RunBlogRun comments: The HOKA ONE ONE Long Island Mile is becoming an institution. This year, the rain, the death of David Torrence was felt by everyone in attendance. This is Jeff Benjamin’s column on the event. If you want to get more of a feel for the HOKA ONE ONE Long Island mile, please go to @runblogrun on Instagram.
HOKA ONE One Long Island Mile from Jeff-9/7
The rains came down over St Anthony’s High School last night. As they came down steadily one wondered if the elements would add onto the melancholia which could have shadowed the HOKA ONE ONE Long Island Mile. With the sudden passing of Mile Champion Dave Torrence last week casting a huge pall over the event, one wondered how inspiring the event would be this year.
Yet, the crowds didn’t dissipate, as Mile fans, coaches, athletes and geeks enthusiastically still came down to brave the elements. Top Miler and Event Organizer Kyle Merber led all the athletes to share their inspiration in honor of Torrence. Race Announcer Tom Cuffe constantly energized the crowd, and solemnly, yet effectively led the crowd in a pre-race salute to Torrence. HOKA race male and female mascots, known as SweetestCushion also kept the crowd going! As for the rain? According to Running School Owner and top LI Coach Bart Sessa, one had to study the rain drops. “There’s no wind,” said Sessa. “The rain is falling straight down!”
Despite the dampness, both the men’s and Women’s elite races were full of fireworks. A gutsy Brenda Martinez led for almost 3 laps but then saw local girl Emily Lipari come in hard in the last 50 meters for the win, clocking a huge PR of 4:28.84.
“Im really excited to come away with a win on Long Island! I had such a strong support of family here and so many friends I have kept over the years. It was so special to be able to finish out my last track race of the year with a PR and a win. Throughout the race I felt really confident out there. I knew this was a stacked field and I just had to run smart to put myself in a position to try and win the race. Its difficult this time of year because everyone is running on fumes so you really just try to muscle out what you can. I was really determined to get under that 4:30 barrier before this season was over so I’m pumped that I came away with that in a place I love so much. Over that last 200 meters I saw that it could be possible to win that race so I just put my head down and tried to close the ground. I loved how the meet honored David Torrence tonight as well. I really think everyone made this a special meet because everyone was running out there in his memory tonight. taking chances and being brave.”
After a quick opening 200 meters at 3:51 mile pace, British Olympian Chris O’Hare bravely took on the pace led by pacemaker Daniel Winn, which then slowed to 2 minutes at 800 and
3 minutes at the bell. At that point, O’Hare seemed to fall back, but with 250 to go he surged ahead, holding off New Zealander Nick Willis with a 56 second last lap, and winning in a time of 3:56.22.
“It was great to get the win tonight for David and his family. Tonight was about much more than just running a race. It was a group of guys laying it all out there on a cold, wet night to honor our good friend, his competitive spirit and his amazing personality off the track. I pointed to the sky as I crossed the line because I knew David was there with us all, every step on the way.”
Right after the race, Willis, not looking or feeling dejected at all with his performance, brought the Milers together in a postrace group parlayed for Torrence on the track, a gesture signifying the togetherness that competitors even at the highest level share.
“Tonight was a special race. We all warmed up together, we waited in the rain before the race together, and we battled against each other through the puddles to see who would be the Victor. Before the race, when they announced David in starting position one, I choked up. It was the most emotional I’ve ever been right before a race. After we crossed the finish line, it was a spontaneous, but a natural thing to bring the guys together in solidarity to Thank God for the opportunity to honor David, and to ask for his help to always to remember David’s determination and joy for the sport when we race in the future.”
After the runners took pics and signed autographs for the throng of fans, Merber then led the Awards Ceremony, co-presenting the Winners with their awards alongside the Torrence Family.
“Tonight was about celebrating David’s legacy and memory with his friends, family and the running community. Together we were able to take another step in the healing process. The races were great fun and fast considering the conditions. But the highlight of the meet has been sharing stories and laughs about David.”
Make no mistake about it. Dave Torrence’s passing is a GREAT loss which can never be recouped. But, Merber and company have now created a GREAT new tradition, which has now been created and which will continue to grow and inspire others for all the right reasons and for years to come at the HOKA Mile.