Friday, January 20, 2012

OT: I Am the Mile - All 1609 Meters

Who out there in transit land watches track and field on television?  I'm guessing not many of you.  But most of you know that there is a big football game this weekend I'm sure.  Track and Field is waning to a certain extent but hopefully last month's struggle between the Athletes and USATF on sponsorship rules will turn the tide a little bit more.

What is not waning is the short sightedness of those inside of the sport.  I was deeply disappointed to hear that after Pat Henry of Texas A&M (Yes an Aggie!) suggested that the NCAA change the 1500 meters to the Mile (1609 meters), it was rejected out of hand by distance coaches around the country. Not only are these coaches short sighted about how to gain interest in the sport, they are also spiking the dreams of all kids who have ever read Once a Runner (Only the best book about distance running of all time!) and searched for their own route to Sub 4, just like Quenton Cassidy.  For runners, the mile is now the measuring stick of history.  To not have more opportunities at running one of the most fabled races of the last century, is to me somewhat criminal.
From Once a Runner: That quarter mile oval may be one of the few places in the world where the bastards can’t screw you over, Quenton. That’s because there’s no place to hide out there. No way to fake it or charm your way through, no deals to be made. You know all that stuff. You’ve talked about it. It’s why you became a miler. The question is whether you are prepared to live by it or whether it was just a bunch of words.

This would also be a big opportunity to refresh the sport.  As someone who has moved on from track into another world and another industry, it's harder and harder for me to come back and watch.  Especially when watching with friends who weren't runners. But everyone knows what mile times are, everyone.  And if you tell them someone is trying to break 4, they'll stop and watch.

Every time people learn that I was a runner and a miler they ask my time.  It can get really annoying to go through the whole description of what a 1500 is and even I still don't quite understand why we ran it other than it's the official Olympic distance and that's what they run in Europe.  Usually I rattle off three different answers to explain myself.  3:41 for 1500(3:58 converted), 3:56 in the Austin Congress Avenue Mile (downhill), and 4:03 indoors.  So I never broke 4 minutes "officially" to get on the national sub four list.  It's one of my biggest regrets but since one could only run the mile indoors and a few select outdoor meets, it was pretty hard to see how fast you could run when you were fit. I've always told myself that I could start training and just get out there and do it.  But after 9 years of not training, it's getting harder and harder to believe.

I'm sure there are others like me that never quite made it except in theory, but could have if given a few more races to try.  And perhaps there are a few kids out there that when they get into the perfect race they close out with enough speed to dip under.  My buddy Darren broke 4, just like his pops, the first father/son sub 4 tandem ever. But he had to have the race, which happened to be the only one that spring.  And without this mile, there isn't this powerful connection.

Watch more video of 2008 Texas Relays on

Watch more video of Darren Brown on

Everyone who runs the 1500 or 1600 should have more opportunities to instead run 1609, which in my opinion would certainly make track in this country more exciting and put everyone on the same list together against their peers.  In order to support the movement to bring back the mile, folks have set up a website and twitter to push this over the top.  I fully support the effort and perhaps those of you who are interested will support it as well.  We shouldn't have to do conversions.  I am the mile.


Anonymous said...

The rebuilding of the World Trade Center in New York City will rise to 1,368 feet (417 m), the height of the original World Trade Center north tower, and its antenna will rise to the symbolic height of 1,776 feet (541 m). The antenna's height refers to 1776, the year in which the United States Declaration of Independence was signed.

However, with the rest of the world on the metric system, they will only see the 541 m reference. To them, 541 m holds nothing meaningful, while the 417 m would reference the original building would be meaningful.

Bob Davis said...

A lot of Americans see the Metric System (I think the official name is SI, or Sisteme Internationale) as an invention of "dadburn furriners" and they won't touch it with a three-meter pole. The traditional units are thoroughly imbedded in our culture in general and in American sports in particular. In US football especially, TV commentators frequently bring up height and weigh of players. In basketball, there would be outrage if the sports news reporters wrote, "The Lakers have just acquired 203 cm forward Jack Beanstalk from the Mavericks....".
In the more international sport of soccer, player dimensions do not play such an important part.

Trail gal said...

running transit geeks unite! even though I disagree with you, I enjoyed this post!