Fifth Avenue Mile Race Recap and Slideshow

The Fifth Ave Mile Finish

Call Me Kip, Lagat's Nickname

Lagat's Victory Lap

Bernard Lagat Wins

Amine Laalou Finishes Second

David Torrence Finishes Third

Lagat kicks, chasing down Laalou and Torrence

The Lead Pack

Here come the pro men

Simpson Dressed in Star and Stripes

Simpson's Victory Lap

Hannah England and Sally Kipyego finish third and second after a photo finish

Jenny Simpson Wins

The 1500-Meter Mark

Jenny Simpson makes a move

Jenny Simpson and Morgan Uceny chase Kipyego

Sally Kipyego of Kenya

Professional Women

Men 40-49

Down Fifth Avenue

Fifth Avenue Mile Start

Photos by Phil Hospod

Olympians, World Champions and thousands of regular runners alike barreled down New York City’s Fifth Avenue in the Fifth Avenue Mile on Saturday, Sept. 24. The professional field this year was a doozy, with eight Olympians and four 2011 World Championship medalists among them. But what is it about running a mile that keeps runners, including professionals like Bernard Lagat, so entranced?

Bernard Lagat had just about every 1500-meter and mile honor a runner can achieve—except a victory at the Fifth Avenue Mile.

The American record holder in indoor and outdoor distances from 1500 to 5000 meters has 11 World Championship and Olympic medals, including four golds, five silvers and two bronze. He’s won the Wanamaker Mile at the Millrose Games a record eight times. Still, the Fifth Avenue Mile eluded him. He’d run it three times to second and fourth place finishes, but never a win—until now.

“I said I’m coming until I win it,” Lagat said prior to the race.

He did just that. Starting his finishing kick with just 200 meters to go, Lagat crossed the finish line in 3:50.5, grinning his trademark grin, having just won his first Fifth Avenue Mile. He edged out last year’s winner, Amine Laalou of Morocco, who finished second. David Torrence of the U.S. finished third.

Jenny Simpson continued her victory lap around the world by winning her first Fifth Avenue Mile. Fresh off of a 1500-meter gold medal win at the 2011 World Championships in South Korea, Simpson won in 4:22.3, edging out Sally Kipyego of Kenya and Hannah England of Great Britain, who both finished in 4:22.6.

The race proved a rematch for Simpson and England, who won the 1500-meter silver medal behind Simpson at the World Championships earlier this month.

With 200 meters to go, Simpson was running in third behind Kipyego and Morgan Uceny of the U.S., but stormed into first with a powerful finishing kick.

In addition to the pros, 4,700 local runners competed, myself included. Like Lagat, this was my fourth Fifth Avenue Mile. What is it about the mile that is so magical? The Wall Street Journal’s Joshua Robinson wrote a great article about the tradition of running the mile in an increasingly metric world.

“For much of the early 20th century, the four-minute mile and the summit of Mount Everest were seen as two perhaps unreachable pinnacles of sporting achievement,” Robinson wrote. “When both were conquered in the early 1950s, they cemented their place in the public imagination.”

I wrote a bit about the mystique of the mile last year in Bernard Lagat and the Fifth Avenue Mile: What If? As American school children, we are trained to both love and loath the mile, depending on which end of the PE class curve you sit on. While the rest of the metric world—with their 1500-meter races—may not understand the allure, running the mile is like going back to basics. Sure, at 1,609 meters or 1,760 yards, the mile is as arbitrary a distance as the marathon.

But as Americans, the mile is our vernacular. While we runners may speak in terms of 5Ks and 10Ks, we’re still logging those as 3.1 or 6.2 miles, unlike our European brethren, who actually log them as—gasp—5 and 10 kilometers respectively.

Then there are the workouts we use to gauge our fitness, like Jeff Galloway’s Magic Mile and Bart Yasso’s Yasso 800s, which are essentially half-mile repeats. The common denominator is measured in miles. And the mythology of the mile is ingrained in running culture from the iconic status of Roger Bannister, the first mortal to break the four-minute mile barrier, to the cult-like success of Once A Runner by John L. Parker Jr., a novel about a college miler’s quest to do the same, and the recent success of Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken, a book about Olympian and miler Louie Zamperini.

For my part, running a mile race feels like a novelty, and that’s the appeal. Adult runners rarely have the chance to race a mile. Most races for the masses are geared toward longer distance runs from 5K to the marathon or longer. To test yourself for just one all-out, guts-on-the-floor mile is a rare opportunity. And the Fifth Avenue Mile provides a dramatic setting running alongside New York City’s Central Park from East 80th to East 60th Street.

So how’d I do? A new 1-mile personal best: 6:46. I also got a high-five from Lagat as he ran his victory lap. Not too shabby.

Karla Bruning is an award-winning journalist and running nerd. She has completed four marathons, trains with the New York Harriers and is a member of New York Road Runners. Follow Karla’s “Notes From a Running Nerd” at RunKarlaRun.com, Facebook and Twitter@KBruning.

Karla Bruning

About 

Karla Bruning hosts On The Run for New York Road Runners. She used to report for Newsweek but spent her free time squeezing in workouts. Now she freelances as a running reporter. She's run 7 marathons, 18 halves, 6 triathlons, sings in an '80s cover band, spoils her dog and travels compulsively.

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27

09 2011

4 Comments Add Yours ↓

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  1. 1

    “As American school children, we are trained to both love and loath the mile, depending on which end of the PE class curve you sit on.” Love this — I laughed out loud (remembering being on the sad end of that curve). PS thanks for the blogroll add!

  2. Vera #
    2

    Love it! Didn’t know all those facts. I have to say though as a European being used to metric, I went from jogger to runner when I joined the Harriers and due to all my training and running in the US, I am thinking in miles and pace per mile too and have ‘no idea’ what my pace per km is!! I like measuring the distance in miles, sometimes it just sounds less scary when you have to do you 20-miler (or 32 KM!)

  3. 3

    We could have had an epic battle to the finish only if we ran in the same group I finished at 6:46 too but I was with males 15-29. Congrats on your PR.

    And Vera, I use miles before the run; but km’s after, when I brag about it.

  4. 4

    We log 5k and 10k races as 5 kilometres and 10 kilometres too ;) I understand miles though as our first car was ‘pre-metric’ and had a speedo that read MPH. We still get a chance to race one or two mile races each year (on the track). Road miles are rare. Would have loved to have been in NYC to race down 5th Avenue! Great photos — show how high the professionals get off the ground and their fantastic strides. Congrats on your PB — good time.


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