We Visited the Sir Walter Miler and It Was Awesome!

We headed to Raleigh, NC to attend the Sir Walter Miler on August 3rd.  We first met meet directors Pat Price and Sandy Roberts back in 2014 and we have admired the event from a distance as they have built toward Sir Walter #5 this year. 

By now you've heard that Lopez Lomong led the deepest American Men's Mile of all-time with the entire filed, 13 guys, breaking four-minutes while the women's race featured three sub 4:30's with a breakout performance by Charlene Lipsey who won in 4:27.28.  But the racing was only the half of it. 

The meet staff and athletes staged events over the course of three days that brought elite racing and racers to the Raleigh audience in some unique ways.  Here's what we liked:

Summer of Miles Podcast:

The event hosts want to bring you the stories of the athletes before the event so over the weeks leading up to race day Pat and Sandy go to great effort to bring personality to the field.  They began with a roll-out episode announcing the men's and women's fields with their elite athlete coordinators Stephen Furst and Jeff Caron and then build on that excitement with interviews with many of the athletes in the field as the event gets closer.  I spoke with at least one new fan who told me he had done his homework and listened to all the episodes in anticipation of the race.  

Pre Race Dinner:

The athletes, sponsors, and staff gathered for a meal on Sir Walter Miler Eve .  There was a welcome speech, recognition of sponsors, and instructions for athletes, but generally the message was "Welcome to North Carolina.  Here is why this event is important to us. We're happy you are here."   The opening address was capped off with a recitation of the first verse of the North Carolina state song, from memory, and it set the mood right.   I sat at a table with a mix of sponsors and athletes and had a great time over dinner learning about Raleigh and discussing vintage Georgetown basketball with Katrina Coogan.  

Run Club Mile and 4x400 Relay:

The meet directors keep the event to a short 90 minute schedule that kicks off with mile and relay heats contested between 23 running clubs from around Raleigh and beyond.   It sounds simple but having each club send a delegation provided a level of camaraderie and competition that was different than just having an Open races with same athletes.  You listened for your club name and watched for your colors.  

Athlete Introductions: 

Spectators are brought on to the track for the elite miles and the intimate scale of the homestretch with fans on the rail and in Lane 4 make for a great space for the athletes to take their last strides toward the starting line.  As each athlete is called out they head down the gauntlet high-fiving fans lining the track. It was a detail that puts the fans in contact with their heroes in a way that can't happen at a championship or Diamond League event.

The Sir Walter Miler was a great way to cap off the competitive season in the US.  The athletes were in a celebratory mood.   With US nationals passed and many athletes returning from Europe the event had the feel of a victory lap.  The hosts did a great job of setting it up and the athletes delivered.  Before the Sir Walter Miler it had been about 40 years since local fans had seen a sub-four or sub-four-thirty mile and it is a credit to Pat, Sandy and the SWM team to bring that back for the running fans of Raleigh. 


Should Hayward Field's East Grandstand Be Torn Down?

Our favorite place to sit at the University of Oregon's Hayward Field is the 5000 start line in the East Grandstand.  The cheap seats. The atmosphere is loose, it's where the athletes sit after they are done competing, and it's where you need to be to take splits for the 5k and steeple.  As a bonus you can take in the 1500m runners as they stride out before their races, you see the 200m sprinters preparing that explosive start, and the victory laps slow down a bit as the victors take the time for selfies and autographs for fans that crowd the front row. 

That's all about to change.  The latest plans for the renovation of Hayward Field as Eugene prepares for the 2021 IAAF World Championships includes tearing down the oldest part of the stadium - the East Grandstand.   It's not an easy choice.  Along with the changes to the historic grandstands, that were picked up and moved during the last expansion in 1987, the Bowerman Building and West Grandstand would also be demolished and removed.  .  

Plans should be revealed soon as the stadium is set to begin renovations following the 2018 collegiate season that includes the NCAA Championship June 7-9.

Check out the coverage of the renovations from the Eugene Register-Guard:

USATF QUAlifying Times Are Posted

The qualifying times for the 2018 USATF Outdoor Championships have been released.  As usual, the selection committee has made adjustments to the automatic qualifying times based on the number of qualifying athletes from the previous year.  Five of Portland Track's distance events will see relaxed qualifying times for the USATF championship meet being held at Drake Stadium in Des Moines Iowa this June.  Qualifying times are to be achieved by the close of business on June 17, 2018.  If you are cutting it close be sure to have the Stumptown Twilight on you calendar for June 15. 

2018 USATF Qualifying Standards

Variance from 2017 qualifying standards are noted in parentheses. 

