The athlete participating in the Dream Mile pose with Jim Ryun (photos by Bill Orman)
Hey MileSplit readers,
Billy Orman here with one last journal. Margot Kelly asked me to write one last journal about the Dream Mile in NYC before I head off to college in August. So here goes.
First of all, I'd just like to congratulate all of you high schoolers for finishing yet another year of high school, and if you run, for finishing yet another track season!
After the state meet, Chris Hollis from Adidas contacted my coach and offered me a berth in the Dream Mile. I was flattered, but a little surprised, because I have always focused on the 3200, and I have never really considered myself a miler. I was also a little reluctant at first because the race was several weeks out and I had already peaked for state, but I really wanted to race some people I had never raced before - the Rosa brothers, Edward Cheserek, Elias Gedyon, and others - and my time of 4:06 met their qualifying time, so I decided to take them up on the offer.
I had cut back pretty drastically in miles and intensity in training for the state meet, and as the Dream Mile wasn't for another several weeks the question became just how to prepare for it. I didn’t have any teammates to train with and there were no more races on my schedule, so I upped my mileage to just below what it had been in mid season - that is to say, about 55 miles per week or so. Thankfully my coach, Arvis Myron, gave me some workouts and offered to time some of them, so I wasn't completely alone on the track. An example of a work out that I did about two weeks out from the race was: 200 at around 28 seconds, followed by a slow 200 jog; then a 400 at around 60 seconds followed by a slow 400 jog. I did 4 sets with a 10-minute rest after the first two sets.
Not to make any excuses but this has been one of the windiest springs I can remember. Springs here in the high desert of northern Arizona are notorious for high winds and dust storms – it’s not at all unusual to have wind gusts of 50 mph. But usually the wind dies down by the beginning of May. This year, however, the wind has continued to blow, and combined with the increasing temperature, it has made running really tough. It’s just not much fun when you are getting sandblasted in 100 degree heat.
Anyway, after those several weeks of enduring the wind and dust, the day to leave for the race arrived. Since our flight was due to leave at 6 am, and we live out in the middle of nowhere, my father and I drove down to Flagstaff and stayed the night at the house of my former coach, Carl Perry. It was really great because they were having a party at his house. His son was a member of a high school engineering team that participates in Odyssey of the Mind, and they had made it all the way to nationals and had done very well. It was all great fun, especially when Coach Perry’s 6-year old son, Dana, got up and gave a speech about how proud he was to have played the part of the Tuna in a school play.
The next morning, we flew from Flagstaff to Phoenix, got held up in Phoenix for an hour due to bad east coast weather, then finally boarded our plane, and arrived in Newark at around 6 pm. When we stepped out of the terminal to wait for our ride to the hotel, we were struck by a sledgehammer of heat and humidity. And I thought Arizona was bad. On the bumper to bumper drive into the city, it started storming with heavy rain and thunder and lightning. I later learned that the Rosa brothers had been running a 3200 nearby in these conditions, with some amazing splits, which really impressed me.
We made it into the hotel by 7:30. Adidas put us up in midtown Manhattan right by Grand Central Station, at the Grand Hyatt Hotel. I’ve been to New York a couple of other times but I never fail to be amazed by the transition between our little town with two stoplights to what many people consider the bustling epicenter of the world. We were met by Coach Dan Green of Houston, a 40-year veteran coach at the Woodlands. He was awesome and got us registered into our 30th floor hotel room, which was so fancy and high-tech it took us quite a while to figure out how to turn the lights on. The room, once we turned the lights on, was very nice, with a great view of the Chrysler Building.
Unlike Foot Locker, where the athletes were sequestered from coaches and family and where our days were very structured, the Dream Mile organizers treated us more like pro athletes. They gave us a gift card with which to buy meals where we chose, and there were a few scheduled activities but otherwise, we were free to set our own schedules. It was fun just walking around the area outside the hotel because New York has an endless variety of places to eat and things to see. We ended up eating at Indian, Italian, and Middle Eastern restaurants over the course of our stay.
