I am one year younger than Alan and was in Maryland my freshman year of high school. At that time Alan was of course talented but if I'm not wrong he had just come over from swimming so he wasn't so well known yet. Although he was in Virginia, for whatever reason I ended up in a few of the same meets as him and remember that the guy could fly. Watching his form was incredible, how he could change gears and look so smooth blew my mind. I didn't see that again until I saw Bekele in 2001.
My sophomore year I moved back to Europe and got to match up with Mo Farah in cross country, but at that time all eyes were on Alan. At this time things were getting so exciting, I remember dialing up on my 56k modem to connect to DyeStat and see what he was up to. There was Ritz, there was Hall, there was Curtis, but Webb was the man of the hour. This is when DyeStat was brand new and the internet was the wild west, and boy was there was a lot to talk about. On top of all the buzz surrounding him already, my coach was a Michigan alum and was like a giddy school girl when he committed. It was insanity.
I'll never forget when he first broke 4 in the mile. I remember the summer before my senior year going and trying to do a 5 x mile workout I had read about. I remember it clear as day - thinking, "this is a kid I went to school with that has made such huge bounds. I can do that, I'm better than him", typical high school stuff. I went to the track behind my house (3 Tilleuls) and went 4:36 - 4:52 - made it 400 meters before I failed the 3rd and walked my gimpy ass home. My coach thought it was hilarious.
In a way Webb was both a blessing and a curse to my running. On the one hand he had me super stoked about mid distance, I wanted to be a sub 4 (and what was he, 1:47/8?!?!) guy too, but on the other it fed into my high school stupidity of thinking I could win every race. Coming from such a small talent pool, I would often go to Army leagues or road races and blow up in spectacular fashion. On the other hand, I managed to have some major break throughs because there wasn't a race I didn't think I could win. These are the days before GPS watches too so unless you were meticulous it took a lot of effort to really keep a log. But I'll say this - he made running COOL. That was unusual, I remember cross was the sport people went to when they couldn't compete in anything else or wanted to stay in shape for another sport. Most of us wore our own shorts of the same school colours because the old Bill Rodgers from the 70's tha tpublic schools were rocking looked like mesh diapers. But at that time? Shyyyyyt, everyone wanted to be like Mike. Hell even his commit spikes that Nike brought out were fly af.
In 2001, right before I came back to the states I got to see Bekele run that 7:30 in Brussels as a junior. I moved to Michigan about a week later where people were talking about Ritz, but I was only 45 minutes from Ann Arbor and Webb was the dude to see. I was still watching these guys but my interested fizzled after he left Warhurst and I didn't run in college. Then something special happened - he came to Belgium and set the American record. Good God. 2007 USAs when he dusted Lagat and dropped to his knees pounding the ground? Jesus H. The tingles. My running came back with a vengeance and holy hell it hasn't stopped. I remember even just two years ago seeing Webb is back baby! posts and my heart skipping a beat. I went and ran club cross in LeHigh with a broken big toe just because I heard he was registered (he pulled out unfortunately).
I've got to say, Alan has been a huge part of my running. Even with all the other talent out there, he's just been super relatable to me. Watching his ups and down, fall offs and return to form, and then his brief success in triathlon. Honestly I think most people are like him - with huge what ifs? surrounding their careers.
Morale of the story? He is the dude. All day.