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Posts Tagged ‘nick symmonds’

I started writing this post in September 2008 and never returned to it. Meeting Bernard Lagat, and then watching him win the Wanamaker Mile last month reminded me I had this half-composed in my drafts. I am posting it now, five months later, because I think the photos are cool. If you’d like some context, first read about my Fifth Avenue Mile, then about the professional Women’s Fifth Avenue Mile.

 

Soon after the women, the professional men stepped up to run in what would be the most exciting race of the day. The New York Road Runners gathered an amazing group of competitors for this event, truly outdoing themselves. Olympian Bernard Lagat finally accepting Mary’s invitation (after ten years of her asking!) to run his first-ever race off the track. Olympian Nick Symmonds, New Zealand Olympian (bronze medalist in the 1500 meters) and U of Michigan alumn Nick Willis, Canadian Olympian Nate Brannen, and track star Chris Solinsky were also all in the mix.

I felt a little bit like a lurking papparazzi before their heat, as I hung around behind the start line to watch them warm up and stretch out.  I took a few quick snapshots, but then went back to the fences to grab my spot to watch the start.  I got a picture of Symmonds stretching, Lagat striding regally through the staging area with Nate Brannen behind him, and (awkwardly and inadvertently) Solinsky doing a farmer’s blow (trust me, I was not trying for that photo).

(This part of the post is being written now, in February 2009.) Most spectators understandably want to be at the finish line, to see who wins. I get it; I always regert not seeing the final push towards glory. But, when you watch from the starting line, you get to spend more time observing the elites, noticing their quirks, how they stay relaxed and focused. I like that part of the race, when it’s just maximum potential and a giant question mark. Because we all know, that even though the gun hasn’t yet fired, the line up and the wait for “Go” is very much part of the race. The press corps swirls around for a little bit (even Flotrack gets access), but then it’s just the racers, left to toe the line across Fifth Avenue, between the runner’s paradise of Central Park and the classic mansions of the Upper East Side.

And then there they are, at the “Set,” crouched, poised, ready to burst out with arms swinging and chests up. How quickly they disappeared down the avenue!  All of us on the sidelines whipped our heads around, hoping to see who had the lead at the outset. But really, who could tell, and what would it matter in a little less than four minutes? It all could change within inches of the tape.

If ever there was a race when I should have opted to wait at the finish line, this was it. By now it’s been well documented, and you all know the outcome (Willis beat Lagat by one-tenth of a second, in what was Lagat’s first-ever road race), including the Epilogue, where Lagat beats Willis at the Milrose Games. Mary Wittenberg said it was the best Men’s Fifth Avenue Mile the New York Road Runners have ever hosted. I was there, but I wasn’t an eyewitness.

I walked down to the finish line, where I stuck around for the awards ceremony. That’s when I learned for the first time what a happy and humble guy Bernard Lagat is, and when the cute Nate Brannen, third-place finisher, hit my radar. Finally, I tore myself away–I remember what a warm and sunny day it was, and how healing it felt for me to be soaking it up–and headed home on the N train from the southeast corner of Central Park.

(Nate Brannen is the last guy on the right. He trains with Nick Willis, but runs for Canada. His website is cool (especially when you consider that most pro runners don’t even have one), and he blogs every now and then. Check out his post on the Fifth Avenue Mile and his most recent update, in which he discusses how he trains during recovery from plantar fasciitis, including a tempo run on the Alter G treadmill.)

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Some of my girlfriends (and some of my guy friends, too) are as psyched as I am by the phrase “Fifth Avenue Mile,” but with one key difference: they’re thinking shopping, and I’m thinking elite runners. Some people get a lot of mileage dropping names of famous celebrities they’ve seen in restaurants, on airplanes, or in Bergdorff’s. I get a lot of mileage remembering (for my own inspiration) stunning performances by the elite runners I’ve seen in races.

First thrill of the day: spotting Ryan Hall casually leaning against a bus stop post on Fifth Avenue, watching his wife Sara Hall warm up before her race. I wanted to go shake his hand so badly but he really looked like he was just trying to chill out and let his wife be the star. I couldn’t resist though grabbing him with my digital camera, that’s him yawning in the gray shirt all the way on the left side of this photo. Sorry, it’s the only one I could get before he disappeared!

Also of note in this picture, the woman in brown taking off her shirt is the third-place finisher who ran out in front for much of the race, Rose Kosgei from Kenya (she normally runs longer-distance races). I’d also like to point out Amy Mortimer (black tank top), as she was the only female runner sporting pigtails. Ultimately she came in 7th (out of 11 runners), but she wins first place for style.

The women in this race were social and chatty pre-race, but their easy way with each other was dropped (as expected) once they toed the line. Below, Olympian Shannon Rowbury, Kosgei and Hall all look very focused. Hall has won this race in the past.

Next are the women all lined up at the start; UK Olympian Lisa Dobrisky is all the way to the left. Also of note in the line up is Olympian Erin Donohue (who I watched compete in the Women’s Invitational 8K this winter); after the race, I saw her hanging out with her mom (she’s from South Jersey), introduced myself and got a photo with Erin. Cool. (No, you can’t see it.)

This is the one photo I was able to snap before the competitors were passed, their ponytails waving at us all as they tore towards the finish line. Cool, right? Am glad I got a closer shot of Dobrisky.  I was able to get right up against the barrier fences, truly no one had stuck around to watch the race at the start; there was a crowd at the finish but I wanted to get candids of the elites and there isn’t as much of a chance once they’re done running.

The final results are pretty amazing, with the top finishers getting close to course records and really racing shoulder-to-shoulder through the final meters. 1-2-3 went to Dobrisky, Rowbury and Kosgei, with Erin finishing fourth and Sara eighth.  Media coverage up at this point includes the Associated Press on USAToday.com, NYRR.org including photos, and FloTrak.org. FloTrak video includes interviews with Dobrisky (this was her first time in New York) and with Rowbury (who shows off her plexiglass plaque), as well as a full tape of the race, with commentary.

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