Fifth Avenue Mile: surprising rays of sunshine end the 2015 athletics season, by Jeff Benjamin


WomenEarlyLead-FifthAve15.JPGFifth Avenue Mile, Elite Women, photo by

Willis_NickFHL-5thAve15.jpgNick Willis wins the Fifth Avenue Mile, Elite Men, photo by

The Fifth Avenue mile has been a tradition in the Big Apple for thirty-five years. Many of the greatest milers and middle distance runners have run the twenty blocks on Fifth Avenue in mid September over the years.

Jeff Benjamin covered the Fifth Avenue mile for RunBlogRun last Sunday, September 13. Here is his story...

The weather forecast for New York City was calling for rain. Yet, all one can see throughout the day of the New York Road Runners' 35th edition of the Fifth Avenue mile were surprisingly, rays of sunshine and great conditions. With the great weather, the races, which were directed for the first time under the new leadership of Michael Capiraso and Peter Ciaccia, promised to be full of great competition and drama.
The Fifth Avenue Miles sure did deliver.
In what has become a rite of passage for world class milers towards finishing their long seasons (replete with the IAAF Outdoor Circuit and the Beijing World Championships), it seemed that these runners were very motivated to reach the finish first.
Not just for the victory, but to end their seasons quicker and on a high note.
This is precisely what happened with victors Nick Willis and Jenny Simpson, as they both dramatically came through over the last 150 meters to punch their way to victory in a parade of close finishing times among the top ten runners in both the men's and women's races.
In almost a similar unison, both of the elite races started out in a bunched group and split conservatively through the 1/2 mile mark over the deceptively up and down course, the men going through in 2:03, and the women in 2:20.
That seemed to be just fine for both Willis and Simpson. "I was aware of a headwind in the race today", said the victorious New Zealander. "I moved at the 1500 mark and felt really good." So good in fact, that Willis, who was disappointed with his Beijing performance, started celebrating from about 60 meters from the finish. "For me, it's a great end to a not quite euphoric experience in Beijing," he said. Willis (3:54.9) was followed by Britain's Chris O'Hare (3:55.9), Norway's Henrik Ingebrigtsen (3:56.1), Matt Centrowitz (3:56.1) and Ryan Gregson (3:57.4). Ingebrigtsen, who ran so bravely in Beijing to try and steal the race from eventual champion Asbel Kiprop said, "It was very bunched together, but with 150 to go I managed to find an opening."
With the women also pretty bunched together after the halfway mark, it was surprising to see the usually strong, all-out in front Simpson staying with the pack and biding her time. "I came here to try and do something different," said Simpson who also had a tough World Championships, getting her shoe tripped up by a competitor and losing it in the final with a lap to go." It was so tempting to go but I decided to wait, stick to my plan, and then make a big move."
It sure paid off, as Simpson looked like she punched right past Shannon Rowbury (4:29.4), Dutch athlete Susan Kuijken (4:30.0), Heather Kampf (4:30.3) and Heather Wilson (4:31.8).
"I'm just happy the season's over", said Simpson who, like Willis, led the 2015 finale parade of some of the world's best milers before large crowds today on Fifth Avenue!
Bell Lap---A great feeling of relief seemed to follow the races as the milers finished up their season.
"Two weeks off, then it's back to training," said Matt Centrowitz.....That seemed to echo among almost all of the milers, who after such hard training, need the break at this time of the year.
"I'll be babysitting my kids," said Willis..... Every Miler who was interviewed by this writer basically said there was no changing or moving up in events for Rio next year, as they all said they would compete in the 1500/mile. "Without a doubt," said Willis when asked..... In this atmosphere, every elite miler graciously talked with fans, signed autographs and took "selfies" with fans......Among the noted luminaries "running" around 5th Avenue included former 800 great Ray Brown, NYRR President George Hirsch, Great Irish miler and Villanova Coach Marcus O'Sullivan, First NY Marathon winner (1970) Gary Muhrke, 1996 800 trials qualifier John Honerkamp, now an NYRR coach, and American running great and American University Coach Matt Centrowitz Sr., to name a few.
Marathoner Meb Keflezighi was running the mile today as well, as he paced his NYRR friend Michael Rodgers to a sub 5 minute mile. Keflezghi was also on hand as a Youth Ambassador for the NYRR.

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