One of the few scheduled events was on Friday morning, the morning after we had arrived. We had an orientation meeting where we got our racing uniforms and a whole lot of other racing gear and shoes, got to meet all of the other racers, and listened to a very inspiring talk by Jim Ryun, the first high schooler to break four (minutes in the mile). He told us about his preparation before his high school sub four minute race, down to what he ate for breakfast. I don’t know how to thank Adidas enough for organizing all this and for treating us so well.
Friday afternoon we rode a bus out to Randall’s Island, where Icahn Stadium is located. Icahn Stadium is a very large track facility with a state of the art track and large stands for the audience. The ride was very interesting because we had to go up town through Harlem, where many people were preparing for the Puerto Rican parade. Once we arrived at the stadium, we had time to run some laps to get the feel of the track as well as to look for some good places to warm up. I found a nice trail that went along the East River with a view of Manhattan across the water.
When we got back to the hotel, I found a cheap place to eat that was close by, and ate a big bowl of spaghetti, and then I went back to the hotel and tried to go to sleep. We would be riding the bus back out to the track at noon the next day.
On Saturday morning, my father got up early to get some coffee from Starbucks, and when he got back he told me he had been coming back to the hotel when he started noticing a bunch of people dressed in 1950s and 60s attire. It turns out that Men in Black 3 was being filmed just outside our hotel, in front of the Chrysler Building, and I could actually see Will Smith from our window.
There had been a complete change in the weather by Saturday morning. It was now overcast and quite cool, and misting rain. By the time we got to the track, there was a bit of wind gusting and it was still cloudy and wet. I haven’t had much experience running on wet surfaces so I was a little concerned about the state of things. I went ahead and warmed up about 15 minutes, and then I checked in. We were given our hip numbers and led to the bullpen. It was so humid my hip number wouldn’t stick. Finally, we were called to the line.
Coming into the race I did not expect to win or break four minutes or anything like that, but I had hoped I could run around 4:05 or 4:04 based on what I had run at the state meet and the Meet of Champions. I had run my 4:05 1600 out in front and I figured that in this race I would just be carried by the pack. Everyone knew the race would go out fast since there was a rabbit, and it was obvious that Lukas Verzbicas had a good shot at going sub four. My initial plan was to try to resist too fast a pace on the first lap and run even splits.
As soon as the gun went off, all the runners surged around me and I found myself near the back of the pack, which was all right, as I knew that the pace in front was probably too fast for me. But although I was where I wanted to be, I felt flat and sort of sluggish. By this time, there was a steady misting rain and a steady wind on the home stretch. The track felt pretty slippery on the curves, but that could be just my lack of experience running in wet conditions. On the second lap I made a move to try to make contact with the front of the pack because I felt the pace was slowing; I moved up into I think 5th place, behind Ammar Moussa, but I couldn’t hold it and almost immediately people started passing me. As most of you probably already know, I ended up finishing in last place.
(Photo left by Don Rich/PennTrackXC)
Under any circumstances, Verzbicas’s sub four mile would have been amazing, but the fact that he did it in that weather is just phenomenal. In fact, all the runners ran amazing races – Mudd, Cheserek, and all the others. I was disappointed with my performance. I felt that I let a lot of people down from my school and my town. But I honestly ran as good a race as I could on that day, and I don’t know what more I could have done.
After the race, I got to watch the professional athletes race. I especially enjoyed watching the 5k race since that may be something I try in college. That evening we all walked to a local Italian restaurant, where they held a small awards ceremony for the winners and we all had a nice meal. It was fun chatting with a couple of the other athletes’ parents and coaches.
The next day, my father and I flew out to Chicago where we stayed with relatives and spent the week relaxing and playing tourist. I decided to take a complete break from running for a week. We saw some great museums and great movies there before heading back to Arizona.
In summary, the Dream Mile was an awesome experience even though I didn’t race as well as I hoped. I can’t really thank Adidas enough for inviting me. And lastly, I would just like to thank Margot Kelly again for everything she has done over the years for me, and our sport.
I hope you enjoy the rest of your summer. Remember to keep on running, but have fun with it! Read a good book, and watch a good movie (I highly recommend Woody Allen’s new film Midnight in Paris). And good luck to you in running, school, and whatever you choose to do.
Dulce est desipere in loco.