HOKA ONE ONE Long Island Mile, : "If you build it, they will come"

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image1.JPGDonn Cabral with his young fans, photo by Jeff Benjamin

image1-2.JPGLeon Manzano and his fans, photo by Jeff Benjamin

image2.JPGFord Palmer, Kyle Merber, David Torrence, photo by Jeff Benjamin

The HOKA ONE ONE Long Island Mile was an amazing success, and I watched it from three thousand, three hundred miles away! Watching the excellent coverage of Runnerspace and USATF TV, the event came to life. Reading the article below by Jeff Benjamin and the previous piece by Race Results Weekly, it is obvious regarding two things: the meet is a success and it has to be on my bucket list.

Congrats to Kyle Merber, one of the fine young milers who is emerging in this country, who not only races but puts on events. Brands like HOKA ONE ONE are getting it. In this age of brands fusing together, brands that combine stellar social media, actual events that reach out to a local community, tie ins with brick and mortar specialty running stores, and actual coverage of the events, will stand out. There are many fine shoe brands out there, but how do the good ones stand out? This event is a fine example.



HOKA One One Long Island Mile
By Jeff Benjamin

"If You Build It, They Will Come"

One has to wonder if, back in 2008, Half Hallows Hills West High School grad Kyle Merber had heard the voices in his head. Going on to excel at Columbia, Merber, a Long Islander who runs for Coach Gagliano at the New Jersey NewcYork Track Club, has emerged as one of America's top milers, sporting PRs of 3:34 (1500) and 3:54 (Mile).

But, driven by a passion to promote the sport, Merber, along with Sayville Running Company owner Brendan Barrett, began toying with the concept of bringing a world-class mile event to his hometown area, something quite along the lines of the "Field of Dreams" movie.

Pitching the idea to his sponsor HOKA One One, Merber and Barrett were able to launch the inaugural HOKA One One Long Island Mile on the track of St. Anthony's High School Track in Melville. Combining the ideas of encouraging the local running community and school programs to participate along with creating a truly competitive domestic cash prize World-Class mile race in a time period when the NYRR 5th Avenue Mike is taking place, Merber and Barrett have built it - and they have come!

In its 2nd year, the event, which has drawn a few thousand participants and spectators, has already blossomed into a successful mainstay on the Elite runners' calendar. With the races taking place on the Wednesday evening prior to Saturday's 5th Avenue Mile, it has become a win-win situation for fans and athletes alike, largely due to the whole evening program. With some elites getting shut out of the European track circuit, and/or looking for a quality tune-up prior to 5th Avenue, a high quality track mile race in America is hard to come by. Also the event format, which consists of open community races, a 400 meter race for youth, a sub-elite mile along with an elite race walk, offers variety for any participant. Legitimacy of the events is also present in the form of IAAF official and Long Island resident David Katz.

Yet the main events of the evening are the Men's and Women's elite miles.


What makes these races so successfully unique is its ability to make the spectators feel part of it. With fans encouraged to stand along lane 5 of the track screaming as the runners pass 4 laps, all the time being encouraged along by race announcer Tom Cuffe, runners cannot help but feel the adrenaline rush. Fans are literally on top of the drama unfolding in these races, and with the men's field consisting of Merber, British Olympian Chris O'Hare, 2012 Olympic Silver medalist Leo Manzano, 2-time Olympic Steeplechaser Donn Cabral, Ford Palmer, Daniel Winn, David Torrence, Johnny Gregorek, Charles Philibert-Thiboutot and a host of others, the event has become a mile aficionado's Xanadu. Add to those names the top women, consisting of Nicole Tully, Amanda Eccleston, Stephanie Brown, Emma Bates and late entrant Ajee' Wilson among others, and the vision of Merber and Barrett has come to fruition once again in its second year of the event.

The humidity and wind on the front straightaway did not diminish the drama unfolding in both races, as both defending champions Torrence and Eccleston, almost in carbon-copy style, exploded off the final turn to claim victory in their races, Torrence finishing in 3:54.99 and Eccleston finishing in 4:26.87, with both claiming to top spot prizes of $3,000 each. Philbert-Thiboutot (3:55.25) and Palmer (3:55.60) finished 2nd and 3rd in leading 4 others to break 4 minutes. Finishing behind Eccleston was Lauren Johnson (4:28.18) and Shannon Osika (4:28.45)

At the conclusion of the races, the athletes had to all face up to another daunting challenge which is part of the HOKA ONE ONE program-- facing the close to 2,000 fans swarming onto the field to get autographs and pics with their idols, something which each athlete, though exhausted, gracefully and happily did for anyone who approached them.

As Merber (7th place - 3:58.20) has said previously, "It's all about giving back." In the case of the HOKA ONE ONE Long Island Mile, giving definitely beats out receiving!!

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