MEN                 EVENT           WOMEN
 1:47.50             800            2:03.00 (+ 1.0)
 3:39.00            1500            4:11.00 (+ 1.5)
13:35.00 (+3.0)     5000           15:25.00
28:40.00 (+10.0)   10000           33:00.00 (+35.O)
 8:40.00            3000 SC         9:50.0          


A Murderer’s Row of High Performance Meets

May 11-12  Portland Track Twilight        Portland
May 17     USATF Distance Classic         Los Angeles
May 19-20  Adidas Boost Games             Boston         
May 25-26  Nike Prefontaine Classic       Eugene
May 31     Festival of Miles              St. Louis
June 1-2   Music City Distance Carnival   Nashville
June 7     Adrian Martinez Classic        Boston
June 8     Brooks PR Invitational         Seattle
June 9-10  Portland Track Festival        Portland
June 15    Stumptown Twilight             Portland

The domestic season is going to see some compression leading up to the USATF National Championships scheduled for June 21-24 in Des Moines, Iowa.  As the NCAA moves into its’ championship season the post-collegiate scene will move to the series of meets that serve as the build up to USAs.  2018 will see some jostling for earlier dates as the Adidas Boost Games jumps to a May date and the Brooks PR Invitational moves up one week.  You can start in Portland and end in Portland as you follow the blitz of high performance meets providing qualifying opportunities for Nationals.  You have until June 17 to hit that qualifying time!

Mt. SAC at Risk of Losing 2020 Olympic Trials

Two lawsuits are threatening to slow or stop the renovations of Mt. San Antonio College's Hilmer Lodge Stadium.  According to Ken Stone, a group of local residents represented as United Walnut Taxpayers claim the College is misusing bond measure funding to renovate the 1945 stadium that hosts the annual Mt. SAC Relays and is slated to host the 2020 Olympic Track and Field Trials, the first outside of Eugene since 2004.  But the projects approved by voters in Bond Measure RR described the stadium work to include "bleacher renovation" and not the $88 million project underway.  Members of United Walnut Taxpayers say they are not opposed to Mt. SAC hosting the Trials, but they are opposed to the misuse of taxpayer dollars that is being used to demolish and rebuild the stadium from scratch.


Clayton Murphy Calls His Shot

Don't you just love it when an athlete calls their shot?  

In 1932 Babe Ruth pointed to the stands during Game 2 of the World Series and hit a home run on the very next pitch.  It's the stuff of legned.  At Sunday's Portland Track Festival, Clayton Murphy, a 2016 bronze medalist, is pointing his bat at the 1000m American Record record of 2:13.9h held by 1976 bronze medalist, Rich Wohlhuter.   It's Bronze on Bronze.

You'll get a chance to meet Rick Wohlhuter, as he'll be holding the finish line tape for Clayton. To prep for the big race we asked Rick a few questions beginning with his recollections of that 1974 race.

Q. You set the 1000m record at the 1974 Bislett Games in Oslo which we know as a Diamond League meet today. What was the setting on that night?  Did you specifically request the 1000m distance to chase the record?

The Bislett Games in 1974 was an important meet on the European circuit.  I remember it well.  That night the meet conditions were near perfect with cool weather and little wind.  The fans sat on the edge of their seats close to the track where they pounded on the metal banners surrounding the track.  The atmosphere became feverish when fans sensed a world record might be set.  For the race we had a great field with many of the best 800 meter runners lined up for the start..  I knew the race would be fast so I asked for a rabbit to set a fast pace through the first 400 meters.  The pacer did his job well and we were on our way.  The force of competition keep the pace quick through 800 meters.  Around the final turn several of us struggled to maintain form and speed as we approached the finish line.  The race was over and I prevailed with a new World and American record.  This was one of the highlights of my track career.

Q. 1974 was a big year for you.  It was midway between the Munich and Montreal Games and a decade before the IAAF World Championships were introduced.  In that amateur era of the sport what did a career in track and field look like between Olympic years?

During those years between Olympic Games, I lived, worked, and trained in Chicago.  In the 1970s track and field was not yet a professional sport.  So I was also focused on my job, as I had to support myself.  I worked full time from 8 to 5 followed by training on the track. Several days a week I trained before and after work.  I trained at the University of Chicago facilities during the winter and during the spring.  Like many athletes, I often traveled to various cities in the U.S. for meets and spent at least one month each season competing in Europe during the summer.  Back then, I often made appearances and occasionally spoke at various events.  There was not much free time.  Being one of the best middle distance runners in the world was reward enough for me.

Q. You competed in Munich and Montreal but abandoned a comeback attempt when the US instituted a boycott of the Moscow Games in early 1980.  What did the boycott mean to your generation of athletes?  

I had competed in two past Olympics so the boycott did not affect me as it did those striving to make their first team.  The boycott was unfortunate for various reasons mostly because it achieved so little as boycotts often do.  Most of all it needlessly affected those dedicating their athletic lives to compete in the Olympics.

Q. Do you hope the record goes down this weekend?

Any record is important to the record holder as it represents the new performance standard.  I am surprised the American record lasted this long; but a new standard needs to be set for 1000 meters. This would be good for American middle distance running. So the time is right for the record to fall.  Moreover, I still hold a world record at 880 yards since yard records (except the mile) have been retired.