We heard early in the week about this record attempt. With six teams lined up, the race got off at 7:45 PM Eastern time U.S. Friday night (just about one in Birmingham). Watching the race on Runnerspace, it was exciting to see how close the battle was. Kyle Merber had to do some fast running to cement the record for the HOKA NJNYTC take their first world record!
We have to thank Cathal Dennehy, great friend of the sport, who was suffering from illness, but still showed up in the New Balance Armory Track Center for the event!
Great Pictures by Victah Sailer of PhotoRun.net!
World Record 4xmile at the Armory, Cathal Dennehy
In their moment of need, Kyle Merber answered the call. When the 26-year-old New Yorker took the baton for the anchor leg of Friday night’s 4xmile indoor world record attempt at the Armory, he knew he had it all to do.
The clock showed 12:14.92 when he crossed the line with eight laps to run, meaning he would need to unleash a 4:02 mile – all alone, navigating through multitudes of traffic – in order to raise the roof with a world best mark.
He went one better, clocking off consistent laps a tick under 30 seconds, kicking home through overwhelming fatigue on the final one to bring his HOKA New Jersey*New York Track Club to a time of 16:12.80.
A week earlier, Merber had clocked 3:54.67 to finish third in the Wanamaker mile, but as he soon found out, running a similar time all alone is an altogether different prospect. “It’s definitely harder than you think,” he said. “It was chaotic out there. I was passing people constantly and dodging traffic. I kept getting caught up running other people’s pace for a second, but I just focused on my form and listening for my coach’s splits.”
That coach, Frank ‘Gags’ Gagliano, was standing trackside with his trusty stopwatch in hand, growing more animated with each passing lap as it appeared the record might be slipping from their grasp. He knew, though, they had Merber on the last leg, an athlete unlikely to lose track of his target once he got close enough to strike.
“Running alone, you just don’t get that adrenaline rush the last 300m,” said Merber. “I didn’t kick nearly as hard as I thought I did, but this is great for us, for Hoka and the HOKA New Jersey*New York Track Club. I think we have one of the best mile groups in the world. I’m really, really proud of the effort. We’re not an all-star team, but we train together every day and to actually do a record like that is special.”
The team was led off by steeplechase specialist Donn Cabral, who re-defined his own idea of toughness with a solo run of 4:05 from the front. “I knew it was going to be tough,” he said. “Running by yourself is always harder. A lot of people talk about toughness in terms of cross country – that it’ll show who’s the toughest runner – but I think the toughest runner is someone who can go out there and run by themselves. I give a lot of credit to my teammates, they were able to show they were tough and able to run close to 100 percent of their potential even when they had no competition.”
Cabral handed over to Ford Palmer, who blitzed through the opening lap of his leg with reckless abandon. “I wanted to do my part, so I went out in 27-point, which was a little ballsy on my end,” he said. “But honestly if the crowd wasn’t there, it would have been much harder. Our teammates surrounded the track and called out splits.”
Next up was Graham Crawford, who was drafted into the team as a late replacement after Colby Alexander withdrew through illness earlier in the week. His 4:08 leg may have left Merber with plenty to do, but given his haphazard preparation, it was a solid run which saved an otherwise endangered record attempt.
“It was my first race of the year and a hell of a way to bust the rust, with a world record attempt,” he said. “I was trying not to implode. I had no clue what kind of fitness I had. Gags told me during the week to go out pretty conservatively and trying to hammer it home. I hit all the splits he was saying, but the last three laps hit me hard.”
When Merber took the baton, the crowd escalated the noise inside the Armory to another notch, knowing he needed all the help he could get to set a world best mark. With a booming techno soundtrack and the wails of hundreds of collegiate athletes ringing around the arena, Merber sprinted to the finish in 16:12.80, carving four seconds off the previous best mark.
The man responsible for the record attempt, Ray Flynn, was watching trackside throughout, a week after he served as meeting director for the 110th edition of the Millrose Games. The mile great came up with the idea when watching an Irish team attempt the record last year and a thought immediately struck him. “I thought we should run that over here,” he said. “I assembled some teams to run against them and I knew they could break it. It was great to see.”
Flynn, along with holding the Irish 1500m and mile records, still holds the outdoor 4xmile world record at a formidable 15:49.08, run back in 1985 with Eamonn Coghlan, Frank O’Mara and Marcus O’Sullivan. “It was a great team of guys in the peak of their careers,” Flynn recalled on Friday night. “It makes you appreciate it more. Sometimes you do things in your life and you don’t realize at the time, but that was a great group. After all these years, it makes you appreciate it more.”
Of course, now that the indoor record has fallen, Merber and his teammates couldn’t help wonder if they might have the outdoor record in them, though it would require a time more than 20 seconds faster than they ran at the Armory.
“We want to go for the outdoor world record,” said Merber. “Who knows what the team would look like for that. We also have Colby Alexander and Johnny Gregorek watching today, but you definitely couldn’t time trial that. We’d have to get a collection of the best teams in the country together.”
The countdown is on.