

In the women's race, Jenny Simpson was a pre-race favorite, coming off two 1,500m Diamond League Wins and a 3,000m PB in Brussels, set just about a week ago. Simpson led from the start to the finish, putting the half-mile $1,000 bonus in the bank on the way. She had a number of rivals right on her shoulder at all times, but was never challenged for the lead, and crossed the finish line in first in 4:19.4.

Irish runners had a blast at this year's race. Ciara Mageean and Paul Robinson took third places in 4:21.2 and 3:51.1, respectively, with an Irish journalist Feidhlim Kelly, the reigning European media 800m champion, taking the media mile.

But the 5th Avenue Mile doesn't end, when the last elite race ends. Stellar runners stayed at the finish line to cheer for dozens of kids, who ran this mile in the last heat of the day, and then migrated to the "selfie station" to take multiple pictures for each others' and fans' Instagrams. And then - the post-race and end-of-the-season dinner party, which may or may not have ended with some karaoke...

Anyway, no one can explain what's special about this race better than the three-time champion Jenny Simpson.


- What is your favorite victory of this season?


Jenny Simpson: " Stockholm was really special to me, because I went back home to train for four weeks, and I've never done that before in my career - taking this big block in the middle of the season and just go home and train. Then I went back to Europe and on a rainy day and in a kind of a crazy race, where someone else went out hard from the beginning and I was able to snatch the victory in the end, it made me feel like I'm really in this. I had Stockholm, Zurich and Brussels lined up, and to start that stretch with a win - it really gave a boost to my confidence. And then I've had four of the best races of my career in a row".


What did this race mean to you competition wise, and what does today's win mean?


Jenny Simpson: "Winning today solidified that I was able to keep the whole season together, be strong from the beginning to the end. I felt pressure for myself to win today, because it was a perfect way to cap off what's been a really successful season. I think that I took a big jump this year, both in fitness and in confidence. It would be a mistake to think that I have to make another big jump next year. I'm just hoping that I can keep up the momentum, fix some little mistakes here and there and be just as good next year." 


What makes you keep coming back for this race, as many other athletes do, as well? What is so special about it?


Jenny Simpson: "Year after year it's the conclusion of my season. It makes it a kind of a marker: that's the last mile of the year, and hopefully, the festive and celebratory one. But also the way that the NYRR host the pro athletes and put on such a festive atmosphere for us - it's so much fun! The stadiums we get to race at are amazing, but coming home to the US and having the streets shut down, you just feel privileged to live and train here and then to show off in front of a bunch of the US fans. Another thing that's special about this event is that it's difficult for a lot of my family to make trips overseas, so a lot of my family comes here. My sister, my brother-in-law, both my parents are here, as well as my husband."


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Jenny Simpson, photo by PhotoRun.net


Well, here's to the end of the track season, and now the streets of New York can start getting ready for another landmark event - the New York City Marathon.

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