Category Archives: BACK IN THE DAY

Taking a look back in time via the older Empire Runners Club newsletters.

Racing the Mile, by Jonathan Hayden, July 2010

Back in the Day: Racing the Mile For Road Runners (Published in June, 2010, Empire Runners Newsletter) 

Do you want to brighten up your longer races and run faster? Try running the Mile on the track. With a solid strategy road runners can learn how to race the Mile with style and finish strong.

The Mile

Throughout track’s history the Mile or 1500 meters has been a showcase event. In Europe every summer the Mile/1500 Meters is one of the featured events at every professional track meet. At the Olympics, it has become a signature event like the 100 Meters. The reason is the race itself demands a balance of strength and speed. The media has focused on the rivalries between gifted athletes as they challenged both the clock and each other. Whether it’s an Olympic final or a local track meet, the Mile is always the featured event for fans and racers alike. In my opinion it’s how these athletes race the distance that sparks the fans interest.  The appeal of the Mile is that it is a tactical race.

How to Race the Mile

Watch the elite track athletes race the Mile/1500 Meters and you’ll notice that each lap represents part of a strategy. We can all learn some techniques from this that will assist us in racing the distance successfully and getting the most out of our abilities.  That’s one of the reasons why watching the top milers race is so much fun. Here’s a race strategy that will help you enjoy the race and finish strong.

Lap 1- The Start: After the “gun” goes off, relax, stay calm and glide along with the pace around the first turn. Then just settle in with a group of runners at a comfortable pace and try not to change speeds very much. Stay in the first lane as much as possible and don’t let yourself drift to the outside. You will save time and distance over the race if you stay in the first lane. Think of it like riding in the peleton of a bike race or running with a large group down a narrow street. Just “sit in” and enjoy the ride. The idea is to just get comfortable with the pace that works for you and let the front runners break the wind.

Lap 2- Relax and maintain your position in the field. By this time the runners who have gone out too fast are starting to fade a bit and the rest are mostly holding their pace. You can do the same. It may feel a bit faster, but chances are you’ll be running the same pace as the first lap.

Lap 3- This is where the real race begins. With two laps to go, the pace will pick up now as racers begin to position themselves for the final lap. The stronger front runners will push the pace and those with finishing speed will just try to stay in contact. This lap is often the first moment of truth in the Mile. Can you “keep it together” while your legs start to feel the increase in the pace and you start to breathe harder? This is where your mental and physical discipline come together. Stay in contact, keep the pace reasonable and get ready for the final lap.

Finishing Lap- Racers get moving on the final straight of the third lap as the “bell” is rung. The pace will pick up going into the first turn, but don’t try to pass here, just let the pace pull you forward. On the backstretch you have a choice depending on how you are feeling. If you feel comfortable, pick up the pace and pass some runners if they are close and fall in behind runners who were further ahead before the final turn. In the final turn, remember to hold back and do not try to pass. You can waste a lot of time and energy swinging to the outside lane to get by someone. You’ll have plenty of real estate left in the final straight to pass other runners.

Coming off the Last Turn

One of the best feelings in the Mile race is coming off the last turn with something in the tank. It’s about 100 meters to the finish line and now you can accelerate twice before hitting the tape. Begin to sprint at about 90% for the first 70 meters and then in the last 30, sprint all out to the line. A lot of races are won and lost over the last 30-50 meters. It is amazing to me how many runners begin to slow down 50 meters from the finish, struggling to hold their pace. It doesn’t have to be that way if you just reserve that final flurry or all out sprint for the end.

Racing the Mile can be a lot of fun using a strategy that works for you (this is just one of them). Sticking to the plan makes all the difference between struggling and finishing strong. So give it a try this summer at some of the summer track series events and have fun racing on the track.

Jonathan Hayden

Editors Note: Jonathan (age 53) ran 5:19.9 at the first Summer Track Series Meet this June 15th,  2010

Back in the Day: Racing the Mile For Road Runners (Published in June, 2010, Empire Runners Newsletter) 

2005: Empire Runners Win National Snowshoe Championships in Alaska

May 2005: Empire Runners Win National Title at Snowshoe National Championships in Anchorage, Alaska. Download the full pdf: may05ern

May15BackInTheDay

For the third year in a row, the Empire Runners have  been well represented at the United States Snowshoe National Championships. In 2003, Chris Gilbert finished 10th  overall at  the national championships in Salt Lake City, Utah. In 2004, Chris convinced me to join him at the national championships in Squaw Valley, California, where Chris finished 8th  overall, while I ended up 34th .

