Matthew Centrowitz Runs 3:49 Mile PB in Portland, But Alan Webb’s 3:46 American Record Survives
July 24, 2021
Matthew Centrowitz’s American record attempt in the mile came up short on Saturday night as Alan Webb’s 3:46.91, which has stood since July 21, 2007, lived to see another day. Running in front of a small but enthusiastic crowd at Jesuit High School in Portland, Ore. and a live stream audience of just over 10,000 in an event named after himself — the Centro Mile — Centrowitz was on record pace through halfway but faded to 3:49.26 (still a personal best) to move to #5 all-time on the US list.
Centrowitz’s record attempt was hampered by poor pacing. Running behind German Olympian Amos Bartelsmeyer and 3:34 American Josh Thompson, Centrowitz went out extremely aggressively as he ran the first 400 in 54.5 (Webb’s pace equates to 56.41 per 400) and 800 in 1:51.6 (Webb’s pace would be 1:52.8). While he was still ahead of pace, his first lap was more than two seconds too fast and his second lap was already being run too slow.
And the rabbits, who were hoping to go 1300 meters, were starting to strain and would both drop out at 1k. Centrowitz reached the 600 meters to go mark in 2:21.5 — still ahead of pace (Webb’s pace was 2:22.3) — but he was going to have to pick it back up if he was going to get the record.
By 1200 (2:50.4), Centrowitz faced a monumental task (the record if evenly paced would produce at 2:49.23 time at 1200). Centrowitz needed a 55.2 final 400 to get the mark but in the end could only manage a 57.7.
“Tired man, I’m tired,” said Centrowitz after the race. “I was definitely expecting a lot more. Happy to finally crack 3:50 for sure but I was looking for a little something quicker tonight for sure. I think the pace early on was really hot. I felt a little bit uncomfortable through 800 and it kind of showed for the last 600 meters.”
Quick Take: This was a solid effort for Centro, but he still has his work cut out for him in Tokyo
Some questioned why Centrowitz would make an attempt at the American record in the mile just 10 days out from the first round of the 1500 in Tokyo. There are a number of reasons. First, even if he wasn’t racing, Centrowitz would have been doing a hard session today anyway.
“Typically in our system, we would do a big last workout 10 days out from our race,” his Bowerman Track Club teammate Evan Jager said on the race broadcast.
Second, Centrowitz’s mile personal best has been stuck at 3:50 since 2014. He wanted to get under the barrier, and at age 31 who knows how many more chances he will get.
Third, a time-trial type race could actually be a good simulation of the Olympic final. Remember, in the 2019 World Championship final, Timothy Cheruiyot ran 3:29 from the front. Centro was injured in 2020 and hasn’t raced any Diamond Leagues this year; this was his first time-trial type race since that World Championship final in Doha almost two years ago.
“Everyone in the 1500 is expecting a fast pace in Tokyo and today was just good prep for that,” Centrowitz said.
For Centrowitz to finally get under 3:50 is no joke — only eight Americans have ever done it — but this result will not scare his top rivals such as Cheruiyot, Jakob Ingebrigtsen, and Josh Kerr. A 3:49.26 mile converts to 3:32.43 for 1500. Cheruiyot and Ingebrigtsen both ran significantly faster than that in Monaco, while Kerr ran 3:31.55 in Portland last month.
How long will Webb’s record last?
According to Bring Back the Mile, Alan Webb is the 19th different man to hold the American record, which has been set 37 different times since the first one was recorded when Edward Merritt ran 4:43.8 on October 24, 1877.
The question naturally becomes how long will Webb’s record last. The shortest anyone has ever held the American record is just seven days. Gill Dods ran 4:06.5 back on July 24, 1943, and that was beaten by Bill Hulse’s 4:06.0 on July 31. Most ARs, particularly recently, have lasted for a long time.
Webb’s AR has lasted for 14 years and 3 days. Webb is one of six Americans to have held the American record for more than 10 years, including each of the last three American record holders — Webb, Steve Scott and Jim Ryun have all held the record for at least 14 years.
Below we have compiled the list of everyone in the US who has held the mile AR for more than 10 years.
The Men Holders Who Have Held the American Mile Record for More Than 10 Years
Steve Scott – 9506 days (26 years, 10 days) – Steve Scott set the first of his 3 ARs of 3:49.68 on July 11, 1981, in Oslo and his last of 3:47.69 in Oslo on July 7, 1982, and that remained the AR until Webb broke it on July 21, 2007.
Thomas Conneff – 7189 days (19 years, 8 months, 8 days) – The first of Conneff’s three ARs was run on September 19, 1891, in New York (4:21.4) and his last of 4:15.6 was run on Travers Island on August 28, 1895, and that lasted as the AR until May 27, 1911.
Jim Ryun – 5868 days (16 years, 24 days) – Ryun set the first of his 4 ARs in the mile of 3:55.3 in San Diego, June 27, 1965, and his last of 3:51.1 in Bakersfield on June 23, 1967. He continuously held the AR until Steve Scott ran 3:49 on July 11, 1981.
Norman Taber – 5419 days (14 years, 10 months, 1 day) – Taber’s 4:12.6 in Cambridge, MA on July 16, 1915, lasted as the AR until May 17, 1930.
Alan Webb – 5117 days (14 years, 3 days and counting) – Webb’s AR of 3:46.91 in Brasschaat, Belgium was set on July 21, 2007.
Lon Myers – 4128 days (11 years, 3 months) – Myers ran his first AR of 4:29.5 in New York on May 31, 1880, and bettered that by running 4:27.6 on November 11, 1882. That latter mark stood until September 19, 1891.
Talk about the record attempt on our world-famous messageboard/fan forum.
- Centro American Record Attempt – 7/24
- Centro was let down by pacers
- Webb > Centro
- Centro’s chances in Tokyo = super bleak
- Josh Kerr runs 1:46.3 800m (55.8 then 50.5!)
You can watch a replay of the race below.