Fifth Avenue Mile Boasts Big Names

Lagat, Rowbury headline men’s and women’s fields.

By David Monti
(c) 2010 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved. Used with permission.

As the global track season winds down, some of the world’s best middle distance runners have decided to keep things going just a little bit longer so they can compete in the special 30th jubilee edition of the Continental Airlines Fifth Avenue Mile, the world’s most famous road mile, on Sunday, September 26 in New York City.

Leading the men’s field is two-time Olympic medalist and reigning IAAF World Indoor Championships 3,000-meter gold medalist Bernard Lagat of Tucson, Ariz.  Lagat, 36, will be making his third appearance on Fifth Avenue and will have a second chance to defeat 2008 Olympic 1,500-meter silver medallist, Nick Willis of New Zealand, who just edged Lagat in the 2008 edition of the race, 3:50.5 to 3:50.6.  Lagat is in excellent form; he just won both the 3,000 and 5,000 meters at the VTB Bank Continental Cup in Split, Croatia, last weekend.  Willis, 27, is still ramping up his training for next month’s Commonwealth Games where he hopes to win his second 1500-meter gold medal..

For either man to claim victory, both Lagat and Willis will have to beat one of the best fields ever assembled for Fifth Avenue, which was first held in 1981 when Sydney Maree set the still-standing event record of 3:47.52.  Ten men in the field have run 3:36 or better for 1500 meters during their careers, and there are 19 men with sub-4:00 miles to their credit.  

The fastest man in the field based on 2010 1,500 meter and mile times is Morocco’s Amine Laalou, fifth at the 2009 IAAF World Championships at 800m.  He clocked 3:29.53 for 1,500 in Monaco and 3:50.22 for the mile in Eugene this year. Close behind Laalou on the annual performance list is U.S. Olympian Leo Manzano of Austin, Tex., who ran 3:32.37 and 3:50.64, respectively, this year.  Laalou and Manzano finished first and third, respectively, over at the IAAF/VTB Bank Continental Cup in the 1,500 meters.

Also in the field is American Alan Webb of Portland, Ore., the national record holder for the mile, who continues his comeback after Achilles surgery last December.  He won on Fifth Avenue in 2007.  Britain’s Andy Baddeley, the defending champion, is returning to the race and is using the event as a tune-up for the Commonwealth Games.  New Zealand’s Adrian Blincoe, USA steeplechase champion Daniel Huling, Britain’s Tom Lancashire, Canada’s Taylor Milne, and American David Torrence have also committed to the race.

The women’s race will be led by defending champion and 2009 IAAF World Championships bronze medallist at 1500m, Shannon Rowbury of San Francisco, Calif.  Rowbury narrowly defeated Britain’s Lisa Dobriskey last year, 4:23.3 to 4:23.9.  Rowbury had a strong track season, running the third-fastest 3,000 meters in the world this year: 8:31.38.  She has 1,500 meter and mile personal bests of 4:00.33 and 4:20.34, respectively.

Rowbury’s top rivals are likely to be 2010 IAAF World Indoor 1,500 champion Kalkidan Gezahegn of Ethiopia, who will be making her Fifth Avenue debut. The 19 year-old athlete has never run a mile before, but has a 4:04.80 1,500-meter best to her credit.  U.S. 5,000-meter record holder Molly Huddle of Providence, R.I., is also in the field, as are Olympians Erin Donohue of Haddonfield, N.J., and Elisa Cusma of Italy.  Mammoth Track Club teammates Morgan Uceny and Sara Hall (the 2006 Fifth Avenue champion), should also contend for the podium.

Three Canadian women plan to take part.  Carmen Douma-Hussar, an Olympian who won the race twice in 2005 and 2007, is in the field, as are Olympian Megan (Metcalfe) Wright and former University of Michigan star Nicole Edwards.

“A red-hot field of superstars is making the 30th running of the Fifth Avenue Mile a must-see, must-run event,” said New York Road Runners president and CEO Mary Wittenberg in a prepared statement.  ”We are thrilled to announce superstars like Bernard, Shannon, and Leonel, as well as, for the first time, live streaming of the entire race.”

The Continental Airlines Fifth Avenue Mile, which begins near East 80th Street and finishes at East 60th Street, is offering a $30,000 prize money purse.  More information on watching the race LIVE will be available athttp://www.nyrr.org.

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