He could own every American indoor record from the mile through 5K.
Written by: David Monti
(c) 2011 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved. Used with permission.
Bernard Lagat has eight Wanamaker Mile titles, and has run in New York’s Madison Square Garden ten times. But the 36 year-old two-time Olympic medallist from Tucson, Ariz., has never had a chance to show his speed on New York City’s fastest track: the magnificent 200m banked Mondo oval at the New Balance Armory Track and Field Center in Upper Manhattan. Lagat has only used the track for pre-Millrose workouts.
“It’s fantastic,” Lagat said of the Armory track on a media teleconference today. “I wished there was a track meet there I can come and run.”
On Saturday, February 12, Lagat will get his wish. In a joint effort between the New York Road Runners and the Armory Foundation, a special two-mile race will be held there called the NYRR Deuce Record Challenge in which Lagat will take a shot at Doug Padilla’s American record of 8:15.02 set nearly 21 years ago at the Forum in Los Angeles. Remarkably, Padilla’s time was set on a plywood track which required 11 laps to cover one mile.
“It’s going to be my first time running competitively at the Armory,” Lagat said from his home in Tucson. “It’s going to be my first-ever indoor two-mile race.”
Should Lagat break Padilla’s mark, it will give him the “full set” of USA indoor distance records. Lagat is already the American indoor record holder for 1500m (3:33.34), the mile (3:49.89), 3000m (7:32.43) and 5000m (13:11.50). Lagat sees breaking Padilla’s record as an important addition to his already bulging resume which includes four world titles, two indoors and two outdoors.
“Any record is a measure of excellence of what you have done over the years,” said Lagat. “I feel like I’m still strong.”
Padilla, now 54, who also joined today’s conference call, wasn’t even aware that his record, set at the old Los Angeles Times meeting, hadn’t yet been broken until he received a phone call for an NYRR official last month.
“Well, it’s kind of fun,” said Padilla who now works as a track and field administrator at Brigham Young University. “I didn’t realize that I still had the record.” He continued: “I’m kind of amazed to know that I still have it.”
Padilla, who was on his way to New York today with his Brigham Young team which will compete in the Armory this weekend, was nearly killed in 1996 when he was struck by a car while on a training run. His left leg was shattered and, according to a 2009 article in the Daily Herald newspaper, he’s had 15 surgeries on that leg. He said today that he can run a little now, up to two miles.
Lagat, who has never met Padilla, said that he was impressed with his record, given that it was run on such a small track.
“That’s actually moving on that track,” Lagat commented. “You have to be in good shape, which I believe that I am.”
While the two-mile is rarely run at the professional level, it endures as a staple of high school track in the United States. The distance is run at both the indoor and outdoor high school championships, and college coaches keep close tabs on those two-mile times for recruiting purposes. The world record for the distance is 8:04.35 set by Kenenisa Bekele of Ethiopia in Birmingham, England, on February 16, 2008. Padilla’s time is also the fastest-ever run in the United States, so Lagat would also set an all-comers record should he break it.
According to New York Road Runners president and CEO Mary Wittenberg, Lagat will have two pacemakers: Robby Andrews of the University of Virginia, who will go 1200m, and Russell Brown of the Nike Oregon Track Club who will take Lagat through the mile in about 4:07, then try to hold on to 2000m. Wittenberg said that other athletes would join the race and be announced later.