We asked Matt Wisner to do a weekly column for @RunBlogRun. Like new columnist Sam Fariss, we suggested a few topic ideas, but the rule is, writers write about what interests them.
Matt Wisner decided to write about the Fifth Avenue Mile, which happened on Sunday, 12 September. We like Matt’s column and look forward to upcoming columns.
From Lane One (#2)
Scotts Jake Wightman and Jemma Reekie Win Fifth Avenue Mile
By Matt Wisner
Today, the Fifth Avenue Mile returned after being cancelled last year for the first time in its 40 year history. The Fifth Avenue Mile is held at the end of summer, often the final race of the season for many athletes after a long track season. For many, it’s the first and last race away from the track; the roads are generally reserved for athletes who specialize in longer distances.
The race runs along the east side of Central Park–perhaps the most logistically feasible course for a road race in New York City because it only requires one street to be shut down; there are no four-way intersections.
The mile covers 20 city blocks and only has one slight hill. On the track, where most of the Fifth Avenue milers are more comfortable, pacing is relatively straightforward; a runner is always oriented and knows how much race is left to run. A straight-shot course is different. Part of competing in the road mile is about understanding how much race is left to run and making a decisive move at the appropriate time. That’s not always an easy task.
One person who failed that task today was Matthew Centrowitz. The Rio Olympic gold medalist abruptly surged heading into the half-mile mark, separating from the rest of the field. He collected the $1,000 bonus awarded to the athlete who crosses the halfway point first. The halfway bonus was probably established to incentivize an honest pace. Today it was 1:57, and Centrowitz may have been the only athlete in the field for which that pace was honest. Everybody else ran faster in the second half of the race. Centrowitz closed in 1:59, finishing in 3:56.4 for 14th place in a 16-man field.
The duo of Olli Hoare and Joe Klecker from On Athletics Club delivered the nails in Centrowitz’s coffin. Together, they passed him 2:30 into the race, and from there he faded to the back. Everybody else pressed forward, faster and faster.
A lot of people were in position to win with 60 seconds of race left to run: Jake Wightman, Hoare, Klecker, Sam Prakel (He may be the king of giving himself a chance to win; he always seems to be there with 60 seconds of race left to run), Vince Ciattei, Jake Heyward, and Charlie Grice.
Wightman, the New Balance athlete from the U.K., had an incredible final 100 meters to win the race, ultimately completing the course in 3:49.6. His final 400 meters was covered in 52 seconds. And although road miles don’t usually count toward any records, this is the fastest mile Wightman has ever run. He’d previously run 3:52.02 on the track in London in 2019.
Hoare and Heyward finished in second and third, respectively, both in 3:50.4. Prakel came fourth just a tenth of a second later. The top three all competed in the 1500 earlier this summer in Tokyo, and only Hoare competed in the Diamond League Final in Zurich last week. Despite eleven of the 16 men in the field being American, no Americans could make the podium; Wightman and Heyward represent the U.K., and Hoare represents Australia.
Six men ran under 3:52, and eleven ran under 3:55. This year, the track has seen a tremendous shift in the men’s collective approach to racing; they’re going faster than ever before. The road has proven to be no different. Today was certainly the fastest Fifth Avenue Mile in its 40 year history.
Every time Centrowitz steps on the line, people expect something incredible to happen. Something similar is true of Paul Chelimo, but today he was the other major casualty. After leading through 400 meters, Chelimo, the Tokyo bronze medalist in the 5,000, finished in 3:59.1 for 15th place. “Sometimes some races don’t go as planned,” Chelimo tweeted after the race. “My legs were crying for help at the NY 5th Avenue Mile. Time to rest up and take a much needed break.”
The women’s race was also exciting. Jemma Reekie was certainly the favorite heading into the race. The last time she ran a mile in New York was at the Millrose Games last year, and she won in a very fast 4:17. She’s the U.K. indoor record holder for both the mile and 800, and she was fresh off a fourth place finish in the 800 at the Diamond League Final in Zurich last week.
The gun went off, and the women ran together, all packed up, for most of the race. Nikki Hiltz (<3) made a big move with 300 meters remaining, giving themself a serious chance at the gold and $5,000 prize that comes with it. But Reekie was ready. Reekie overtook Hiltz in the final 100 meters to win in 4:21.6. Hiltz came second in 4:23.0, an impressive final race of their long 2021 campaign. Shannon Osika finished third in 4:23.3.
Most people are done racing for the season, and I hope they act like it tonight during their celebratory Night Out In The City. Coogan’s shut down during the pandemic, but I’m sure somebody has a backup plan.