With the 2005 championships taking place in Anchorage, Alaska, we were able to convince several more club members to join in on the fun this year – Kenny Brown and Brian and Rita Purcell. We all managed to qualify at the Squaw Valley regional race (one of 10 qualifying races) and  made plans to go north.

Unfortunately, Chris Gilbert was not able to make thetrip, but we still managed to take a group of six Empire Runners to Alaska. Brian, Rita, Kenny and myself would race, and our support crew was Kathy Bisordi and Karen Bohn. We all hoped to do a bit of sight seeing as well as compete at the nationals.

Immediately after landing in Alaska, my Mom and I drove around the outskirts of town. We were delighted to get a nice view of Denali (the tallest peak in North America at 20,320 feet) five minutes into our trip! Later that evening we watched the Alaska Aces host the Long Beach Ice Dogs in minor league ice hockey (the only kind there is this year). About eight thousand locals stomped and screamed for their hometown boys, who won in overtime that night.

Saturday morning began with a race, but not running or snowshoeing – we were off to see the start of the Iditarod Sled Dog race! The directors of our snowshoeing race wisely scheduled our event so as to make it possible for us to see the ceremonial start to the Iditarod on Saturday morning. We all decided to set our concerns about racing dogs aside, and went to enjoy the spectacle. It was quite a show! Thousands of spectators lined the streets to watch almost 100 teams begin their 1150 mile journey to Nome. The race was created in 1973 to commemorate the brave trek made by sled dog in 1925 to deliver serum to fight the Diphtheria epidemic that was ravaging Alaska at that time.

Later that day we were finally ready to race ourselves, in Kincaid Park on the outskirts of town. All of uswould toe/shoe the line together, though adults would be racing a 10K and the juniors a 5K. At the sound of the gun, 80 or so individuals who had qualified and traveled great distances took off across the snow. The course took us through a tunnel and off into the woods. It was a great course, with challenging, rolling hills, and a fun mix of road-width and single-track trails – not too different than Annadel really, but with shorter and more numerous hills.

As it has often seemed to end up, Kenny and I traveled a few thousand miles and ended up one after another for most of the race. Kenny was our first runner at 13th  overall (35-39 gold medal) in 47:44 while I was 14th  overall (35-39 silver medal) in 48:04. Brian was close behind in 19th  overall (45-49 silver medal) in 50:46. Rita Purcell was 5th  overall in the Junior Girls race in 45:21. We all had great fun and celebrated later that evening with salmon burgers and milkshakes at a local bar and grill.

Sunday morning bought very sore legs for everyone, but we wouldn’t have time to rest, as today would be the relay component of the snowshoe national championships. In the early stages of our planning, local handicapper Lars picked our team of Kenny Brian, Chris and myself as the team to beat. However, with Chris unable to make the trip the feeling was that we might have to settle for a bit less. I refused to give up however, and put my recruiting skills to work Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning. By race time I had secured the services of our newest Empire Runner, Mike Decker (Michigan) to anchor our team. Mike had finished 5th overall the previous day in the individual race, so we were back in business, though we missed Chris’ presence.

At the sound of the gun, the lead-off runners sprinted into the woods to complete the first 2.5K loop (team total of 10K). The course was well packed and very fast (this may have been what led many runners to miss turns, despite the well-marked course). Kenny led off for the Empire Runners team, followed by Brian, myself, and then Mike. I could write a lengthy play-by-play that would bore most everyone, but instead I’ll ask you to trust me that it was one of the most exciting relay races I’ve seen! Our team ran at our near the lead for the entire race. I handed off to Mike, who led the field into the woods. When we saw him emerge from the trees and head across the meadow a quarter of a mile a way, close on his heels was Mike McManus (of Dipsea fame) who had finished 4th  overall the day before. In a desperate sprint for the finish “our” Mike held off “their” Mike by about a stride for the win. We were National Champions!

Now I’ll admit that snowshoeing is an “emerging” or “growing” sport. And I’d prefer to avoid telling you how many teams were there on Sunday (though there were more teams than there were medals). But a win is a win, and we are the 2005 10K Relay Snowshoe National Champions! Mike graciously declined our offer of the team trophy and said that it belonged with our club. We hope more Empire Runners will join in the fun next year – ask any of us how exciting the snowshoe racing is, and how much fun it is to travel to the championships.

Next year – Bolton Valley, Vermont! Happy (snow-covered) trails, E. J. Bohn