RRW: Seven Storylines For The NYRR Fifth Avenue Mile

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By Chris Lotsbom, @ChrisLotsbom
(c) 2015 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved

NEW YORK (11-Sep) — On Sunday, 33 of the world’s best milers will congregate for the 35th NYRR Fifth Avenue Mile, vying for supremacy and bragging rights here in Manhattan. In anticipation of the road mile that runs along the city’s iconic Fifth Avenue, Race Results Weekly previews seven storylines to watch for. The race will be televised live on ESPN2 and locally on WABC-TV (details below).

EXPERIENCE IS KEY: A total of five past champions return to the world’s most prestigious road mile on Sunday, seeking to claim the top spot once again. American Jenny Simpson is the two-time defending women’s champion, and last year became the first female in race history to claim their third title (2011, 2013, and 2014). Simpson used an aggressive front running strategy in 2014, daring her fellow competitors to hold onto her hot pace from the gun. If her comments before last year’s race were any indication, Simpson knows that she can’t rest on her laurels. She’s fully aware anything can happen on the straight shot to the finish line just south of Central Park

“I was trying to describe the Fifth Avenue Mile [to a friend], that the optical illusion of it all is what’s the most challenging part of it,” Simpson told Race Results Weekly in 2014. “Not only is the finish line straight in front of you, you can see it for like 800 meters.”

She continued: “It’s really disconcerting having such a wide road to run down because there is something comforting about running on the track… You’re in this lane, you’re turning, you can kind of feel where everyone is in the first half of the race. Fifth Avenue is just really different because of the space of it, the space and distance about being able to see the finish line…You don’t have the same kind of indicators by the turns, so you have to know that in your brain and trust that [instinct].

From the Nike Oregon Project are past winners Shannon Rowbury and Matthew Centrowitz, both also to reclaim their crowns. Rowbury, the American record holder at 1500m on the track won in 2009 and 2010, while Centrowitz, the 2013 World Championships silver medalist, claimed the title in 2012.

It should be noted that Rowbury and Simpson finished third and fourth in the IAAF Diamond League mile in Brussels on Friday, and will be traveling throughout the day on Saturday to make it here for the race on Sunday. Rowbury’s time was 4:22.10, while Simpson was a step back in a personal best of 4:22.18.

Olympic medalists Bernard Lagat (the 2011 Fifth Avenue Mile winner) and Nick Willis (2008 and 2013 victor) also will toe the line, and know the 20 block stretch from East 80th Street to East 60th Street very well.

QUEEN OF THE ROAD MILE: Although she hasn’t won the NYRR Fifth Avenue Mile just yet, Heather Kampf is definitely one to watch. The 28-year-old Asics and Team USA Minnesota runner is known as the road mile ace on the circuit. This year alone she’s won five road miles and placed second in a sixth. Criss-crossing the country, she’s picked up wins in Des Moines, Iowa; Minneapolis, Minn.; Charlevoix, Mich.; Pittsburgh, Penn.; and Flint, Mich.

Kampf was the national champion for the road mile in 2012 and 2014, and also retained her title this year. Her road mile personal best is 4:22, set here en route to finishing fourth a year ago. According to respected statistics website Tilastopaja.org, Kampf has won 17 road miles over the last four years.

MAINTAINING HOT STREAKS: On Wednesday, Amanda Eccleston and David Torrence made last lap moves to win the inaugural Hoka One One Long Island Mile in 4:29.99 and 3:53.91, respectively. Making the easy 30 mile train ride west to Manhattan, Eccleston and Torrence will again try to raise their arms in triumph. Torrence’s best finish at the Fifth Avenue Mile is a third place in 2011 (3:52.4h), while Eccleston is making her event debut.

Kyle Merber, meet director of the Hoka One One Long Island Mile, is also entered.

Former Georgetown Hoya Rachel Schneider paced the Long Island Mile, though will be racing the full mile distance here. Schneider has lowered her 1500m and mile PB’s to 4:06.90 and 4:30.62 this year, and earned a gold medal at the NACAC Championships over the metric mile.

EUROPEAN VICTORY?: Since 1999, only one European male has won the Fifth Avenue Mile — Great Britain’s Andy Baddeley in 2009. Looking to join Baddeley among winners hailing from Europe are Henrik Ingebrigtsen (Norway), Pieter-Jan Hannes (Belgium), Chris O’Hare and Charlie Grice (Great Britain), and Jakub Holusa (Czech Republic).  All have sub-3:36 1500m times to their credit.  O’Hare and Hannes raced in Brussels tonight and could be tired.

LOCAL STORYLINES: While in high school, Northport, N.Y.’s Mikey Brannigan captured numerous headlines as he raced his way to prep national titles despite having Autism. Now competing for the New York Athletic Club in the lead up to the Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro next year, Brannigan will get a shot to dip under the  four-minute barrier. He’ll be racing the NYRR Road Mile Championship heat. Brannigan’s track personal best is 4:03.18; he has recently been training at the U.S. Olympic Training Center.

Also with local ties are Jonah Gorevic and Tiki Barber. Gorevic, 11, ran 4:51.85 at the adidas Grand Prix IAAF Diamond League meeting, believed to be the second fastest time ever by an 11-year-old. He’ll be in the Youth Mile. Barber, the former New York Giants star running back, will test his speed as well; the heat he’s competing in has yet to be announced.

LIVE TELVISION: The 2015 NYRR Fifth Avenue Mile will be televised live from 1:00 to 1:30 p.m. EDT nationally on ESPN2, and locally on WABC-TV, Channel 7. The men’s and women’s professional races will be shown, as well as highlights from other heats on the day. According to the New York Road Runners, viewers can also watch live via the WATCH ABC app, and via WatchESPN on computers, tablets, smartphones, Amazon Fire TV and Fire TV Stick, Apple TV, Chromecast, Roku, Xbox 360, and Xbox One for those who have video subscriptions from affiliated providers. Coverage will also be available on demand at abc7NY.com.

EVENT RECORDS: The men’s and women’s event records have withstood many valiant efforts by some of the world’s best milers.  The men’s mark of 3:47.52 was set in the inaugural edition by Sydney Maree in 1981, while PattiSue Plumer’s 4:16.68 clocking has stood since 1990. The winners on Sunday will earn $5,000, with the leader at halfway taking home a $1000 prime if they dip under 4:00 (men) and 4:32 (women).

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