Training Widget

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Trying to break 4 minutes in the mile

What a way to celebrate my 100th straight day of running. I started the day off with a 1 mile run with my 6 year old daughter and wife. It was a nice run around the neighborhood. Then I got an email that there would be a one mile race at UVA at 7:00pm. Three of UVA's All-American track stars were going to take a shot at breaking the 4 minute mile mark (you didn't really think I was going to race that fast did you?). I figured this was going to be pretty cool, so I made plans to be there. I even called the Media Relations people to see if I could get a press pass to cover the event. It was a long shot, but I figured they weren't going to be over burdened with media for a track meet, even one with the hype of a sub 4 minute mile.

Well, my request was denied, apparently a blog with less than 10 subscribers doesn't meet the university's definition of a media source, but the people I spoke with were very nice and suggested I take any photos I like from the areas that the general public would have access to. I didn't figure this would be a problem for the running shots as I could get right up next to the fence along the track.

I then had to quickly get my afternoon run in before dinner (the run with the family didn't meet my time requirement for a fast enough mile) so I'd have time to make it into Charlottesville. I had hoped to do a longer run for my 100th, but the track meet trumped the miles.

The University of Virginia has had one runner in school history break 4 minutes in the mile. In 1982, Vince Draddy ran a 3:58.2. For Virginia to have three runners poised to break that mark, and possibly set a new school record, is very exciting and over 100 fans came out to Lannigan Field to see fourth year Andrew Jesien, second year Emil Heineking, and first year Sintayehu Taye take their shot at the 27 year old record.

Seven competitors toed the line for the start, with two runners slated to be dedicated rabbits. The rabbits job is to ensure that the pace of the first two-three laps is fast enough that the chaser will have enough cushion on the last lap to hang on and break the goal time.

At the gun, the rabbits quickly established the lead and provided a wind break for the Virginia runners. In the first corner, everything looked good, but a stiff head wind on the back stretch was waiting for the group as they came out of turn two. Playing it smart, Heineking and Jesien tucked in tight behind the pace setters and let them block the wind.
At the 200, 31 seconds had ticked off the clock, a little bit slow, but considering the wind, not a bad start. The group stayed stride for stride through turns 3 and 4, but failed to pick up any time in the home stretch of lap one. In fact, they had fallen a good 3 or 4 seconds off pace, crossing the line in 63-64 seconds. I was concerned at this point that it wasn't going to happen, but every runner is different. I was expecting the rabbits to take them through the first 400 in 57-58 seconds, but some runners are second half racers and take it out conservatively to save for the kick at the end.

As the runners entered the first turn of lap two, Heineking was right on the heels of the rabbits, with Jesien and Taye just a few strides back. The pace picked up a bit on the second lap as the leaders continued to push the pace. The rabbits led the way with an 800m split of 2:03, still slow, but much faster than the first lap.

There seemed to be some confusion about where the rabbits would pull out of the way and when Heineking and company would make their move. You can see in the photo, Heineking was forced to the otuside of lane 1 as they entered the corner. At this point, I would have thought the rabbits would move outside and let the chasers squeeze every inch out of the inside rail that they could. In a race of this magnitude, tenths of seconds matter. To add to the confusion, as the runners came out of turn 2 on the third lap, Heineking appeared ready to make a move, but the rabbits went two abreast, forcing Heineking out into lane 2. I'm not suggesting that the rabbits hurt the overall finishing time, just that it looked awkward and not how I would have imagined it being scripted out.

On the third lap, the Virginia runners made their move and took over the top three slots. I missed where the rabbits pulled out, but as they hit the 1200m mark, Heineking was in first at 3:02, Jesien was second just a second behind, and Taye another two seconds back. The last lap was going to have to be blazing fast!
As the runners entered the first turn of this final lap, you could see from Heineking's expression that the last lap was going to be tough. With 300 m to go, Heineking took one last quick peek at the clock with the hope of running the fastest 300m of his life. Jesien, in his own effort to break 4 minutes started to close the gap and prepared to make his move on the backstretch.

The crowd's excitement continued to build as Jesien moved up on Heineking's shoulder entering the third turn. When the runners broke out of the final turn for the last 100m, I thought they had gained a few seconds on the clock and there was a legitimate shot at making the time. With 50m to go, the crowd was on their feet, wishing for time to slow as Jesien had moved into first place and was racing toward the finish. But the clock refused to slow and Jesien finished in an amazing 4:02.18, followed by Heineking in 4:04.80, and Taye 4:05.38. Despite not breaking 4 minutes, all three runners assured themselves of another chance by qualifying for the Eastern Regional with their times.

Congratulations to all three runners. You gave the Charlottesville running community something to come out for and we were glad to witness your attempt at entering an elite club. I wish you the best at Regionals and look forward to hearing of your record setting times.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great summary of the race. Have to admit it was one cool event to see all the people come out to watch the attempt. Since it is so early in the outdoor season I hope they get another chance before the end of this season